Marc Guillemot: "I feel good on this boat"

"The first thing I'd like to highlight after this Transat B to B, is the really exceptional involvement of the SAFRAN Groupe in the project. I'm not just saying this. I'd just like to underline this fact. When I arrived in Port-la-Forêt in the middle of the night in a biting cold, it was nothing like Brazil and yet they were there. It's extremely important and motivating to feel this involvement." Marc Guillemot knows better than most that even in solo configuration, ocean racing is a team sport. And as far as this is concerned, there is nothing flat about the reaction of the skipper from La Trinité-sur-Mer, SW Brittany.

Qualified despite damage…
"Of course I'd have liked to have given them a victory, insists Marc, it's always frustrating not to be able to really fight for your chances [ref: due to damage to the keel system]. When leaving the Doldrums, I was battling with Loïck [ref: Peyron, the winner] and even, a little further North and to the West of him. At that point, playing to win really was an option..., so I have a few regrets about that. It's never pleasant to see the others slip ahead without being able to do anything about it… But everything else is really positive! Most importantly, there is the qualification for the Vendée Globe, which is now a done deal."

Confirmation of your choices
The rest? "The first point of interest is the association between the sailor and the boat. I really felt good aboard. That might not seem like much, but it's absolutely essential. This single-handed transatlantic race has validated the choices we made. For example, I'm thinking about the location of the rig, with a central sail area which is set quite far back. I'm also thinking about the deck layout that I was using for the first time in solo configuration. This layout was a boomerang shape, which centralised all the manoeuvres and suited my sailing style. It may not sound much but when the boat heels over at 25 degrees and you're not forced to endlessly cross a 4 metre wide cockpit, it's very satisfying. It was an idea designed on the back of an envelope with Vincent Lauriot Prévost [ref: one of the architects], and we kept it as one of a number of proposals and we were right to have done that."

"I've learnt a lot of things"
I also feel a great satisfaction about Safran's performance. "Between the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre and the single-handed B to B, I don't think we're alone in saying that Safran is a fast boat, with a lot of potential. This is reassuring and also scores a few points with the competition and demonstrates that we are in the match in relation to the others. However, this also enables you to sail differently: to resume, I know I can get some extra speed out of her. I know I can make up ground if I slip back a bit, or better still, choose when I can attack. I can even take a few more risks with the weather options. Not everyone has that luxury. I'm not saying it'll be easy, I'm saying that the boat allows you to manage the speed and the strategy, which is very appealing. I've also learnt a lot about its potential during this solo race, which was also something I was aiming to do."

And now?
"We're bringing the boat back to its home port, where we're going to get it out on the hard and begin two and a half to three months of work in the yard, to dismantle, reassemble and optimise it. Gaining even more potential in order to be at the peak of readiness in what is now less than a year until the start of the Vendée Globe."

***

Diagnosis of the damage
The faulty actuator rod will be dismantled and assessed by SAFRAN's metallurgical laboratory. The damage will be very quickly assessed, both by the mechanics experts at SAFRAN, the project manager of the keel system, Cariboni, and the architects. According to the results of these investigations, the design of the actuator rod and its coupling on the keel may possibly be modified.
Furthermore, for precautionary measures, each metal part which is critical to the boat will now be the object of a complete non-destructive test at SAFRAN.

Monday 17th December 2007

Around fifty hours after finishing the Transat Ecover B to B in fifth position, Marc Guillemot draws a very positive conclusion from his first race aboard Safran in solo configuration. He discusses the boat's potential, his life aboard and, in his own words "the really exceptional involvement in the project" of the SAFRAN Group.