Vendee Globe – Seguin’s dreams are made of this

A nasty low pressure system is converging with the Vendée Globe leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) and could require him to slow significantly to avoid winds in excess of 40kts and big seas. But Bestaven is under pressure from behind too as the peloton of nine are compressing, closing mileage and pushing hard.

Damien Seguin, multiple Paralympic champion, is sailing immaculately and is up to third, increasingly taking the race to Charlie Dalin who is now less than 70 miles ahead. The chasing group have closed more than 150 miles in recent days. Leader Bestaven is expected at Cape Horn on Saturday.

It would be a dream

Seguin is up to third on his Groupe Apicil, the best position yet for the Paralympic champion sailor who has never considered that having no left hand has ever compromised his ability to be competitive in any racing fleet. His accurate, precise routing, gybing down the Antarctic Exclusion barrier, has placed him inside Thomas Ruyant, nearly nine miles ahead of the solo skipper of LinkedOut. And in terms of direct distance on the water Seguin is less than 40 miles from Charlie Dalin (APIVIA). 

His years of Paralympic medal winning rigour and discipline are complemented by an excellent all round ability. At 12 he was fascinated by meteorology. He has been top level competitive in the short, sharp inshore sprints of the Diam24 Tour Voile, long distance in the Class 40 and in the Figaro class. He modified and prepped his Finot Conq design in Jean Le Cam’s boatyard, advised and mentored by Le Cam himself. Incidentally his seat on his IMOCA – retrieved from a dusty corner at Le Cam’s  – is off the 2008 Vendée Globe winning Foncia.

A tired, but extremely focused Seguin said today: “Here I am, dreaming of being in the top five at Cape Horn! That would be crazy! But it’s what I'm really going to try to do. I still need about seven days to get there. It will be by Sunday or Monday I think. But this last week before Cape Horn is going to be tough. The models all see different things.

“We'll see…I am managing to rest but it's not always easy to eat. I've been eating a lot of cold food lately, but I have just had a hot meal. The last few days in the light wind zone have been complicated. It was very unstable, and I found it particularly difficult to rest. I came out of it exhausted. And after that I attacked the transition, and I had to do it quickly.

“The boat was pounding against the sea a lot! It was really difficult. I can’t say for now whether it’s been the most difficult part of this Vendée Globe. The Indian was also difficult because I had a lot of technical problems. But here, it’s more the sailing conditions that have been complex.”

Seguin suggests, “People have been saying that the foilers are going to accelerate, and it might well be on this climb up the Atlantic. We'll see… In any case, at Cape Horn it won't be over. We know that this particular ascent has often been full of surprises. But for the moment, I'm focusing on this mythical Cape!”

Young shared dreams

One thing the second and third placed skippers, Dalin and Seguin, share in common is their youthful dreams of racing the world’s oceans. Their young minds were seeded when they were very little, each seeing the stars of the solo and short-handed racing and their fantastic machines up close and personal – a few years apart – in the respective backyards of their childhood.

For Dalin, 35, that was hanging round the Transat Jacques Vabre docks after school in his native Le Havre. Seguin, 41, grew up in Guadeloupe where he saw his heroes of the time winning the Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic race.

Seguin told the Vendée Globe website before the start: “When we moved to Guadeloupe we went to the finish of the Route du Rhum in 1990. I didn't know anything about it but everyone was talking about it. It was a revelation. I remember these giant boats, the great sailors who were being asked for autographs. Florence Arthaud, Mike Birch, Alain Gautier, Laurent Bourgnon… they were like rock stars.

“I wanted to do that very same thing, to follow in their wake. My initial project was to do the Route du Rhum. In 1998, I had a difficult choice to make: either I embarked on a Mini project or I started an Olympic programme. Pushed a bit by the National Sailing School I chose the second option, as I knew it would provide a good structure and foundations to get more into ocean racing. Then after four Olympics, it was the right time to change direction first in the Figaro, then into IMOCA.”

And Dalin recalled pre-start, “And at home on Le Havre every two years I would find myself always in among the Transat Jacques Vabre boats, dreaming. I went to admire the racing machines at the start, then I followed the race through the radio, the newspapers. And of course through sailing magazines.

“That’s how I discovered the Mini Transat, in Voiles & Voiliers. I spent hours looking at the smallest details in the photos. I remember a double page spread from Seb Magnen's boat which won the Mini twice in a row. I don't know how many hours I looked at this picture imagining myself in its place.”

A common stepping stone 

The more modestly priced, but highly competitive Class 40 has proven a stepping stone on the pathway to the IMOCA and to this Vendée Globe. Six years ago in Guadeloupe the Route du Rhum Class 40 was won by the Spanish sailor Alex Pella but the class was populated by many of today’s Vendée Globe racers, notably Stéphane Le Diraison who finished fourth, Miranda Merron was sixth, Yannick Bestaven, seventh, Damien Seguin eighth, Fabrice Amedeo ninth, and Giancarlo Pedote 10th. Also racing were Maxime Sorel, Alan Roura, Arnaud Boissières and Nicolas Troussel. 

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