When you leave to compete on the Vendée Globe, you leave with a lot of apprehensions. In the helicopter images you see on TV, we are presented as guys who jump around on boats, often without a lifejacket. It all seems so easy!
But the day-to-day experience is very different. We are vigilant from the very beginning until the very end, and the race only ends when we tie the boat to the dock in Sables d’Olonne because the slightest mistake could cost us a lot.
I got really scared at the end of last week. First, my gennaker, the big sail at the front, unfurled as I was putting it away. I could have lost it and broken a lot of material but I found the resources to roll these 150 square meters of sail correctly.
I also experienced a “lof” departure. It’s the first time I happened on a solo race. The boat completely tipped on its side after a problem with the autopilot. It’s a bit like going off the road on a car race, but there isn’t any haystack on the side and no help to expect from outside.
The boat is 6 meters wide, so you can imagine the scene and me coming out of the berth – I was sleeping – to straighten things. I knew before leaving that I would experience moments like these and I dreaded them because they’re also part of the worst situations. There again, I had to find the right moves, and the boat got back on track.
What these two adventures have taught me, is that I managed to get over my fears. I don’t want to experience these again, but I know how to react. I am not panicking, I do things in the right order, and it’s super reassuring.
I am a bit under the impression that my boat sends me “tests” to complete so I can get confident before getting to the southern seas. Even after this, I haven’t gotten rid of the knot in my stomach because there are still the Indian and Pacific oceans left and they’re big pieces.
You have to realize that I have an “L” on my butt, like a young driver. I am here to learn and I would be crazy to step on the throttle too much when I know so little.
All that matters today is to go fast enough to stay in touch with Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Rich Wilson (Great America III) and Kojiro (Spirit of Yukoh) because I want to cross the southern seas with them. But not riding crop like crazy to catch up to boats that are in front, it would be completely reckless.
Before I left, I realized that the situations I just faced “scared” me but didn’t scare me “too much”. It makes a great difference because when we are “too scared”, we should not go for it. However, we have to accept to put ourselves in danger, to step out of our comfort zones. Only by doing that can we discover who we really are. We discover the most beautiful joys because they come from our self-esteem.
Even while I am at sea, the new election of Donald Trump reached me and it was a slap in the face. For me, it’s hunching up, building barriers, when we should instead be taking risks and going towards the Other. It’s at that cost that we can get rid of our fears and believe me, it’s a fabulous thing.
Initially published in La Croix