The Rookies

Almost half the skippers taking on the 2016 Vendée Globe are newcomers to the race. The rookies share their thoughts and goals for the race.
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14 rookies will take on the Vendée Globe this year, making up half the fleet. © JEAN-MARIE LIOT / DPPI / VENDEE GLOBE

14 rookies will be setting sail next Sunday from Les Sables d’Olonne. Thery are all enthusiastic solo sailors, but they have very different goals in this Vendée Globe. Some are there to do win the race, while others are looking for adventure.

Morgan Lagravière, Safran: 29

“Of course, I’m scared about some weather conditions and of experiencing gales with these foilers. I have already been through some disasters with this boat and another with leaks, races ending in violent winds. They were painful times, but have made me stronger. I know I’m capable of facing these situations. Once we’re out there racing, I shall talk to my boat, even if she doesn’t answer. We’re going through this together.”

Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme: 40

“Michel Desjoyeaux helped me a lot with this Vendée Globe project and I asked others for advice too, like Jean-Pierre Dick about how to manage my sleep. I am taking part in this adventure for myself not to please others. It’sa present I offered myself for my fortieth birthday. I know I’ll get scared, but I’ll enjoy it too. It was the mountaineer, Antoine Cayrol, whom I accompanied to Antarctica, that inspired me. I told myself life was meant for adventures. So why not take part in the Vendée Globe?”


Didac Costa, One Planet One Ocean: 35

“I had a great time in the Barcelona World Race, so setting off again sailing solo this time is the next logical step. Once you have sailed in the Southern Ocean, you only have one thing on your mind and that is getting back out there.. You feel really alone down there. You can observe the birds that you can’t see anywhere else. You sail downwind and the IMOCAs are designed for that. it is there that they show us their full potential.”

Conrad Colman, 100% Natural Energy: 32

“I have already felt fear at sea. My fear now is not seeing my dream come true. For me it’s more important to come back into this harbour rather than leaving it. I’ve already been around the world twice as a skipper. I enjoy being at sea. I’m certain to come up against my limits at some point.”

Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh: 49

“I have two aims in this Vendée Globe: to become the first Asian to take part and complete the race. The second is to develop ocean racing in Japan and in Asia so we have more sailors in the future. I’m aiming for the Top 10. there are lots of boats from the same generation as mine. There’s going to be a race in the race.”


Romain Attanasio, Famille Mary – Etamine du Lys: 39

“It’s a bit worrying, as I don’t know where I’m going. I’m used to setting sail, but the Vendée Globe is a race like no other. I keep worrying I have forgotten something. It’s the same for all of us, but some keep quiet about that. We all know each other, but on the day of the start, there is something on their faces which means we don’t recognise them.”

Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine: 35

“I’m still feeling relaxed. I’m hoping to stay like that, not to use up too much energy. I have my own techniques for dealing with stress… The butterflies will appear on Sunday. You feel them in your stomach until the gun is fired.”

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Didac Costa et Conrad Colman © Guillaume Daumail / M&M

Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt: 40

“I think it is rare that we get to see our childhood dreams come true. Taking part in the Vendée Globe is one of those things for me. Now I need to be do what it takes to live up to my ambitions. To be honest, I feel apprehensive. There are so many unknowns in this race. I try to imagine what it is going to be like.”


Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest-Matmut: 38

“My only worry is breaking something and having to retire. I’m not worried about being alone. It was the length that worried me too, but that has eased over time. I know it’s not going to be easy. I keep telling myself that we’ll have huge celebration, when I get back to Les Sables d’Olonne after completing the round the world voyage.”

Sébastien Destremau, TechnoFirst-faceOcean: 52

“When you set off to do something dangerous, it’s important to get your life sorted out beforehand. You have to say see you soon to all your friends and family. That’s why I went back to Australia for a few days to see my children. It was one of those things I wanted to do before setting off.”

Paul Meilhat, SMA: 34

So far I have only spent a fortnight alone at sea in one go. Sailing double-handed I spent 23 days out there. But setting off for two and a half months alone doesn’t worry me. The sea is the same more or less everywhere and time is all very relative. When I find myself in the Indian Ocean ten days away from the nearest land, that will be quite something. You can do the Vendée Globe without seeing any land, but that doesn’t worry me too much. The hardest part is keeping up the pace throughout the race.”


Alan Roura, La Fabrique: 23

“I’ll be carrying on normally preparing the boat, having a few drinks with friends. I’m not suddenly going to change. There is plenty of time for getting stressed out on the morning of the start. Going from the crowds to being completely alone is going to be hard, but that’s why we’re here. I’m someone, who gets emotional. I know I’ll get all emotional.”

Pieter Heerema, No Way Back: 65

“My final position doesn’t really count. I will try to be fast, but not too fast. 7th or 17th, it doesn’t matter. This is a unique opportunity for me. I’m not here to win and I won’t get excited when I see boats around me. Only around 50% of the boats complete the voyage. In the last edition only 30%. I have no experience, and I’m older. The risk of suffering damage is that much higher. That would be a pity, as I have spent a lot of time and energy on this project. I want to complete the voyage. That is my goal.”