Sébastien Josse is just one of the favorites to win this edition of the Vendée Globe for whom the race represents unfinished business. He was always among the leading posse in the epic 2008-9 race and spent a time in the lead before he had to retire into Auckland with rudder problems. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild is starting for the third time and has only one finish on his record so far, 5th in 2005 when he was just 30.
“The level is more like 2008-9,” Josse opens, “That was the big year. We had the dream team then Michel Desjoyeaux, Jean Le Cam, Roland Jourdain, Loick Peyron, Mike Golding. So we miss some of these guys for this edition but the level is quite high because we have some good young guys with good boats. It should be a good race.”
His program is one of the most technically advanced. He returns to the Vendée Globe after multihull success in the Multi 70, Gitana 11, including winning the Transat Jacques Vabre. As a consequence he has become more adept at sailing close to the, just shy of the ‘red zone’ for long periods. But he considers this race will require careful, precise modulation with the foiling boats.
“First we need to sail properly with these boats. We see that with these foiling boats they win the last three races across the Atlantic but we have to finish. We have to manage the boat and not to push too hard. I am sure among the foiling ‘membership’ if we are in the lead the top four, then we start to manage with each other, to make sure we get to Cape Horn and from there we see how it goes. But it is a long race, three months. Being in first position passing Cape Town is not so important. It is more important to be climbing the Atlantic with the ‘full set’ two foils, two rudders. Then and only then the ‘turbo’ effect.”
“In the 2008-9 race I learned that you have to finish. And so sometimes you have to slow down. That is for you and for the boat.” And he points out that foil technology for IMOCAs is in its infancy: “For the rig and keels the development is done, we are all one design. The pilots are done, we go straight. But the foils, we are just at the start. We have developed these foils in less than one year. And so if you look at how long we had to develop wing masts or canting keels, then we are just beginning. We have to keep this revolution going.”
An all round sportsman his strength and conditioning program focuses on balance and a strong core. “Mentally it is the same. I have not changed. My opinion is that if you have to work with a psychologist then you are not ready to do the Vendée Globe. If you need someone to tell you you have to do this or that, you have to be motivated. After that prepare well with a coach, not to make you very strong with big muscles lifting heavy weights, but to make sure you do not get injured or hurt. So we work a lot on your core and to have good balance, to be stable.”