” They say it’s a victory to be at the start of the Vendée. »With a happy face, Clément Giraud cheerfully takes up this phrase very often heard on the quays of Sables d’Olonne as the start of the round-the-world solo approaching, non-stop and without assistance. And in the small game of comparisons of the skipper’s galleys, the Toulonnais is undoubtedly the big winner of this year 2020, while the 9e edition of the Vendée Globe, which will be kicked off by Christian Prudhomme, the boss of the Tour de France, on November 8 at 1:02 p.m. sharp.
→ ANALYSIS. Vendée Globe: “We couldn’t imagine a start without an audience”
Setting up a Vendée Globe project is often an obstacle course. You have to build, buy or rent a boat, find sponsors, set up a technical team to prepare the machine, manage hazards, ensure stewardship and paperwork, etc. So, when everything goes wrong and the pitfalls multiply in the last months, it becomes mission impossible. Yet Clément Giraud did so despite a cascade of bad news almost never seen in the small world of ocean racing.
“I experienced what the navy has always experienced, recounts, serene, the 39-year-old sailor. Since the dawn of time, we have fought to arm boats, to find crews, etc. It is the daily lot of sailors, we had perhaps forgotten it a little. I had the misfortune, or the luck, to live an adventure of sailor… on land. “
” It’s magic “
Perfectly launched in the preparation of the Vendée Globe 2020 and ready to take the start of the Jacques-Vabre transatlantic race, Clément Giraud sees his boat go up in smoke along a quay in Le Havre on October 21, 2019. Three weeks later, his boat major sponsor throws in the towel. A state of emergency is declared to find a new budget, but containment freezes everything in March. Due to lack of time and money, the boat could not be repaired. But Erik Nigon, another sailor in need of euros, reaches out to him and the two men join forces during the summer.
To still be able to hope to be at the start of the Vendée Globe, the skipper who grew up in the West Indies must complete a solo qualification course. This was done in July at the helm of Erik Nigon’s boat. ” We were able to bounce back thanks to the whole team and our partners, explains Clément Giraud. I met Erik, who allowed me to qualify and then gave me his boat. I don’t know if it’s a miracle but in any case life is well done. “
But one problem – one more! – remains: the Vendée Globe regulations require that a skipper take the start with the boat he had at the time of registration. Clément’s was eaten away by flames … ” When my sponsor let me go, I said to myself “I’m going, I’m going, I’m going, and we’ll see”. Erik lends me his boat then I do the Vendée Arctic-Les Sables (he ranked 16e, Editor’s note). There I was told that I was sportingly qualified. So I officially requested an exemption to run the Vendée Globe with another boat than initially planned. And it was granted to me in August. “
Derogation, new partners …
Since then, Erik Nigon has given up sailing around the globe to join Clément Giraud’s team. He is also expected to be his replacement skipper in the event of a new last minute glitch. ” Our project is to transmit and share, insists Clément Giraud. Our strength, with my family, my wife and my children, is people. In the good sense of the word. That’s what gave me courage and helped me get out of it all. We’re doing an amazing thing. We don’t need to publicize it, we feel it, we see it, we live it. “
→ READ. In sailing races, the wind is money
Seven weeks before the start of a Vendée Globe that the Var sailor hopes to complete in less than 87 days – ” the boat record »- all the lights are finally green with the recent arrival of two major partners, La Compagnie du Lit and Jiliti, who now give the boat its name. ” Clément Giraud is a warrior of the seas, a sailor with real values. Being by his side was obvious, tell Éric Romedenne, President of La Compagnie du Lit, on the skipper’s official website. His fights will not be in vain. “
Reinforced by all the hardships of recent months, the Toulon sailor warns: “ Within my team, considering everything that has happened this year, I think I can say that we are ready for anything. “ Even to forget October 21, 2019. To put behind them definitely twelve months of hardship concluded with a big smile.