The Swiss at the sea foot of the Vendée Globe

“Like all Swiss, I am able to say where I was and what I was doing during Alinghi’s two America’s Cup victories.” For the uninitiated, let us specify that the event in question, the equivalent, according to Alan Roura, “A victory in the Football World Cup”, took place in 2003 and 2007. And that the Swiss boat twice beat a crew from New Zealand, a nation considered to be the best in the world in coastal racing.

“There are only the French to be surprised”

During the second triumph of“Alinghi”Alan Roura was 14 years old and lived in the West Indies on a boat with his parents. Which had decided to cast off the continental moorings after years of racing on Lake Geneva. “There is a strong tradition of sailing in Switzerland, it is a fact known for a long time and it is only the French people to be surprised by it”, laughs Bernard Stamm, two Vendée Globe on the clock, who has worn the colors of his country on all the seas of the world.

Installed in Brittany after having been a forester, Bernard Stamm first aroused the curiosity of the fishermen of Lesconil, a small port close to Guilvinec, by building with his own hands a monohull called “ Superbigou ”. “The guys weren’t surprised to see a Swiss knocking wood, but they were surprised to learn that you could navigate unnecessarily. For them, the sailing race was fun for rich kids ”, he recounts.

Bernard Stamm is Alan Roura’s mentor, to the point of bequeathing his boat to him in 2016 for a first round-the-world trip that the 23-year-old at the time had completed brilliantly, at an honest 12e place despite its aging frame. “For me, it was Superbigou or nothing, I was sure that this boat would bring me back to port”, tells the young navigator. He returned from his world tour with a certificate of seriousness, which changed the way others look at this big laid back boy.

The Swiss sailors

“It was hard to get a hello from the other skippers before the start. My young age and my nationality did not plead for me ”, he smiles. Mistake for the grumpy people who did not know the big book of the Round the World Tour, which almost always included Swiss candidates ready to race the oceans for weeks.

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There were even three in the 2000-2001 edition: Bernard Stamm, already, Dominique Wavre, another regular in the race, and Bernard Gallay. “We are good sailors used to racing between three buoys in complicated weather conditions because of the relief surrounding our lakes, continues Bernard Stamm. We also have a strong tradition of adventurers. Some like me flee the routine of regattas that are contested every weekend on our shores ”.

Geneva Regatta Center, Swiss Glénans

“When you add the technique of the regatta to the mental solidity, it necessarily gives good sailors”, sline the former Vendée Globe director Denis Horeau, who has sailed regularly on Lake Geneva since his retirement.

Alan Roura has been at the forefront of several races noted in recent times. He is the scout of a rising generation which largely stands the comparison with the best students of the French school. “Many come from the Geneva regatta center, which is a bit like Les Glénans or the Polytechnique de la Voile Suisse. They are very strong and we will see them tumble very soon in the next Vendée Globe ”, he predicts.

A Swiss duo made up of Simon Koster and Valentin Gautier missed by one step the podium of the very tough transatlantic Jacques Vabre in doubles in the fall of 2019. Justine Mettreaux, a young Genevoise, is carving out a nice CV at the within the professional race. With a seventh place in the Figaro solitaire, considered the most complex of sailing races.

All these Swiss with sea legs tell more or less the same story. Parents who are fans of sailing, the first family races, the first courses at the National Regatta Center, crew contracts on foreign boats. Then the registrations in the big offshore races, until the Vendée Globe, which counts for the moment only one elected Swiss. Before hosting a possible armada in 2024.


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