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Highfield Boats - Sailing - LEADERBOARD

Les Sables d'Olonne, 2 Novenber 2000

by on 6 Nov 2000
Thursday evening in Les Sables d'Olonne, Ellen, accompanied by her team from Kingfisher plc, made themselves available for the media.

Ellen already occupies a priveliged place in the heart of the French, a place important for her, that she is very grateful for. The journalists for their part, wanted to safisfy their curiousity on three major issues - how she is handling the pressure and general mental attitude, the knowledge of her boat, and the onboard management of her life on board.

Some of her major thoughts:

On the management of her mental well-being:

"I don't feel under pressure from the media, my team has managed this really well for me, as well as the preparation generally of the boat - in fact since the launch. I don't think I am more sought after than the other skippers. I don't see interviews as a problem - it is thanks to the media in fact, that I am able to share this dream with thousands of people, including the 130,000 employees of Kingfisher Group, the public that come to the pontoons searching for a glimpe or an autograph, and above all the children from the hospitals to whom I dedicate my adventure"

"I don't consider myself to have either advantage or disadvantage over the male skippers. I am a woman on a boat, and the day things go wrong, I accept its my fault - I never use the excuse its because I'm a woman ! "

"I was a preparateur of a boat for the Vendee in 1996, and from that point on my determination to make the start of this race has driven me on every hour of the day."

"My aim is to make the finishing line, but I will certainly be pushing for a good position - but firstly, I want to finish"

On her experience as a sailor and on 'Kingfisher'

"I am ready, but its going to be tough !"

"I have already sailed more than 23,000 miles on this boat, and have already some knowledge and experience in the Southern Ocean - although our passage from New Zealand was in relatively light winds. I didn't see any big storms in the south, but I know that this race could be become really tough, but that doesn't change at all my desire to go."

"It is true that I have less experience than some of the skippers, but for 4 years now, I have sailed only to achieve this aim. I feel like I have concentrated 15 years of my life in to 4. I had amazing luck to meet a great sponsor like Kingfisher."

On the technical choices on the boat -
On technical choices, answers were given by Mark Turner and Alain Gautier

Mark : "We have very much created a boat for Ellen. Even the mast - it was a choice for several reasons to have a more classic design - but it has a chord distance that Ellen can get her arms around - unlike Yves Parlier's mast in the Jaques Vabre 1999". "For the choice of hull design, we did consider the weather carefully. We wanted to created a boat that Ellen could sail closer to 100% even if the outright power in some conditions was less."

Alain Gautier underlined his support of the design concept, one of simplicity, conservatism and reliability "If I had to take the Vendee start now, I would choose a design very similar to 'Kingfisher' with a similar design team."

"For the choice of hull design, we certainly worked hard on the course requirements. We did not optimise for a downwind boat, we optimised for an effective mix of the two. We are not as fast off the wind for sure, but the differences are small."

What are the important issues onboard and what is the shortcut/startup

"My boat sails under a European flag, that's a personal choice and also one of my sponsors Kingfisher. I am not an English person that comes here to beat the French, I am a European sailor, in a French race."

"My food is principally based on freeze-dried - I am fine with this for 3 monthsŠI hope !
For New Years day, I do actually have a small bottle of red wine."

"Onboard I have a small DVD from Comet, a lot of music CDs (of all styles), and some books principally Swallows and Amazons."

"I am really keen to start, I am carrying with me the dreams of the children I've met in the hospitals across France. I was impressed by the energy that the children had, despite several really not well with only a few hours to live. That put a lot of things in to perspective for me."

And after the Vendee Globe ?

"Right now I cannot imagine life without 'Kingfisher' . I think we will know each other very well after this raceŠ. Normally it is during a race that one starts working out what to do afterwardsŠif I can't work that out in 3 months, then I should probably stop !"

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