Please select your home edition
Edition
Gul 2018 October - Code Zero 728x90

Belgian skipper Denis Van Weynbergh aiming for the 2020 Vendée Globe

by IMOCA Globe Series 16 Sep 17:01 BST
Belgian skipper Denis Van Weynbergh © B. Gergaud / EyeSea

The new owner of Nandor Fa's IMOCA, the Belgian skipper, Denis Van Weynbergh hopes to be able to compete in the Globe Series and reach a climax by taking part in the 2020 Vendée Globe.

While for a long time, he has divided up his life between being head of a company and ocean racing, he is now dedicating all his time to his IMOCA project with the aim of becoming the first Belgian sailor to complete the Vendée Globe. He recently launched a highly original, artistic crowd-funding campaign. We met up with him to find out more

Denis, when did you first feel that you wanted to take part in the Vendée Globe?

"It suddenly came to me in 2001, when I was preparing for the Mini Transat. During a delivery trip, I moored up in Bénodet alongside Michel Desjoyeaux's PRB, which had just won the Vendée Globe. My Pogo 6.50 looked a bit like that IMOCA, but on a much smaller scale of course. That's when I started to imagine competing in the Vendée Globe. At the same time, it seemed to me to be a crazy idea and beyond my reach. Before thinking seriously about it, I needed to complete my first solo offshore race, the Mini Transat. I managed to do that. That race was a milestone for me and the Vendée Globe remained in the back of my mind. I then continued to gain experience on various types of boat, in particular on Class40s. I completed the Route du Rhum in 2010, the Quebec Saint-Malo in 2012, the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2013, the Fastnet Race in 2015..."

What really led you to move to the IMOCA class?

"In Belgium, ocean racing is not as popular as in France. We only have 40 miles of coast and no real sailing culture. I tried to find some help in the market in Belgium for the 2016 Vendée Globe, but firms were not that keen. In fact, I understood that I needed to find a strong concept, an original idea, something creative. Last year, I met the photographer, Edouard Janssens, who has specialised in the creation of works of art based on photos of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. One thing led to another and the project, 'Eye Sea' was born? The aim is to offer partners the opportunity to acquire one of the 250 personalised iris photos that will form one single giant iris on the sails of my IMOCA. We'll therefore be creating a work of art while working together in this crowd-funding project. A work of art that will go all the way around the world."

Once you had defined the concept and set up the crowd-funding campaign, you had to find an IMOCA that was available. Why did you choose Nandor Fa's former Spirit of Hungary?

"In late 2017, I was strolling around Les Sables d'Olonne on the Vendée Globe pontoon and I noticed that boat. From the outset, she seemed to me to be simple, solid and reliable. Exactly what I was looking for in my project, she suits my personality and my goals. I wanted a boat that had already completed the Vendée Globe without any major problems and that was the case for Nandor Fa's boat, which finished in an honourable eighth place in the last race. I quickly got in contact with the boat captain, then Nandor. The deal was signed last June."

Did your first sailing trips on her live up to your expectations?

"Yes. I had never sailed an IMOCA, but I knew everything was huge on these boats. That was confirmed during the first trips I was able to carry out. Everything is faster and is more physical on an IMOCA. You can't carry out the slightest manoeuvre without planning ahead. You have to be methodical. Nandor Fa really thought about this boat with details that simplify life aboard her."

For a long time, you managed to reconcile your professional life and ocean racing. Was that too complicated when dealing with a project as big as an IMOCA?

"Exactly. Preparing for the Vendée Globe is a full time job, when you look for the funding and do all the preparation on land and out at sea... particularly as for the moment, I'm taking care of the project alone. To dedicate myself entirely to the IMOCA project, I sold my delivery business PN Express World, in November 2017."

What is your programme for the months ahead? Do you intend to compete in all of the races in the IMOCA Globe Series?

"Yes. The boat will be going into the yard in early November and is due to be realunched in late January. In 2019 and 2020, I want to clock up as many miles of racing as I can. I can't see myself taking part in the Vendée Globe and sailing in the Roaring Forties without having sailed fifteen to twenty thousand miles on my IMOCA. On the other hand, I won't be competing in the Route du Rhum this year. My job for the moment is to find sponsors."

So where are you in terms of the funding?

"My first partner has entered the adventure, the Belgian company, Pranarôm (which specialises in essential oils). They have brought around 15 % of the total budget that I estimate to be 2.5 million euros. The goal now is to start to sell the iris photos to individuals and companies. Ideally, I should have a headline partner, who would give their name to the boat, associating it with the name of the concept: 'Eye-Sea... X or Y'."

Find out more about Denis Van Weynbergh's project here

Related Articles

Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 10
Alex Thomson continues to extend his lead in the trade winds Now less than 1000 miles from the finish in Pointe-à-Pitre, the British skipper seems well placed, even if Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès will remain a threat until the end, while Boris Herrmann is also lying in wait. Posted on 13 Nov
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 9
François Gabart says he's happy with his second-placed finish At the moment, François Gabart says he's happy with his finish at Pointe-à-Pitre and to have been able to battle to the end, even though Francis Joyon stole the victory by taking the lead at the finishing line, just seven minutes ahead of him. Posted on 12 Nov
Joyon sets course record in the Route du Rhum
Joyon sets course record in the Route du Rhum–Destination Guadeloupe France's Francis Joyon (62), sailing aboard IDEC Sport, crossed the Route du Rhum–Destination Guadeloupe's finishing line seven minutes and eight seconds ahead of Francois Gabart (FRA; 35), to set a new course record. Posted on 12 Nov
Joyon snatches record-setting victory
In thrilling finale to Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe In the closest finish since it was first staged in 1978, the French ocean racing veteran Francis Joyon won the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Pointe-À-Pitre early this morning. Posted on 12 Nov
Francis Joyon pips François Gabart by 7 minutes
Thrilling finish to 11th Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe Monday 12 November, at 04:28 am (UTC+1), François Gabart crossed the finishing line of the 11th Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe in 2nd place in the Ultime class, on board the MACIF trimaran. Posted on 12 Nov
Minutes separate winners in Route du Rhum finish
Two lead boats Francis Joyon and François Gabart finish just over 7 minutes apart After a hard sail in the opening stanza of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, the two lead boats Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport and François Gabart aboard Macif finished just over seven minutes apart after a thrilling finish at night in Guadeloupe Posted on 12 Nov
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 8
A foil and a rudder missing on the MACIF Trimaran "François never gives in," says Thomas Normand of the technical team. "The loss of the foil did not cause sufficient damage to force him to retire. Naturally, these hitches have had an impact on performance, but she is still fighting for a win." Posted on 11 Nov
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 7
Alex Thomson is still leading the fleet of IMOCAs On the sixth day of racing in the Route du Rhum, British skipper Alex Thomson is still leading the fleet of IMOCAs. In the trade winds, he is being chased by three skippers, Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès. Posted on 10 Nov
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 6
Sunshine and shorts time as Thomson looks to capitalize After five days of tough racing in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre in the French Caribbean, Britain's Alex Thomson is in good spirits and looking to put the hammer down on Hugo Boss. Posted on 9 Nov
Route du Rhum IMOCA analysis by Morgan Lagravière
Four skippers are sailing in the trade winds and are now battling it out to win this race While Yannick Bestaven has unfortunately been forced to retire, Jérémie Beyou, Alexia Barrier, Fabrice Amedeo, Manuel Cousin and Romain Attanasio intend to set sail again after carrying out pit stops. Posted on 9 Nov