Please select your home edition
Edition
Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Armel Le Cléac'h says January 19th is like a birthday

by Vendee Globe 22 Jan 22:53 GMT
Armel Le Cleac'h - Vendée Globe © Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

Winner of the Vendée Globe six years ago this week, the skipper of Banque Populaire keeps his memories and "the method" that enabled him to win. Armel also gives his analysis of the IMOCA. He says he is impressed by the current level.

Six years ago to the day, you won the Vendée Globe. Are the memories still vibrant?

For sure, the 19th of January remains an important date in my personal life. Winning the Vendée Globe will remain engraved forever and the memories are still there. Every year it's a bit like a birthday. You realise that you've taken another year and you still talk about it for a while! This adventure has a special flavour this year, as I'm preparing my first round-the-world race in an Ultim boat after six years and the famous Vendée Globe.

Is victory in the Vendée Globe precious in your current challenges?

It's not the victory as such but rather the method. Even if the race we'll be starting next January is a different exercise, on board different boats, there are references, memories, feelings to be drawn on the fact of setting off for a long time offshore, on the experience of the southern seas...

I'm lucky because my team has remained largely the same compared to the one that experienced the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. Everything they have acquired, particularly in the preparation and approach to the race, will be invaluable in the challenge that we are now facing.

"We were pioneers with foils"

"Is there any pride in still being the Vendée Globe record holder?

It makes me want to fight for new reference times! (laughs). No, I know that records are made to be broken and that will be the case for mine one day or another, depending on the weather conditions. The pride is not necessarily the record itself, but the fact that I have twice completed the Vendée Globe in less than 80 days (78 days and 5 hours in 2012-2013, 74 days and 3 hours in 2016-2017). Not many skippers have managed to do that.

Six years later, it seems that a lot has changed in IMOCA...

We were pioneers in adding foils to our IMOCAs from 2015. At the time, it seemed completely crazy, even absurd for some, but we proved the opposite. It is now one of the main elements of the new IMOCAs which have become faster thanks to their large foils but also harder to sail.

"New IMOCAs are designed for warriors"

All the skippers agree that these boats are particularly physically demanding...

The boats were already very demanding when I was in the Class but we can see that everyone is progressing, that the boats are faster and also harder. The new IMOCAs are very demanding indeed, you have to accept the violence of the impacts and manage to spend several weeks on board. These boats are designed for warriors: you have to be tough if you want to do well in the next Vendée Globe.

Have we reached the limit of what our body and organism can bear on board?

It's difficult to answer that because I'm only relying on what I've heard. But indeed, you can feel that the living conditions on board are very hard. I am sure that the teams are already thinking about how to remedy this. We saw at the end of the Route du Rhum how tired some of them were. But it was a sprint. The challenge in the Vendée Globe is to hold on for more than 70 days... It's quite a challenge. You have to manage to keep the boats manageable by one person without becoming dangerous.

What do you think about the new IMOCAs that have been launched in the last few months?

We are always impressed by these machines and eager to learn about the latest innovations. The big development is the fact that the cockpits are increasingly closed to improve aerodynamics and to protect the sailors more. The foils have also become big pieces: they take up space on the pontoons! When the conditions are nice, they are very pleasant to look at. When the conditions get tougher, it's a challenge to keep control and to be able to slow down, but that's the case with all the boats. It will be interesting to see what the teams have learned about this.

"The IMOCA skippers impress me"

The boat you won with, Banque Populaire VIII, finished third in the Vendée Globe with Louis Burton and is now with Pipe Hare... Are you still following her?

Yes of course and I followed her in the last Route du Rhum, even though I don't know Pip personally. In the next Vendée Globe, there could be the three boats I sailed with: Brit Air (currently China Dream with Jingkun Xu), Banque Populaire VI (Nexans-Art et Fenêtres, Fabrice Amedeo) and Banque Populaire VIII (Medallia, Pipe Hare). And I'm going to follow all three! It also shows that these are boats that are built to last, which is relevant in the desire to limit the environmental impact of each one.

Are there any IMOCA skippers who impress you at the moment?

During the Route du Rhum, during my 'remountada' which was not really what I expected, I passed not far from Thomas (Ruyant, LinkedOut), Charlie (Dalin, APIVIA), Jérémie (Beyou, Charal), Kevin (Escoffier, Holcim-PRB), Maxime (Sorel, V and B Monbana Mayenne), Paul (Meilhat, Biotherm), Justine (Mettraux, 11th Hour Racing)... Of course I'm impressed by them! There is a very high level of performance among the top ten. Without denigrating the performance of my predecessors and the fleet when I was there, the 'Top 10' seems even more difficult to achieve today. It shows that there is a lot of skill and talent out there.

So you're in a completely different challenge with the Ultim Class. But would you like to come back one day to the IMOCA and the Vendée Globe?

I'm very lucky to have a great challenge with Banque Populaire in the future and we'll do everything we can to approach it with the maximum of ambition. I've certainly closed the door on IMOCA racing but it's never completely closed...

Related Articles

The Vendée Globe is now a concrete goal
Violette Dorange could be the youngest woman to line up at the start of a Vendée Globe Now 21 years old, Violette Dorange could be the youngest woman to line up at the start of a Vendée Globe. Posted on 6 Jan
Vendee Globe: It was time to go for it
Switzerland's Oliver 'Ollie' Heer is on course to do just that Not many 2024 VG skippers will have made the step up from captain of a cutting edge IMOCA racing machine which competed on the last race to competing in their own right on their own boat with their own programme but Oliver 'Ollie' Heer is on course Posted on 18 Dec 2022
Qualifying for the Vendée Globe
A tricky Route du Rhum for the IMOCA fleet Since Wednesday 14:15, the IMOCAs taking part in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe - the second qualifying race for the Vendée Globe 2024 - have been engaged in an intense battle. Posted on 18 Nov 2022
Route du Rhum approaching, Vendée Globe in mind
This transatlantic race is very important for qualifying for the Vendée Globe 38 IMOCAs will be at the start of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe on Sunday 6th November. The prestigious and undecided transatlantic race is very important for qualifying for the Vendée Globe. Posted on 27 Oct 2022
How to take part in the Vendée Globe 2024
The number of participants has been increased to 40 skippers for the 10th edition From edition to edition, the success of the Vendée Globe is growing. In 2020, 33 competitors took the start of this unique round the world race. There have never been so many! Posted on 22 Oct 2022
Thousands honour Vendée Globe skippers
Emotions and celebrations suppressed by the pandemic for over a year came bursting to the fore Tens of thousands of partying, passionate Vendée Globe race fans and well-wishers lined Les Sables d'Olonne's Grand Plage, the main sea front promenade, last night (Friday) to honour the heroic 2020-2021 skippers. Posted on 5 Jun 2022
Dalin: "The year couldn't have started better"
With victory in the IMOCA Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Charlie Dalin (Apivia) won the third edition of the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race which in fact is his first solo victory in IMOCA and his fourth overall IMOCA race win since 2019 in all different formats combined. Posted on 22 May 2022
25 skippers for Vendée Arctic-Les Sables d'Olonne
A race of discovery to the northern waters of the Arctic Circle Alain Leboeuf, President of SAEM Vendée and the Department of Vendée has just presented the skippers of the second edition of the Vendée Arctic - Les Sables d'Olonne, more than 2 years from the 10th edition of the Vendée Globe. Posted on 20 May 2022
2020 Vendée Globe skippers grand parade
Taking place on the Remblai in Les Sables d'Olonne on Friday 3rd June To launch the summer season, the festivities will begin on Friday 3rd June 2022 with the Grand Parade of the 2020 Vendée Globe Skippers, to celebrate these men and women of the sea. Posted on 14 May 2022
The dream makers - Episode 4
Marrying up skippers and sponsors It is a long and mostly difficult path to the start line of the Vendée Globe and not everyone makes it. Here is number four in our series of those team members who work behind the curtain in a while variety of different roles Posted on 21 Apr 2022