Bernard Stamm: ” My boat was a teenager and she’s become an adult “
ARTICLES | Thursday 07 February 2013, 11:59
Here are the highlights of Bernard Stamm’s Thursday morning press conference. The Cheminées Poujoulat skipper arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne on Wednesday night.
On making it to Les Sables d’Olonne:
The last hours of the race were tough because a part of the keel was broken. But the sea was beautiful, even though it was very agitated, and it was awesome to see all the people who were there to welcome me. Friends, family, and even people you don’t know…
On being disqualified:
The strange thing about being disqualified and still continuing the race is that you feel like you’re hidden, it’s like a ghost race. You can see the positions of the other boats but you know people on dry land don’t really know where you are or what you’re doing. But when you’re halfway across the world and you need to get the boat back home, there’s no choice, really, you have to keep going. I couldn’t just fly back home and let someone take the boat back.
On the technical issues he faced:
When I first faced technical troubles, I tried so many different things but nothing worked, it was very frustrating.
On his physical shape:
I lost 7 kilos. I didn’t have much body fat when I left, but I have even less now. I got more muscular, too. The issues I faced with the winch made it a very physically demanding race for me. Every manoeuvre I would have to make, I’d do it directly from the winch, which is very tough.
Frustration or satisfaction?
I’m feeling a little bit of both, really. We’ve paid the price for the delays we had early on in the project. What happened in the Jacques Vabre Transat really put us in a difficult position, it made us very late in the development of our project. Boats like Cheminées Poujoulat are even more efficient once you’ve sailed on them quite a lot, and we weren’t able to do that. That delay cost us a lot in the end. It could have worked, but sometimes there are things you just don’t see, and we missed a few of those things. The boat has no sister ship, no other boat to compare her to or no other experience to rely on to get better. We made a huge mistake with the roof, we tried to correct it but it was too late. What you can’t do on dry dock, you do while racing.
On whether he deserved to be disqualified:
I can’t see how I could have done things differently. If the Russian boat hadn’t been around, I wouldn’t have moored to it, obviously, but I would have been disqualified anyway because I would have wanted to save my boat anyway. You’re in a place you don’t know, you are anchored but you feel the boat drifting, you have to do something. I lost a boat in 2008 in similar circumstances. I think I did what I had to do, that’s it.
On the potential of his boat:
The boat is very hard to sail on single-handedly, especially when you have no winch column! But that king of boat is always very demanding for a solo sailor, especially if you want to manoeuvre as fast as Armel or François. Our boats are powerful and therefore difficult to sail, even though the equipment and the sails tend to be lighter now.
On his hydrogenerators issues:
I have nothing against the hydrogenerators themselves, I don’t even know if they’re reliable because the attachment system hold on for two days only, so I couldn’t even test the hydrogenerators in regular conditions. The fixing looked like a toy, really, it was simply not adapted. If we had known that, we would have taken 320 litres of fuel instead of 160.
On François Gabart:
I would have loved to see him at the finish, but I know he’s busy. I like him a lot, we’ve worked together throughout our preparations. He invited me on board MACIF, but I couldn’t go inside the cabin. His performance is amazing, during the training sessions we could see he was very comfortable with this boat. It’s like he was having a nice and quiet drive to the supermarket while we were still trying to figure out how the engine was working. Keeping that intense rhythm throughout the race with Armel chasing him is definitely something.
His Vendée Globe memories:
The moment the difficult times stop, you can see the positive things. I’m sitting here today and I can look back at things. When I was off the Brazilian coast, the weather was terrible and I hated my boat, I hated her back then. But now it’s gone, it’s all gone. There will be a serious debrief to do because when things go wrong, you want to know why and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
All these difficult times didn’t necessarily make me a stronger person. It’s hard to say, but what I know is that I wish I hadn’t had to do all that. Climbing up the mast when sailing upwind isn’t something you enjoy doing. I trained physically before the race, but not enough. I was prepared for a problem-free race, and that’s definitely not what I had. I’ll need to change my physical preparation in the future.
On a possibly new Vendée Globe winner profile:
Every new edition shows new things, new profiles. The level is higher, it’s obvious, and Armel and François brought their competitive backgrounds with them in this race. This is a kind of background I’ll never have, but I have other things they don’t have either. But experience isn’t everything. As François said, a wave is a wave, even when you’ve never sailed in the southern Oceans, you can deal with its conditions, that’s what François proved. I think what is truly important is the preparation. François may be very talented, if he hadn’t been well-prepared, he wouldn’t have had such a great race.
On lack of sleep:
I didn’t sleep for 5 or 6 consecutive days. Of course I wish I hadn’t had to stay awake that long. But I had to, I knew I would have been in serious trouble if I had slept then. When I rounded Cape Horn, I needed to save some energy to be able to lift the keel in case things went bad, and I needed the maps and weather info, too. So I had to stay awake for those reasons, so it gives you extra motivation not to sleep. It was difficult, though, because it was cold and I was at the helm, not moving much. I don’t really know how I did it, I just did it, without really thinking about how.
On whether he is feeling proud:
I’m very happy I sailed Cheminées Poujoulat around the world, that’s a huge satisfaction. Circumnavigations are long and complicated. It is something great to achieve. You have no idea how long the race can feel. Sailing up the Atlantic takes forever, you feel like you’re travelling through several different worlds. So I’m proud I went through that and came back.
On Cape Horn:
When I had troubles in New Zealnd, I received a lot of messages supporting me, including one from Unai Basurko. He told me he was in the Cape Horn area so when it became necessary, I told my team to try to contact him. It was surreal to see him, a friend I knew from the Velux 5 Oceans race, in such a context. Cape Horn is made to be rounded, you just don’t stop there. He brought fuel and good home-made food.
On Jean-Pierre Dick not being disqualified:
His situation was different, he was moored when he used his engine. I see the jury has adapted its decision to the exact context and I’m glad JP could stay in the race, the spirit of the race has been respected. I’m not frustrated at all. If what happened to me in the South helped make things change, I’m glad. Some rules need to change. You should be allowed to moore to another boat in some circumstances. I moored to a boat but it could have been a tree trunk. Rules need to take into account the crazy conditions people like us get to face, like knowing you may damage your boat, doing what’s necessary to save her and finding out there’s someone who climbed on board that you hadn’t seen even seen… The Vendée Globe is all about having all boats come back in Les Sables, and rules should be changed with that in mind.
On his future projects:
Cheminées Poujoulat and I have a project that runs until the Jacques Vabre Transat, so we don’t have to ask ourselves questions or make tough decisions right before or right after the Vendée Globe. It’s way too early to say if I will be in the next Vendée Globe. It’s such a demanding race project in terms of money and energy. It becomes so important in your life, sometimes the most important thing. The boat was a teenager when I left, and now she’s become an adult, so I don’t want to leave her in the hands of someone else now.
On his tooth:
I’m glad I could get rid of the pain and somehow solve the problem but now I need a true specialist to look at it because I may have done things to two or three teeth at the same time. I need to see a dentist now.