Vincent Riou has been active since 1993 sailing in different classes of sailboats, from the First Class 8, Figaro, IMOCA, multihulls, winning countless regattas, with four participations in the round the world sailing solo without stopovers or external help Vendée Globe which he has won in the 2004-2005 edition with the “PRB”, a team in which he was during the 2001 to 2019 seasons. A great friend of Michel Desjoyeaux with whom he has sailed a lot, as well as a trainer of his boats. And in the period 2019 to 2021 he was at the helm of the IMOCA “Arkéa Paprec” team for the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe.
As an experienced sailor, very experienced in the IMOCAs, he is an exceptional observer of this last Vendée Artique that had to be shortened to the southeast of Iceland due to harsh weather conditions.
At 5:00 p.m. today, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, the fleet is already less than 100 miles from the port of Le Sables d'Olonne.
Vincent, what is the concept of Vendée Arctic - Les Sables d'Olonne?
Is very good. The Vendée Arctique is excellent training for the Vendée Globe, an almost unique opportunity to face extreme wind and cold conditions. In this regatta, sailors learn to push their boat hard and go fast in heavy seas. The journey seems exciting to me, but it is not easy to execute. It can be quickly shortened, shifted or nullified, as it is 90 degrees to the path of the Northern Hemisphere perturbed system casualties.
So racing for Iceland in an IMOCA is possible, but not always feasible...
Yes, we have to be lucid and accept the fact that, in case there are three editions, maybe only one will go around Iceland. Is it a reason not to set this goal? I do not think so. Boaters taking the start know they have little chance of making it all the way, but it's not worth trying! No matter what happens, it is always motivating to take on a new route and navigate remote places. I am not surprised that the participants have not been able to go around the island this year. It will be next time and that's fine. It would be a shame to change the destination or say that the route is not consistent.
What do you think of the decisions made by the management of the race, with the end of the event at the door of Iceland?
I have acquired the habit of respecting the decisions of the judges. The position of race director is never easy, you have a lot of responsibility and pressure on your shoulders. But we live in a society that pushes us towards maximum security and risk control. We can see that race starts are often postponed in case of bad weather. That said, the decision made by the race director in this Vendée Arctique is fully respectable. He had much more information and data than we do to do it. In the end, the regatta lasted half as long as planned, but it was still fair, sporting equity was respected.
What did the sailors learn from this confrontation?
Vincent Riou: All of them were able to assess their level of performance, their ability to adapt to changing situations and harsher conditions than they are used to facing. They took another step in their technical and sports preparation. They have experienced a very strong storm, but that is something that sailors like them have to be able to handle if they want to compete in the next Vendée Globe with a good level of safety.
How do you analyze the good performance of the straight daggerboard IMOCAs?
The passage of the high pressure ridge to the southwest of Ireland was a defining moment. We could see that in these light wind conditions modern foilers did not necessarily have the best weapons to get by. On the other hand, the IMOCA boats with straight daggerboards were able to do well. Depending on the weather conditions, everyone has a chance. It's nice, it shows that there is still room for a lot of people in the Vendée Globe. A few hours after this lull, things returned to normal as the best sailors with the best boats took the lead in the fleet.
Were you surprised by the high speed the foilers achieved at the start of the race?
Not really. We will have to get used to seeing those speeds when the conditions are right for it. The IMOCA foiler was born in 2015 and is not yet fully mature. It sails in "semi-steering" mode because it doesn't have all the tricks (Vincent is referring to cargo planes on the rudders, which are prohibited by the IMOCA regulations, NDR). The best ones are starting to go very, very fast. This is proof that the sheets have been a success. It wasn't always easy in the early years, but now we're at the point where these boats go much faster in certain conditions. The start of the Vendée Arctique proved it.
How do you explain Charlie Dalin's undisputed dominance in the last two solo regattas, the Guyader Bermuda 1000 Race and the Vendée Arctique?
It is about the sailor, the machine and the harmony between them. Charlie is a solo sailing virtuoso. He has proven it over the years in the Figaro and confirmed it in the IMOCA class. He doesn't make many mistakes in strategy and use of the ship. He has more and more confidence because he has an excellent boat that he has developed very well with his teams. I am lucky to be a privileged observer, as he participated in the IMOCA training courses at the Pôle Finistère Course au Large in Port-la-Forêt. I see that the “Apivia” is the most versatile IMOCA and the most efficient in medium wind conditions. This usually pays off, as she is always the fastest starting ship. Charlie dominates the entire game, is almost always ahead and doesn't leave much room for others.