To say that Sébastien Josse is one of the new wave of sailors doesn't really do him justice as he's already pocketed a wealth of talent in just 29 years, and is the youngest competitor in this Vendée Globe 2004.
The youngest but in no means the least experienced, far from it. Mini Transat, Figaro circuit, joint holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, he admits to an indescribable pleasure in being alone on the sea. And he makes no secret of his firm intention to rank well. Interview.
What pushed you into doing the Vendée Globe?
It's an old dream to want to do it. It was seeing the images of Alain Gautier surfing in the Deep South that gave me the desire to want to be there. Real flash images! That was the start of the story. To enrol now isn't that simple, you have to have support from a partner like VMI which has enabled me to be here today. Even before doing the Figaro or the Mini 6.50, I wanted to participate in the Vendée Globe because that attracted me the most.
Is the Vendée Globe the outcome of a life as a sailor?
It's not an outcome at all, quite the contrary! It's a starting point for me. We'll see how I feel in three months' time, but I'd really like to make a second attempt with a project using a brand new boat. I'm doing it to learn lots of things: about myself, my choice of techniques, my course, endurance. That's what I'm looking for so that one day I can bounce back and win the Vendée Globe. Why not this time around if it's possible?
What are your objectives on this Vendée Globe?
The objective is to finish. Even if I finish 15th, I have to get back to Les Sables d'Olonne. I know what it's like to go flat out for fifteen days, I know how to do it and I don't need to prove it. That's exactly what I have to learn here: controlling the material, the southern seas, the big weather options. After that I'd like to get a result. I know the possibilities and the limits of my boat. I'd be disappointed not to finish with a relatively good place.
With the Vendée Globe being so long and so difficult, don't you think that blurs out the differences in generation a bit between the boats?
A little of course. You need a modern boat, that's for sure. Now, the example of Mike Golding is the perfect project on paper to win a Vendée Globe. The boat was just being designed at the arrival of the previous edition, then it was built the year after and Mike has done the equivalent of a round the world on his boat. He hasn't even had any serious breakage. On paper it's the winning project. But to reunite all these parameters, you have to take something from three or four years before. Now the very reliable boats like VMI have a skill for getting out of a delicate situation.
Quite, tell us about your boat.
It's a boat which is seaworthy and reliable without any last minute innovation. I know it well as I've had her for two years. That's very important and working on her now is like second nature. I know her limits and how far I can go. It's a boat that can do some damage on this course which is a round the world with nearly 80% of downwind! That's one of the strengths of my project. For a first single-handed round the world and at my age, it's the perfect ride!
What are your weaknesses ?
I can tell you about my boat's weaknesses but not mine, you mustn't give those away (laughs)! No, there aren't really any weaknesses other than the age of the boat in relation to the latest generation, which are obviously quicker. My weakness would be finding the cursor to dose my desire to push the boat and drive her to the point where she breaks. I'm going to have to calm my greed for speed at times! Other than that, I'm prepared for the hard moments of solitude. And I'm naturally positive!
You know the southern ocean (Jules Verne Trophy on Orange 1) but are you expecting any surprises there?
There were thirteen of us first of all, and we were sailing at thirty knots. The boat was making more headway than the weather systems so we were able to play with the depressions whilst remaining in 20/25 knot winds, a wind speed that enabled us to go the fastest. We just had to put our foot down on the accelerator from time to time to shift into a better position. In this instance, you know that you are going to get caught by the low pressure system and have to endure it.
Are you used to lying low?
Yes, but less than the others (laughs)! At a certain moment, you have to lie low and head into the thick of it again as soon as possible, that's where you mustn't delay.
What is the winning recipe for the Vendée Globe?
I don't know if there is one. The recipe is perhaps experience, racking up the miles without forgetting a bit of a quack remedy to help you on your way a bit.
Have you noticed that all the winners of the Vendée Globe have never come back? If you win, we'll never see you again?
No, why not a double!