Armel Tripon : ” I think we have created a new pathway with this kind of boat”

Our lap of the planet has been completed! Armel Tripon has arrived in Les Sables-d’Olonne. Sneaking between two big storms in the dark of night, L’Occitane en Provence crossed the Vendée Globe finish line today, Monday 1st February 2021, at 7:27 am.

Armel Tripon entered superbly under sail with his great Provence sun in the mythical channel. He took 11th place in the non-stop single-handed round-the-world race after 84 days, 17 hours, 7 minutes and 50 seconds of racing, one year to the day from when his boat was first launched. We catch up with him following the official activities at the arrival and press conference.

Following a final night at sea in stormy conditions where he faced 6-metre waves and gusts of wind clocked at 55 knots, Armel Tripon won his bet: he completed the Vendée Globe. He succeeded in sailing around the world single-handed, non-stop and without assistance. After having waited off Portugal, then Spain to let the most dangerous part of storm Justine pass, Armel decided to enter between two very deep depressions that produced very big seas in the Bay of Biscay.

A hero’s welcome

L’Occitane en Provence sailed in under main and storm sails to cross the finish line in the Sables d’Olonne after 84 days and 17 hours at sea. Armel Tripon came in the traditional way under sail between the two piers leading to the channel. The many spectators at their windows and on boats, able to witness the great show, greeted him under a halo of the spotlights and to the sound of foghorns.

One of the particularities of the Vendée Globe is that each sailor who succeeds in sailing around the world is welcomed here as a winner. With a smile on his face as he reunited with his family, his loved ones, his team, his sponsor L’Occitane en Provence, the race management, before going on to answer the questions from the press at the official conference. We catch up with him for an exclusive interview:

Armel, what a lovely arrival you have had in the harbour! And all these people came to welcome you after more than 84 days alone at sea around the planet…

“Yes, it was great to sail into the harbour! The sea was very rough outside, it was dangerous for the rigid inflatables to go out. So, we made the decision with the team that I would come in like that, with my two sails and that we would only lower them once we were out of the bay. It was the best thing to do from a safety point of view… and it turns out it’s been nice for everyone to see. But the craziest thing is the contrast between being alone for 84 days and then in an instant, all of these people. I quite honestly didn’t expect this!”

Due to the stormy conditions not all the spectator boats could get out to sea, were they waiting for you in the channel?

“Yes! On the line there were only two boats, so I was expecting a small finish. And when you arrive in the harbour entrance, you see that in reality there are lots of people, spotlights, boats everywhere, the sounds of people banging on their pots and pans at the windows, foghorns… The transition is quite huge. And then, inevitably, it was very emotional seeing my children, my family, and friends. All the people I love and whom I haven’t seen for 84 days. I had nothing left to eat, but I would have extended the pleasure for 15 days!”

You made the decision to pass between two storms to complete this Vendée Globe. One can imagine that your final night at sea must have been challenging.

“It was tense! Not only because I had to avoid the many fishing and cargo ships but also because there was a huge sea with about 5 to 6 metre waves. Fortunately, the swell was long. It was also tense because I had timings to respect that meant I absolutely had to arrive before 9 o’clock to have a chance of getting back into the port because of the tide. It meant that I had to be measured and put up and reduce sail accordingly. The sea was manageable but every now and then a rogue wave would come in from the side and send you off on a broach. It was a dogfight, probably the biggest on the race just at the finish! At the same time the storm was very beautiful. Yesterday afternoon I had a moment where the sky went from blue to dark grey in an instant. The sea became white and I had 54 knots of wind. That’s a lot.”

You said during the official press conference that you had a lot of fun, that you got on well with your boat and that you would like to ‘come back in four years to win’. But wasn’t it hard and long this round-the-world trip?

“Honestly not. I didn’t find it hard and I didn’t find it long. I felt very good on this Vendée Globe. Admittedly, the end was a bit painful to have to wait for the gale to pass, especially as I had nothing left to eat. I would have liked to extend the pleasure by a fortnight, a small loop to the West Indies for example (laughs)! What’s nice of course is to be with everyone again and also to no longer be on permanent alert, to no longer have to be totally concentrated, on the lookout at all times. There have been some difficult moments of course, but I wouldn’t say that the whole thing has been hard. What has been hard is when a hook breaks and you find yourself with a big headsail flying loose just when I was about to catch up with the leaders in the Pacific. Without that damage I would have got up to within 200 miles of them and had a chance to fight it out. Yes, it was a difficult moment to deal with because at that point I had caught up a lot of miles”.

You did not have much luck at either the start with damage or at the finish with the storm, both in the North Atlantic. However, L’Occitane en Provence has been the fastest boat in the fleet from and back to the Equator…

“This means that our choices with Sam Manuard (the architect) were right. I think we opened a pathway for this kind of scow boat (rounded nose, narrow, large foils). The boat goes fast all the time, it’s less hard than many others, notably because it heels less. It’s a great boat, we got on well together. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see this type of boat do well in the IMOCA class. Sam Manuard has an incredible design skill. It was his first boat for the Vendée Globe. I think it’s a great success, not to mention the fact that that boat has been extremely well built with only minor breakages, with things like the hooks and the boat itself coming back almost intact”.

At the finish you spoke of magical moments as you rounded Cape Horn. The image of your passage there, at the other end of the world, will remain engraved in your memory?

“Yes. It was magical to see it, that famous Cape Horn. It’s a mythical place that means so much to a sailor….And I was lucky enough to see it up close, in broad daylight, to be able to enjoy it to the full. And it’s true what they say: this passage of the Horn is clearly a deliverance. You leave the shadowy territory, it’s the beginning of the return home. That’s it… and it’s also the first land you see from the start! It was a very, very beautiful moment to see it appear like that, before my eyes.”

Armel Tripon’s Vendée Globe key statistics:

  • L’Occitane en Provence crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe today, Monday 1st February 2021 at 7h27’15”
  • Armel Tripon finishes in 11th place
  • Race time: 84 days, 17 hours, 7 minutes, 50 seconds
  • Armel Tripon covered 28,315 nautical miles (4,000 miles more than the shortest theoretical route, also known as the orthodromic route), at an average speed of 13.93 knots.

Photo Credit : B. Le Bars

Tags on NauticNews : Vendée GlobeVG2020, Armel Tripon

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