The Transat - Skippers' preparation
Marc Guillemot: One month before setting out, I'm applying myself to the psychological elements to try an evacuate as much stress as possible... Fred Le Peutrec: It'll be my second solo race, my first experience being the Route du Rhum in 2002 which unfortunately did not last very long for me. I called it a day five days into the race as the boat had suffered damage...
How are you approaching this single-handed race?

Marc Guillemot: One month before setting out, I'm applying myself to the psychological elements to try an evacuate as much stress as possible. I'm working with folks I trust and who have the technical skills necessary to prepare the boat, the weather analysis and I concentrate on sailing. I'm also devoting a little bit of time to myself so that I have a clear mind by the time I get to the starting line, free from any worries.

Fred Le Peutrec: It'll be my second solo race, my first experience being the Route du Rhum in 2002 which unfortunately did not last very long for me. I called it a day five days into the race as the boat had suffered damage. Since then, I raced the Jacques Vabre two-handed in November 2003 which was a great way of training and then my solo qualifying passage on Gitana 11. I'm expecting to run into a higher level of difficulty compared to what I've known crewed, but I like being alone on a boat. I've wanted to do this ever since the OSTAR and Route du Rhum races in 1976, 80 and 82 when I was just beginning to sail. I get a kick out of sailing solo. I like the concentration and anticipation it demands. A rare sensation. I approach The Transat with lots of humility given the small amount of experience that I have sailing these types of machines solo, compared to the other competitors in the multihull line-up this year. My aim is to make it to the other side, to get me and the boat across safe and sound, whilst trying to place myself as best I can in the fleet. I'm not losing sight of the fact that in 2004 Gitana 11 is entered in a year-long race programme which includes a crewed return transatlantic race, the Québec Saint Malo, in July with our owner / sponsor the Baron Benjamin de Rothschild as crew.

How are you going to handle the competition out on the course ?

MG: When I'm actually racing, I try to avoid keeping an eye on what the other boats are up to. I did that during the Route du Rhum and on the last Transat Anglaise, races where I finished second each time. I did what I wanted to do without paying that much attention to the others. If you spend all your time worrying about what is happening either side of you, you lose confidence in your own choices, which is something I want to avoid.

FL: As a rule, as far as possible, I pay no heed to the pressure of the competition, yet try to remain aware of where they are and their tactical options. For this second solo race, I'll have to concentrate on finding my psychological and technical pace which will no doubt take me a little longer than some of the other skippers in the fleet who have logged thousands of miles single-handed. Once I've found and set my pace, I'll spend a little more time observing the competition, but without overdoing it.

Have you undertaken any specific physical training for the race ?

MG: Nothing in particular as I do sport regularly anyway, running, weight training in the winter and breathing the fresh mountain air from time to time too. If you lead a healthy life, I'm not too worried about specific training. As for sleep, I've sailed so much that I know my strong and weak points, but sleep is always an important issue when sailing solo, whatever the boat.

FL: No, I keep fit anyway by going running often, which is just part of any «sportsman»'s regular routine. Physical fitness is the key to achieving results in competition. When you are worn out physically, your mind can't do its job properly and the results prove it. I do lots of endurance races to handle pressure in situations where you are pushed physically. As for sleep, I'm lucky not to have too much trouble coping with fatigue. Over a longer period of time, the difficulty is organising phases of recovery.

Do you follow a particular diet ?

MG: For a 10-12 day race, I'll be taking a wide range of suitable pre-cooked dishes, specific rations and carefully thought-out in terms of calories. I'll also be taking fresh products – fruit, cheese, bread …. Not forgetting the pâté Henaff and sardines ….Indispensable for keeping up morale.

FL: Nothing special. A balanced diet, easy to use. No freeze-dried stuff as that means taking lots of extra water or having a water maker on board to reconstitute your food. I'll be taking ready-prepared foods, fresh fruit, energy bars, cheese, wholemeal bread. Healthy food.

Routing ?

MG: This time round, unlike last time, routing is being allowed for the ORMA multihull class. I'll be working mostly with Pierre Lasnier (Météo Mer) for the reception of weather information on board. Otherwise, I shall be telephone contact with Luc Poupon and Yann Guichard, to decode the information received. Together, we shall study the various strategical options but the final decision will be mine. It's important not to lose sight of the fact that the race takes place out on the water. Whatever comes your way via in the form of raw information or via a router ashore is 5 to 6 hours behind what is actually happening out on the water. You have to keep that in mind.

FL: We are the only class where routing assistance is permitted. I'll be working with Sylvain Mondon ( Météo France) who'll be sending all the weather files to me and providing routing assistance throughout the race. Prior to the race, I've gone over all of the available weather histories of this race in depth with Jean-Yves Bernot, and have extracted typical courses for the race. I've forwarded these to Sylvain who'll be taking them into account in his analyses.

The boat ?

MG: Gitana X is not an easy boat to sail. Her main handicap is her weight but this can sometimes turn out to be an asset on a course such as The Transat, on which a lighter boat is likely to be a little more flighty. Gitana X will no doubt be more stable in rougher weather and will no doubt be at her best in the first 2,500 premiers miles sailed head to wind. However, there may be a fair bit of fetching to do in the last 400 miles or so. I'll need to have a bit of a lead to compensate for the Gitana X's shortcomings in terms of speed downwind. Otherwise, if I'm behind at Newfoundland, it's going to be difficult to finish well-placed in Boston.

FL: Gitana 11 is an easy boat to balance under sail on the open sea. She is less demanding of the skipper than boats I have sailed in the past. Most of all, she is not so wet as other boats I've sailed – an important feature when it comes to comfort on an course like The Transat sailed head to wind, thus also important when it comes to moral. She can also be sailed fast. But on solo races, maximum boat speed is not the only element to take into consideration in final performance. The trick is to strike the right balance, the right tempo, comprising speed, safety and performance throughout the whole race

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