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Eliès: ‘People think we must be crazy, but when you get back ashore, you tell yourself, “We have done something incredible.”

Published on 01/09/2020

Before the start Baie de Saint Brieuc local ace, three times La Solitaire du Figaro winner Yann Eliès (Queguiner Materiaux-Leucemie Espoir) spoke to the Breton news website Le Telegramme's sailing writer Aline Merret. Here are the highlights....

This is your nineteenth Solitaire. Do you never get fed up?
Only the nineteenth?! I’m a bit disappointed. I thought it was the twentieth or 21st. If I had got that far, Jean-Paul Mouren’s record could have been grabbed (27 Solitaire)… But I’ll never get to 27. I’d have to do eight more… Maybe I’m wrong, but it is getting harder and harder. There were of course other difficulties back in the days when my father was racing. But I don’t know if I will be able to enjoy myself without having that desire to win… just getting out there to sail around. In the past, there was the idea of going on a trip, sailing off to Kinsale… But this time, Saint-Quay, Dunkirk and Saint-Nazaire. No point in going there, if you’re not aiming to win…

It’s tough, hard work and the boat is difficult too… But that is one of the reasons why we keep coming back. People think we must be crazy, but when you get back ashore, you tell yourself, “We have done something incredible.” It is a question of motivation, commitment and the result of being in a group… During the delivery trip, we got up to 15-20 knots under spinnaker, or maybe more. We could have taken it easy with the gennaker and stayed in our bunk. But of course we didn’t.

I needed one more shot to make sure I was ready. I’m still in my prime, but it doesn’t feel like it did when I achieved my third win. I felt I was that bit better and that it was easy. Here, I’m simply in the group of contenders, but I’m not head and shoulders above everyone else. To get three wins, I had perfect control of the boat and it was so easy getting out in front. I felt relaxed and didn’t have to suffer…Now even to be up at the front means I have to push extremely hard. You have to give so much and I’m not sure I can do that throughout the Solitaire. I feel I am capable of getting a win in one leg, but will my body be able to cope with all that effort?

I just can’t recover and recuperate so easily. There is the question of preparation. I have a great partner, but when I see the lads with Macif, Bretagne CMB and how they have been hard at work since November… I’m grateful to Quéginer. They helped me out in the peak of the coronavirus epidemic, just when other companies were wondering about whether to pull out. I have had three wins with them, and I’d like to make it four. I would like to be a stand-out figure in the race. But I get bored if I’m out in front just making small gains working on tactics. I’m going to have to learn to do that and to be patient… Last year in the first leg, I was out in front and then lost everything. It’s down to little details, but you need to have a clear vision of the course and tell yourself you need to stay between the others and the mark. It’s a matter of tactics. Heading off at 90° to the direct route to pick up a wind shift only to realise you are out of it… If you thought about it for a couple of seconds, you would say, “No, forget it.”

Physically, the new boat is much harder. We have added more sails. An extra gennaker. The boat really slams when sailing upwind. She’s smaller, so bounces around more in the water. We’re still finding out about her. We haven’t yet identified the moments when we can grab some sleep. It’s harder too to find the right set-up, but that means there are more possibilities of making all the difference. We still have a lot to discover.

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