Ian Lipinski

Ian Lipinski: « My aspiration is to continue to flourish in this environment »

25 Class40s – and 4 monohulls from 45 to 70 feet – set off on 30 June for the 10th edition of the Transat Québec Saint-Malo, raced as a crew. One of these is the Crédit Mutuel boat, n°158, launched in August 2019, which skipper Ian Lipinski will be sailing for the last time, before taking the helm of his new Raison design, unveiled in April. An opportunity for Tip & Shaft to chat to the man who took second place in The Transat CIC in May.

► You’re about to take part in your last race on your first Crédit Mutuel, will there be any particular emotional charge?
Yes, I’m trying not to let it build up too much, but obviously I’ve had a great time with this boat, which I adore. When it’s going fast downwind, in 30 knots of wind and heavy seas, she’s truly magical, exuding an impressive serenity. When things start to get complicated for the others, when everyone’s having a hard time and you’re still serene, that’s pretty exhilarating. I hope I won’t regret it!

► This boat was the first Class40 with a scow-shaped bow. When you embarked on this path with the architect David Raison, did you feel you were taking a risk or were you sure of your choices?
I have more of a feeling that we were one step further in the history of scows, which had been initiated a few years earlier by David in Mini. Personally, I’d been sailing a Mini scow for two years, so it was certainly a change of category, but the concept had already proved its worth. Of course, at the time I heard some architects saying that it wouldn’t work on the bigger boats, but David and I were pretty convinced, so we didn’t feel like we were making a huge gamble. There was inevitably a small amount of doubt, but what worried us more was failing on other points that would have invalidated the concept. It wasn’t enough to make a scow, it had to be a success!

► These doubts were obviously quickly put to rest, as you won the Transat Jacques Vabre on the boat’s first race…
Frankly, we didn’t expect things to go so quickly, because on my Mini, I remember that it was like night and day when I switched to the scow, and all I had to do was tack to realise that I was no longer in the same category, but here, the difference was less obvious. So when we set off on the Jacques Vabre with Adrien (Hardy), we weren’t at all convinced of our chances of winning. But it turned out that we quickly managed to go very fast, to get the boat up to speed, which also confirmed that there’s always a big difference between training and the open sea, which is a long time.


“My stress level
is much lower”


► Four and a half years later, the boat is still performing well, as you finished second in The Transat CIC in May. How did you feel about that race?
I was very apprehensive about setting off alone on this course. In the end, we had conditions that were far from being the worst case scenario, with less upwind than expected, but they were tough all the way; in terms of wind strength, seas, temperature and humidity, it was very testing. Frankly, it left me with the memory of a huge physical and mental commitment, and I had the feeling that I was giving a lot of myself. As for the result, having led the race several times, I was a little disappointed when I realised I wasn’t going to win, but once I was ashore, the fact that I finished second behind Ambrogio (Beccaria), with whom we have a great story, allowed me to digest it quickly: it’s a very fine second place.

► What would be the ideal scenario for Québec Saint-Malo?
We’d love a big low-pressure system to take us from Newfoundland to the entrance to the English Channel, with 30 knots of wind. At least that’s what we’ve ordered and it’s not impossible on this course! What’s certain is that being surrounded by a very competent and experienced crew – and above all one with whom we have a lot of laughs – made up of Antoine (Carpentier), who’s been with me for a year and a half, and Benoît Hantzperg, my stress level is much lower than before the CIC Transat, it’s night and day!

► What is the cause of the stress you feel sailing solo?
The fear of things going wrong, because you’re often at the limit with these boats. When you’re on your own, you’re always on the alert, telling yourself that something can and will happen to you – a dismasting, sails falling overboard, a halyard snapping… You wonder how much time you’re going to lose, plus the potential problems that could involve if you have to take the boat somewhere. It’s a huge mental burden that hardly exists with a crew; when there are three of you, you divide the stress by more than the number of crew.


“It was already complicated to imagine
what I have today”


► Let’s talk about your new boat, which you christened in Lorient before the start of The Transat CIC, have you sailed it yet?
Yes, four days before leaving for Quebec, it’s extremely exciting to see the difference in the way the two boats behave. The untrained eye won’t see too many differences, but in fact there are some small ones in terms of the hull design, which result in behaviour that has nothing in common. The main difference is the power at the front and the tighter hull on the new boat, which generates a very different way of surfing waves and gliding downwind under spinnaker. The acceleration and deceleration are not at all the same: you can feel that when the conditions are strong, it’s not as easy as on the 158; on the other hand, and this was really one of our objectives, in average conditions, the boat manages to stabilise the plan much better than the old boat, it doesn’t tend to lose it with each wave, it doesn’t stop, as if it were much lighter.

► What’s the programme for the coming months?
After the transatlantic race, we’ll be sailing until the end of July with the new boat, or even with the old one, as it’s still for sale. For the moment, we’ve discovered the boat with no one around, so we can’t wait to be able to compare the two. That’s before we take on the competition in September in the CIC Normandy Channel Race, which I’ll be racing with Antoine.

► What prompted you to set off again on a Class40 campaign with Crédit Mutuel, weren’t you keen to move up a size?
It’s more or less the same reasoning I had in the Mini: after winning the Mini Transat in the series, I could have said to myself that it was time to move on to something else, like the Figaro, but no, I was very happy to continue in the Mini, because I loved it, I remember that it came as a bit of a surprise. It’s the same in Class40. We talked about other possibilities, but it wasn’t necessarily the right time and we decided to continue in Class40 with a new boat.

► This project runs until 2026, so will it be time to look elsewhere?
I have to admit that I’m not really thinking about it. Personally, my aspiration is to continue racing and to flourish in this environment. I’m almost tempted to say that even an Optimist would suit me too! The Vendée Globe is often implied in these questions, and that would obviously be a fantastic challenge that would excite me a lot, but if one day you decide to do something else and not go, I wouldn’t feel at all like I’m missing out on my life as a sailor, it’s not a vital necessity for me. And if I go back several years, it was already complicated to imagine what I have today. This story with Crédit Mutuel is incredible. It’s a dream opportunity for a skipper to be able to benefit from such confidence, to have the means to build boats and carry out such projects. It’s an exceptional comfort. But you have to push yourself to avoid becoming too comfortable and remind yourself every day of what an incredible opportunity it is.

Photo: Anne Beaugé / Crédit Mutuel

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