Elodie Bonafous

Elodie Bonafous: « I’m ready to sleep, eat, think and live boat all the time! »

Elodie Bonafous is contesting her fifth season on the Figaro Beneteau circuit this year, with ambitions of a podium finish in the Solitaire du Figaro Paprec. At the same time, the skipper of Quéguiner-La Vie en rose is working on her Imoca Horizon 29 project with a Verdier design currently under construction at MerConcept. Before the start of the BPGO Trophy (15-25 May), which she is racing with Corentin HoreauTip & Shaft spoke to the 28-year-old sailor. 

► You had knee surgery after the last Solitaire, can you tell us about your recovery?
I didn’t take part in the Solo Guy Cotten, it was too early, so I decided not to bet on the French championship this year and to set myself two main objectives, the double-handed BPGO Trophy and the Solitaire. I started with the Trophée Laurent Vergne at the end of March with Corentin, both to train for the Trophée BPGO, and because for a new start, it was better to be double-handed, we were able to divide up the tasks so as to avoid the ones that put the most strain on my knee. What’s more, we won! When I got back, I sailed alone in Port-la-Forêt to brush up on my technique and make sure I was no longer worried about my knee, and then I set off for the Solo Maître CoQ.

► Where not everything went according to plan…
In fact, after a coastal race which went rather well, as I finished in 8th place, I had to retire at the start of the main race. During the procedure, I was coming up under the starboard crosswind line, and Romain Le Gall was coming up on port tack quite quickly. He didn’t see me, and the collision was quite strong, with the two boats at right angles to each other, and his bowsprit hit under my hull at the stern. It was a bit of a blow to morale, because it was my first solo race after my knee operation, and I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. And above all, I was afraid of missing out on the BPGO Trophy, but in the end it’s going to be all right, I’m getting the boat back on Monday.

► What are your expectations for the BPGO Trophy with Corentin Horeau?
The aim is to win
. Sometimes, we approach this type of race with a view to preparing for the Solitaire, but this time, we’re both looking for a performance. And I think we have what it takes because we complement each other so well. Basically, I’m more of a helmswoman, I’ve done a lot of dinghies and J80s, and he’s very good at all the weather and strategic choices, which was initially a small hole in my racket. Working in pairs, with me at the helm and trimming, and him manoeuvring, strategising and sailing, has always worked well. When we started sailing together [they raced the Concarneau-Saint-Barth Transat together in 2021, editor’s note]we had the impression of being invincible, we really understood each other, both in attack mode.


“A successful Solitaire,
it will be a podium”


► This summer you’ll be taking part in your fifth Solitaire, the last of a cycle for you, what will be your ambition?
For me, a successful Solitaire will be a podium finish, that’s clearly the objective. Now, I’m trying not to put any pressure on myself with this end-of-cycle thing, I’m lucky enough to have a future mapped out, so I’m trying to take it as a strength. But of course I’d love to round off these five years with a good result. It would allow me to say to myself that I’ve really gone all the way by building up a performance over time and to set off on a big boat with more legitimacy.

► Now let’s talk about your Imoca Horizon 29 project. How far have you got with building the boat? And is it really a sistership to Macif Santé Prévoyance?
As far as the boat is concerned, it hasn’t been officially announced yet, so I can’t answer that. The hull and deck have been built by CDK in Port-la-Forêt, and the hull has been transferred to MerConcept, which is currently installing all the bulkheads and has also built a number of parts, including the foil wells. It’s a great opportunity to work with MerConcept, who provide me with very precise weekly feedback and clear explanations adapted to my level of understanding. The aim is to launch in early 2025. Between now and then, we still have to finalise quite a few things, including recruiting the profiles we’ll need and choosing the location where we’re going to set up, which we haven’t yet decided on – Port-la-Forêt or Concarneau.


“We don’t want to buy a Formula 1 car
and equip it like a Clio!”


► And how far have you got with the budget? Can you tell us what range you’re in?
I’m lucky enough to have Bertrand Quéguiner relieving me of all this work, so I’m less involved. What has been agreed is that it’s the Quéguiner family who are financing the boat and looking for sponsors for the project. For the moment, we still don’t know how the Quéguiner group is going to get involved, whether they are going to be the sole partner in the project or with others, everything is under discussion. As for the range, let’s just say that we don’t want to buy a Formula 1 car and equip it like a Clio! So the idea is to have a budget in line with the project’s performance objectives and the boat we’re going to have. On the other hand, I think we’ll be below teams like Charal, TR Racing or Macif, in the sense that we won’t be a big development project. This will be my first Vendée cycle, and the aim is to have a very good boat, to make it reliable and to optimise it, but we’re not going to be looking to do a huge amount of development over the four years, so we’re not planning to have a design office, for example.

► For you, going from the Figaro to the Imoca is a big change of scale?
Yes, absolutely! Sometimes I feel like I’m at the foot of a mountain, and I have moments of panic when I see all the things I have to do. What scares me the most is the project management side, setting up a team. I’m less apprehensive about the sporting side because I know that we’ll be able to call on the right people to take charge of the boat, and I’m not going to be left to my own devices. Especially as in the first year, even if the programme hasn’t yet been defined, there’s a chance we’ll be doing The Ocean Race Europe, so crewed, then the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre. It’ll be a first year with little or no solo racing. I’m now realising how lucky I am to be able to make the switch from the Figaro to the Imoca so quickly. I’ve always dreamed of it, I’m young, I’m ready to sleep, eat, think and live boat all the time!

Photo:Gilles Dedeurwaerder

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