Catalan racer Pep Costa, who moved in 2020 from Castelldelfels to France to pursue his ocean racing dreams, seems to have been popping up everywhere these past weeks. In fact just now his racing is split between Class40 with Erwan Le Draoulec, Ocean Fifty alongside Thibaut Vauchel-Camus and now again back to the Figaro on the Tour de Bretagne which he races with Elodie Bonafous on Quéguiner-La Vie en rose. In all, then, it seems like the right time for Tip & Shaft to talk with the 24-year-old.
▶︎ Tell us a bit about your sailing background?
I’ve been sailing since I was tiny because my dad is a very keen sailor. He had a boat that we did a few small races on in the Mediterranean. At the same time, I raced my Optimist for a few years before at 14, switching to the 29er for four seasons at the top level. But my dream has always been ocean racing – I’ve always wanted to make it my job – and especially the Vendée Globe. I grew up with the idea that I wanted to do this race. Perhaps what started the dream was the Barcelona World Race in 2007, I was 8 years old, I knew all about all the skippers, I read everything in the magazines. Then, I followed the 2008 Vendée Globe a lot. I got more and more interested over the next editions. I even feel like I took part in it indirectly, as my dad was very involved in the last Vendée Globe with Didac Costa (no relation). And it was a real last-minute project, a real race against time (watch the excellent film on Sailorz which tells the story of this adventure, Editor’s note) I learned a lot of things.
▶︎ How did you go from dinghy sailing to offshore?
When I was 18 I went to study engineering physics and mathematics in New York. In the middle of my studies I had the opportunity to buy an old Mini with my dad, number 431, a prototype, which we refitted in Barcelona during my university holidays, the aim being the 2019 Mini Transat which I managed to start. The objective was just to finish, firstly because I was young, I was only 20 years old and really because I was not even part-time on this project since I was doing my studies in parallel, and also I had the second oldest boat in the fleet which was built in 2003. I dismasted in the Mini Fastnet the previous June. But I finally finished eighth (out of 22) which was quite unexpected for me, it was a great adventure.
“I think I achieved some
good things on the water”
▶︎ Then you arrived in France?
Yes, I finished my degree with a final year at distance because of the Covid. I took this as a wee opportunity because I really wanted to do the 2021 season in the Figaro and so I knew I had to move to Brittany. So, because I didn’t have to be in New York, I took the chance to come and settle in Lorient to try to start my project earlier than planned. With my girlfriend we arrived with nothing, we didn’t know what the welcome would be like and if we were going to be able to get started. But I was supported by a guy who has a sports marketing agency, which allowed us to find a partner to start in the Figaro. I rented a boat and I was able to do the Sardinha Cup (8th) then the Concarneau-Saint-Barth transatlantic race (13th) which I raced with Will Harris who helped me a lot to learn the boat, which allowed me to do La Solitaire (21st).
▶︎ How do you judge your debut in Figaro?
I’m pretty happy, because so far, I’ve never managed to have a budget that allows me to perform at 100%, and despite that, I think I’ve achieved some good things on the water. I finished third rookie in La Solitaire on my first year and the following one, I had a very good pre-season but La Solitaire did not go as planned (20th), I was a bit disappointed. I would have liked to have more budget to prepare better but it reinforced my desire to do even more Figaro. Today, right now my biggest dream is still to be able to have a successful long-term project to devote myself to it 100%.
▶︎ But that’s not possible this year?
Unfortunately no. I really believed in everything, especially because the big positive point is that I joined the elite training centre at Port-la-Forêt, which allowed me to do the winter training. But at the beginning of March, I saw it was not going to work and I would not be able to start the season, it was a complicated period. But I was able to get other things going quickly thanks to my friend Erwan Le Draoulec who offered me the chance to do the Défi Atlantic on his Class40 Everial. That was brilliant, we had a very good transatlantic race, we even won the second stage.
“The Vendee Globe? Maybe in 2032!”
▶︎ Since then, you have competed in the Pro Sailing Tour, you are going to do the Tour de Bretagne, you have even sailed on the brand new Imoca with Yoann Richomme, how did these doors open?
Yoann is someone I admire not only for his talent but also for his personality. He inspires me a lot. He gave me advice about my project last winter and after the Defi Atlantic he sent me a message to suggest that I sail with him the following week! It was huge for me, to be on such a great new boat with him was the best reward I could have. Then just before the transat with Erwan, I had offered my services to Thibaut Vauchel-Camus because I really wanted to discover multihulls. He saw how motivated I am and even though we’d never even met in real life, he decided to trust me and bring me on the Pro Sailing Tour with Quentin (Vlamynck). It went really well and again we even won the last stage! For Elodie, who I get along very well with, she knew that I wanted to go all out on this Tour de Bretagne, so she offered me the chance to race with her.
▶︎ What about the rest of the season for you, so is the Jacques Vabre on your program?
I’m going to do the Multihull Trophy in Saint Quay with Thibaut then the Fastnet with Erwan. For the Jacques Vabre, for a long time I thought that I would be able to do the Solitaire, so I didn’t want to commit. When I realized that the Figaro was not going to succeed, the projects I had been in contact with already had a co-skipper, it’s a shame because I would have really wanted to. On the other hand I might do some routing for a multihull as I did last year for Arthur Le Vaillant on the Route du Rhum I try to specialize in the weather.
▶︎ And so when would the Vendée Globe be for you?
It’s kind of my life’s goal, but for now, I’m having a lot of fun doing Figaro, I’m convinced that’s where I can progress the most, my dream is first of all to succeed in this class. Later, I hope to have a nice Imoca project, maybe in ten years, for the Vendée Globe 2032!
Photo: Vincent Olivaud / Solo Maître Coq