Three months after the announcement of her partnership with L’Occitane, Clarisse Crémer will start the Fastnet on July 22. It will be her very first race on the former Apivia which was bought from her former sponsor, Banque Populaire and which has just been launched in Gosport in her new colours. It’s a great opportunity for Tip & Shaft to talk to the sailor.
▶︎ Can you update us what has happened with your project over the last three months?
We took the boat to Gosport [where Alex Thomson Racing Team is based, which supports the project, Ed], where it went into the yard in early May. It was completely stripped back and all the equipment unpacked from boxes that not many people here knew much about what was in them! Fortunately we have Pete Hobson in our team who knows Imocas very well and was not at all put off by the size of the job, even if you inevitably waste a little time putting the puzzle together and trying to understand the thinking of the last team. And of course we had to repaint the boat in the colours of L’Occitane, all of which takes time. We were a bit up against it to be ready for the Fastnet, we are doing a first technical test sail on Thursday morning [this Thursday, July 13, editor’s note], the first real first sailing will probably be next Tuesday which should allow us to confirm the boat is ready for the Fastnet.
▶︎ So, you absolutely have to be at the start of the Fastnet?
Yes at some point I have to start racing again. I tried to do legs of The Ocean Race but it was not possible. So it is very important for me to line up on the Fastnet, especially to start counting up miles. It’s going to be our first big sail, the first at night with almost no training beforehand, so we’re going to sail in a very conservative mode, make sure to not break anything that would really complicate things for the future.
▶︎ Why didn’t you manage to do a leg of The Ocean Race?
Well there are clear reasons you might imagine, it was not possible to race on Biotherm [a competing brand of L’Occitane, editor’s note]. On the other boats, the crews were already firmly in place, there was also some damage or abandons which meant that it did not happen.
“Alan is going to be my
reference point on many things”
▶︎ Alan Roberts will be your co-skipper for the whole season, why this choice?
I knew Alan a bit as he did quite a bit of Figaro racing at the same time as Tanguy [Le Turquais, her life partner, editor’s note], I think he’s someone I’m going to get on well with, one major element influencing the choice. He also has experience in a lot of classes, he has a rigorous mindset, he is an ultra-motivated person and on top of all that he is bilingual. He ticks quite a few boxes as an ideal co-skipper, he is not only the co-skipper in my project, the idea is that he will work with me through to the Vendée Globe, and he is my voice within the team, and he helps me set specific objectives each time we go on the water. He will be my reference point on many things.
▶︎ After everything that happened at the beginning of the year (parting ways with Banque Populaire and the sudden end of the project), how does it feel to be a sailor again?
I still have trouble believing it. Between pregnancy, motherhood, all these things, it’s been a year and a half since I’ve had a proper big sail on an Imoca, it’s starting to feel too long, I’m a little rusty! There is a real mix of emotions, impatience, happiness to see everything happening now after all the work and energy put into this project in recent months. Until now, I had always been very lucky in my career with past projects which had come to me, now having had to fight makes me savour my return to the water so much more. There is also some apprehension because it is still a big thing to go sailing on such a boat, even if I really feel very well supported by the team and by Alan in particular. And there are a lot of deadlines coming up to, I hope, allow me to move a few steps forwards in the coming months.
▶︎ This week you said in a post on social networks that you had learned a lot from everything that happened to you at the beginning of the year, what did you learn in particular?
I am someone who does not like conflict at all. So when there was conflict I tended to shy away thinking that things would turn out better, but I realized that it created situations which were potentially harmful. I am now trying to learn to express myself better, what I think on a daily basis, to say no immediately if something does not suit me, but without becoming a princess either. There is a balance to be achieved and that is a constant job when it’s not inherently in your character. I also learned that I am capable of creating an Imoca project from scratch and taking on more responsibilities within a team.
“I am not completely impervious
to what others think”
▶︎ You also say that realizing that you couldn’t please everyone all the time was new to you, have you lost a part of that sense of innocence, your previous carefree spontaneity because of what happened?
For sure….. but it is also through life events like these that we grow and mature. It is true that having been hurt by certain judgments has sometime made me want to withdraw and live my life in my own world, to be left alone, and not to share certain things, like I always used to do. It’s that sense of being a bit carefree that disappears, that’s for sure. I love competition and learning a new boat, but I also like to share the fun, humorous, light moments which we experience at sea, of poetry, of contemplation, it’s part of the energy that I find on the water but if I lose this, I don’t get the energy I need.
▶︎ Given the media impact of what has been called “the Clarisse Crémer affair”, are you kind of afraid of high level of interest and the pressure that will surely bring?
Human nature means that you want to prove to your detractors wring and to show just what you are capable of, so I am not completely impervious to what others think, but I just try not to think about it too much so as not to let in the negative energies and not let this stress take hold. I also consider that it is already a win for me to be able to line up from now on to be at the start of races. In a way, the fact of having managed to show that it has been possible to get back here with a great project takes a little pressure off me.
▶︎ Do you have the impression the whole subject of motherhood for sailors is now moving in the right direction?
A diversity commission has been created by the Vendée Globe and I am a member with about twenty other people, the objective being to discuss this type of subject in relation to future rules. We will never achieve perfect equality on the subject of motherhood between women and men, because it happens in our body, but it is already a first step to be able to say that it does not have the same consequences for us as professionals. You have to manage things to ensure that the rules do not create a situation that becomes inextricable. The important thing for me is that all fits together between saying that it is great to have more women in our sport whilst creating the right pathway from there on to follow.
▶︎ The stories are obviously not comparable, but should the “Kevin Escoffier affair” also lead to changes in the rules in your opinion?
Yes, I do think it will advance the rules and mentalities. I have much the same opinion as others, justice has to work, on the other hand what I find important is that the person to whom it happens is listened to. I’ve heard some talk that all this is, again, damaging the image of ocean racing, that it’s creating stories. I find that dealing with this kind of thing is our collective responsibility, we have to be able to address issues without fearing for our image, and not putting additional pressure on the people it happens to for sponsorship, money or image issues. For me, what has come to light in this case is the amount of bad or lax practice. So what we can do collectively is think about best practices and the proper way of dealing with it for any potential victim.
Photo: Georgia Schofield