Imoca Paprec Arkéa

Yoann Richomme: « On the New York Vendée, I have no other philosophy than to give it my all »

Second in the Transat Jacques Vabre and winner of Retour à La Base at the end of last year, Yoann Richomme has once again hit the jackpot by winning The Transat CIC on 7 May. With just a few days to go before the start of the solo return transatlantic race, the New York Vendée, on 29 May, the 40-year-old skipper of Paprec Arkéa spoke to Tip & Shaft.

► For your first participation, you added your name to the list of winners of The Transat CIC, a historic race launched in 1960. What value does this victory have for you?
I have to admit that at first it was a bit hard for me to realise that I won the Transat. I’m not from a generation that knew much about this race, especially as it hadn’t been held for a few years. I knew that the time when the likes of Tabarly, Poupon and others went to challenge the English on their home turf had triggered the culture of ocean racing in France and that it was a historic event, but when I arrived I didn’t have all that in mind. In the end it was a really nice message of congratulations from Philippe Poupon, when I was still on the water, that reminded me of this historic aspect. He told me how hard he’d had to work to win this race and how important it had been in his life. It was very touching and it helped me to hold on to this historic aspect. So it’s a great victory, like a Route du Rhum. It certainly doesn’t have the same media impact, but it’s a tough, intense event, and there was a great Imoca fleet, which makes me all the prouder.

► Here you are, two-time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and the Route du Rhum, winner of Retour à La Base and The Transat CIC, that’s starting to sound like quite a sailor, isn’t it?
Once again, it’s hard to believe, it’s like you’re reading someone else’s list of achievements to me! In fact, I’m having a great time with all these projects, I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself, it’s all happening naturally, even though I’m obviously putting a lot of energy into it. It’s true that there are a lot of victories coming one after the other, but it’s not easy for me to put it all into perspective, it all seems a bit surreal.

► You give off an impression of ease and fluidity, don’t you think?
Yes, it’s fluid, I’m not struggling. I think we’ve got a boat that’s exceptional, easy to handle and on which we’ve managed to develop a fairly high level of comfort. I really feel that there’s a difference with some of our competitors. Her strong point is clearly the downwind breeze, and everything has been designed – the shape of the hull, the design of the bow – to ensure that she brakes as little as possible when she enters a wave and emerges as quickly as possible with as little water as possible on deck. She also performs well upwind, as soon as the wind picks up to 20-25 knots or more, the passage through the sea is optimised. And it has very versatile foils, which make it surprisingly easy to get going: it never stops, it doesn’t stick to the water.


“It’s going to be a no-holds-barred race”


► Paprec Arkéa was launched in February 2023. Were you surprised by how quickly you adapted to this type of boat?
Aside from the adaptation, it’s more the results that may surprise you. I was expecting to finish between five and eight places, just to get up to speed. Now, I still have a few questions, particularly about sails trim. I struggled quite a bit last year and at the start of the year, I’m finally beginning to understand how things work, and I have the impression that I’m becoming more efficient and quicker to find the right trims. What’s also great is that I’ve had the time and resources to develop the boat, which is a very rare commodity in our projects, and to have people who are in phase with me, in particular Gautier Lévisse in the design office. We’re very much in line with our objectives and we’re constantly self-critical, which means that we’re constantly developing the boat. There’s not a second when we’re not looking for improvements.

► What are the next ones?
A lot of the work is focused on choosing the sail design for the Vendée Globe. We’re also going to receive the V2 for our foils on the way back to Lorient, which should be an added bonus. Today, we’ve got a few holes in our game: in the medium, between 10 and 20 knots, we can have a little difficulty getting the boat off the ground, finding a little nervousness, because the design is less powerful than some of our rivals. We’ve seen what some of them have achieved with their V2 foils, in particular Initiatives Cœur and Malizia, so we’re hoping that they’ll go in the same direction.

► How are you approaching the New York Vendée, at the start of which all the Vendée Globe favourites are lining up? Do you want to make a mark on the competition?
It’s going to be a great rehearsal for the Vendée, so there’s bound to be a psychological warfare aspect to it, as all the big competitors are there and they’ll be keen to put the hammer down. As far as I’m concerned, this is our last chance to do it. It would be a real shame not to put the pedal to the metal, because this is the moment when you have to break! If there are any problems to be discovered, it’s now, before we put the boat back in the yard for the summer. I have no other philosophy than to give it my all, even if there’s no point, of course, in doing something stupid that would cost too much time to repair. We’ve seen at the start of the last few transatlantic races that when the pack of 10-15 boats in front start to overspeed, they send out some big jolts and there aren’t many people on the brakes, especially as virtually everyone has qualified for the Vendée. It’s going to be a no-holds-barred race.


“I could see myself doing
a second Vendée Globe”


► With your two solo victories, you now have a big tag on your back as a favourite in the race, but also in the Vendée Globe.
I’m only half happy with it, but we looked for this label and we found it. Now, I don’t put any more value on it than that. I think that today there are 7-8 of us at the front all the time, and it’s hard to say who will win the Vendée Globe. And just because you’ve won two races doesn’t justify anything. For us, it’s rather reassuring, it gives us confidence, but we mustn’t let that confidence distract us from the work we have to do between now and the start.

► You followed the last Vendée Globe a lot, particularly for Tip & Shaft. Could you have imagined, back then, finding yourself in this position today as a contender for victory in the 2024 edition?
It’s clear that it was a bit difficult for me to plan ahead. We were in the Covid period, I had an Ocean Race project that had fallen through with the Mirpuri Foundation, I was a bit lost… Meeting Paprec and Arkéa was just magical because we managed to set up the project I was dreaming of. When I look back and see that in two and a half years we’ve managed to do all this, I say to myself that it’s quite exceptional. I’m the first to be delighted, but everything is happening so fast that I don’t really have the time to analyse everything that’s happened. We’re already in the Vendée Globe, in the year 2025 and even beyond, it’s great!

► What are your plans for the future? A second Vendée?
We’re committed to the project until the end of 2025, so we’ve already got a great programme for next year, the Fastnet, The Ocean Race Europe and the Jacques Vabre. Of course, a lot of people in the team and among our partners want to continue, and we’re very active on the subject! We don’t have any certainties today, but if you ask me my opinion, yes, I could see myself continuing in the Imoca class and doing a second Vendée Globe, especially if it’s with the same team, a boat of the same quality and the same desire. After that, I reserve the right to answer you after the first one, as it’s an important life decision and a heavy project to carry.

Photo: Julien Champolion / polaryse

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