Thaïs Le Cam

Thaïs Le Cam: « I’d like to be on the podium »

At 29, Thaïs Le Cam is competing in her second season on the Mini 6.50 circuit, having finished 9th on her Frérots TPM proto in the Mini Transat 2023. Ahead of Monday’s start of the Mini en Mai in La Trinité-sur-Mer (90 entries, 500 miles single-handed, to be followed on our website), Tip & Shaft spoke to Jean Le Cam’s daughter.

► You made your ocean racing debut last season in the Mini, at the age of 28, why so late?
My goal has always been to do the Mini Transat. It was a dream of mine to cross the Atlantic single-handed and in a race. I’d already thought about it ten years ago, but in the end I decided to finish my studies in sports event management while waiting for the planets to align. I then worked for a number of organisations, notably with the Imoca class on the New York Vendée and the Vendée Globe 2016, and then for five years in the world of motor racing, because I’ve always been passionate about motor sports.

► How did the planets align?
During the last Vendée Globe, I had a chat with Julien Letissier, who worked for my father. He was keen to set off again on a Mini Transat [he raced the 2019 edition in the series, editor’s note], he had a lot of questions about project management, which was my area, I was mainly concerned with technical issues, so we decided to join forces to set off on a collective projectFrérots Sailing. Valentin Noël also joined us, and we thought about building three prototype sisterships, Raison design [two of which ended up being built], because the boat worked well, it also allowed us to limit the budget and the environmental impact, but also to get on with the project more quickly.

► You came into the business as Jean Le Cam’s daughter, how did you cope with that?
It’s true that people talked to me a lot about that at the start, but it’s been less the case since the Mini Transat, as if I’d managed to establish my legitimacy, to create my first name more than my surname. But it’s true that I’ve always held myself back, partly for that reason, when it comes to offshore racing. I didn’t want to follow in my father’s footsteps and I was a bit afraid of how people would look at me. I competed sailing at college, and at one point I was disgusted because people were always talking about “the daughter of” and not about my own identity. It was partly to escape these stories that I went to work for a while in another world. I think I would have started ocean racing much earlier if I hadn’t been Jean Le Cam’s daughter.


“I think my father is very happy
to be the “daron” of all these youngsters!”


► How did he react when you told him about your intention to launch a Mini?
I didn’t leave him much choice! I told him at the finish of his last Vendée Globe. He told me it was great and he was there to help me. When we launched my proto, it was the first time in his life that he’d been on a Mini and that we’d been sailing just the two of us! I’ve shared a lot of things with him since then, and that’s priceless, I’m really happy about that.

► What is your view of him as he prepares to contest his sixth Vendée Globe in a row?
It’s hard to be objective, but he’s a monument! I’m amazed that he’s still capable of doing this. Especially now that I have my own project, I understand better what it means to give 300% and spend his life at the yard. He cut himself off from the world a lot to build the monument that he is, but I have the impression that since his last Vendée Globe, he’s more keen to share, he has a new way of living his passion, working with Violette (Dorange), Benjamin (Ferré) and Eric Bellion. Frérots Sailing is in line with this, we exchange ideas with the other projects, there’s a real cosmos which has been created in Port-la-Forêt around all our projects and my father is in a way the conductor and driving force behind it, which is a pleasure to see. I think he’s very happy to be the “daron” of all these young people, at least that’s what we call him!

► How would you sum up your first Mini season, and in particular your Mini Transat?
It’s been very intense, very hard, but I’m happy and proud of the result, both Julien’s [3rd in the Mini Transat] and mine [9th], because it was a gamble to qualify and then do the Mini Transat in one year. And for me, it was a complete discovery of ocean racing. My aim in the Mini was to finish in the top 10, and I managed to do that. Above all, I discovered that I have a real appetite for ocean racing and a stable mindset for long races.


“I want to race Class40”


► What goals have you set yourself for this new season?
I’d really like to be on the podium. It didn’t work out in the Pornichet Select [10th], so I’ve got a bit of revenge coming up in the Mini in May, because I retired in 2023, we’ll call it a ‘mental fracture’. I had a sort of burn-out, I broke down completely, I couldn’t keep up any more, I’d been living for this project for too long. This year, we’re arriving at the start of the race with more peace of mind, and the fact that we’ve managed to make the boats more reliable means we’ve got more time to prepare our boat and the route, so we’re not tinkering with things right up until the day before like we were last year. We’ve found stability in the project, whether it’s technical, personal or financial [even if she’s missing half of her budget, estimated at 100,000 euros for the season, as Julien Letissier’s budget has been finalised]. And in terms of performance. Julien has shown that he’s starting to be very stable on his podiums [2nd in the Pornichet Select].

► And what are your longer-term prospects?
I’d like to race in a Class40, and we’re trying to put together a mixed double-handed project with Julien for next year. Ideally, we’d like to find partners to buy a second-hand boat – we’d like a Raison design – for an operating budget of around 400,000 euros. The project would cover three seasons, with the Route du Rhum 2026 for Julien, who has more experience than me, and the integration of skippers into the Frérots Sailing structure to pass on the keys to the two Minis to them.

► Is it easier to sell your project when your name is Le Cam?
I try not to play on it too much, because I want to chart my own course. Now, I can’t deny my name and it’s clear that it creates a story that helps in approaching partners. Since it exists, I might as well use it, but in general, when I introduce myself, I say that my name is Thaïs.

Photo: Cécile Hoynant

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