Ocean Fifty Christopher Pratt

Christopher Pratt: “We absolutely wanted our own sports project”

After taking second place aboard Malizia of the fourth leg of The Ocean Race on Wednesday evening into Newport Rhode Island, Christopher Pratt managed to then make the first stage of the Pro Sailing Tour on Wind of Trust this Friday in La Seyne-sur-Mer of the. The boat was formerly Gilles Lamiré’s and Pratt is the new skipper. Tip & Shaft reached him early Friday morning during his connection at Paris CDG airport in between his flights from the United States and to Marseille. The sailor from Marseille took the time to talk about his busy times.

▶︎ You have just come off the fourth leg of The Ocean Race was that on your program for a long time ?
No, not at all, the proposition came to me at the end of March to replace Boris (Herrmann) in terms of numbers as he wanted to take a break on this stage. For me, it was a little tight in terms of timing, but it really was hard to turn down such an opportunity. Especially since when I was following the race, I said to myself that if there was a team that I’d like to be with it would be Malizia!

▶︎ How did you find this stage on which you took second place, after an intense duel with 11th Hour Racing Team ?
It’s true that the intensity was really crazy. I think there were 17 changes of leader between them and us over the last fortnight of the race. And the atmosphere on board was really awesome. I knew Nico (Lunven) a bit, we have the same background training, the same approaches in terms of strategy, he is a very calm person, so I was not worried. I didn’t know Will (Harris) and Rosie (Rosalin Kuiper). I had just met Will in passing in the Figaro, he really surprised me with his maturity, he is an Imoca skipper who is already very complete for his relatively young age. As for Rosie, she is like a real cartoon character, she is always hyper motivated, committed and in a good mood. As for the result, I don’t think there are many people expecting this from us on this leg, insofar Malizia is a typically a boat for the Big South, a little heavier than the others, with a not very slender hull which takes off a little later than the others. Despite that, we took the lead at the equator and we were right in the game until the end. 48 hours from the finish we were in contact with 11th Hour which was 4-5 miles to leeward but we got stuck under a cloud, which caused us to lose 30 miles on them, we managed to catch up at the end, but it was not enough to win. It wouldn’t have been a fluke if we had won, it’s a little frustrating because it would have allowed us to level with Holcim-PRB at the top of the general classification, but that’s the offshore racing for you and they also deserved their win.

▶︎ So, The Ocean Race, is it over for you?
Normally yes. We’re still talking. I have a really busy schedule, what, between the Pro Sailing Tour and the preparation for the next Transat Jacques Vabre with Maxime (Sorel), so I don’t think it will happen, sadly, because I would be really have liked to stay until the end, I really, really liked The Ocean Race experience as a whole and Malizia in particular. Especially as also this stage has completely restarted the race, which is quite brilliant, there is a kind of re-start from Newport with the counters almost reset to zero between the first three boats and Biotherm not that far.


“We are clearly taking a big risk”


▶︎ Now, here you are at the start of the Pro Sailing Tour on Wind of Trust, how did this project come about in Ocean Fifty?
I’ve had my eye on this class of boat for a while now and looking at the Pro Sailing Tour, I think it’s a super complete class for both offshore racing and building and engaging a community of supporters, ambassadors and partners, with inshore races and offshore. This project also comes about after an assessment we made last year with our Marsail company. That is to say we realised we absolutely had to have our own sports project, but also our own boat to operate with in terms of BtoB, such as seminars, team buildings and so on. We were also developing a new program, which is called the academy of enlightened leaders to support leaders and companies in our vision of management and CSR, which is to put human performance and relationships at the center of things, to convey the message that trust is at the heart of performance. Everything took off from last summer, we started looking at the boats for sale after the Route du Rhum at the same time looking for ways to finance it all.

▶︎ And how did you do that?
The model is based on this academy, which means that we will have ambassadors, individuals and companies, who become members, which will allow them to access our management training and our scientific research content, but they can also to come and sail on the boat and take part to some events. These ambassadors will benefit from the overall functioning of the academic program of which the boat is central. It is a model unlike classic sponsorship, with no naming of the boat and it will continue to be called Wind of Trust. Its purchase was finally the biggest challenge, Amandine (Deslandes), my business and life partner, managed to convince a bank, which was not easy because we were buying an asset worth twice our business turnover [just under a million euros for the boat]. The bank allowed us to finance half, the other being provided by investors, we did a kind of fundraising in record time, less than a week. It is an important commitment for us, we are clearly taking a big risk, but it is part of the logical development of Marsail.

▶︎ Will the project continue beyond the Pro Sailing Tour this year?
Yes, we are going to try to finance the boat racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of the year. Without me, because I had entered the Imoca with Max, but it would be with Ronan Treussart who is the cornerstone of the sports and technical project. We also have Laurent Bourguès on board, who, for the record, is also from Marseille, we did Laser together when I was 15-16 years old. So we will do everything to be at the start, we are only at the beginning of the marketing of the leaders’ academy, we have registered for the Fastnet, which is a qualifier for the Transat Jacques Vabre. For upcoming years, the idea is that I concentrate more on this project, looking potentially to the Route du Rhum in 2026. This boat is the first in a slightly larger team that we want to set up in Marseille and that has been my dream for a long time.


“The Transat Jacques Vabre of the millennium”


▶︎ Let’s finish with your collaboration with Maxime Sorel, how did it start?
Through a mate who had met Max at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. At the end of 2021, when he was finishing the building of his boat and when things stopped with Charal, I offered to give him a hand to prepare for the Route du Rhum. I helped them a little and he then suggested that I do the Transat Jacques Vabre. I had other opportunities, but it was the project that made me want the most, because, somewhat in the same vein as Malizia, it was a bit different, with energy, positive vibes, a disruptor option in the comms’. I realize that at the moment it attracts me more to go to projects like this than to others which are perhaps more efficient, but in which I will end up feeling less fulfilled as a person.

▶︎ What is the program and what are the ambitions?
The boat [built in the moulds of ex Apivia] has just been relaunched, it was beautifully made by MerConcept, it is the only Imoca up to this state of finish, truly a work of art ! I join them at the end of the Pro Sailing Tour, Maxime is going to come back from the roof of the world [he is currently attempting to climb Everest, editor’s note], we will start training for the Fastnet, before preparing for the Jacques Vabre. Which, for me, will be the Transat Jacques Vabre of the millennium, with almost 15 new boats and a crazy level. I have been on the Imoca circuit since 2009, we will never have had such a field, with such homogeneity and close level, 10-12 boats are capable of being on the podium.

▶︎ Including you?
I think we are clearly not among the favourites, we can see that there is a big design gap with the new generation of boats. And given the level of professionalization of the teams, we realize that some no longer need one year to get up to speed, the win this week of Thomas (Ruyant) and Morgan (Lagravière) in the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race) proves that. So we will have to stay humble and in our place, but I think we will be able to compete for the podium.

Photo: Vincent Olivaud

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