Fourth in the last Vendée Globe, Jean Le Cam‘s ambition is to set off again on a sixth consecutive Vendée Globe – he will then be 65 years old – sailing aboard a “simple and accessible” Imoca which he hopes to start building as soon as possible if he can find supporting partners. At the same time, Le Cam is helping manage the projects of young sailors Benjamin Ferré and Violette Dorange.
He wants to go back once again! After five consecutive Vendée Globe, finishing four, unstoppable Jean le Cam is not content to hang up his sea boots and instead he is aiming to take the start of the 2024 race. But it will not be aboard his faithful Hubert (the former Foncia of Michel Desjoyeaux which is the Farr designed winner of the 2008 edition). “The desire to do the race again came quickly for me, something like only two months after the finish,” he tells Tip & Shaft. “On the other hand, I told myself that if I go back, it would be a different project with a new boat. I am not going to do a fourth round-the-world race on Hubert.”
So what would this new boat look like? “With today’s modern boats we are heading towards non-accessibility of the Vendée Globe, towards a level of elitism and that has never been my philosophy. So this project is about making a simple, reliable, accessible boat, with less technical complexity, fewer problems docking in ports, and less effort that cannot really be mastered. So an Imoca with daggerboards, light and easy to handle solo, a boat which would be between 1 and 1.5 knots faster than Hubert over a day.”
Several architects have been contacted, Jean Le Cam has a fairly precise idea of what he wants: “The objective is to take inspiration from the new hulls you see in Class40. There is a real evolution on the last generation of 40 footers that I want to apply to a 60 footer.”
Now the objective is to find partners, “who share the philosophy of the project”, who would join in an adventure that “King Jean” wishes to be a collective as he would like to launch several boats off the same project. “To have an economic model which makes sense the ideal option would be to build three boats. This would make it possible to create a little dynamic, a kind of event within the event, to pool costs and to therefore make the Vendée Globe financially accessible to SMEs and keep it achievable for young people with a simple boat. This is a path we are proposing.”
Benjamin Ferré, a well advanced project
This philosophy has prompted two young sailors to approach Jean Le Cam and his team to launch their own Vendée Globe projects, Benjamin Ferré and Violette Dorange. Both started off on the 2019 Mini Transat (3rd and 16th respectively), while Dorange has done two seasons in the Figaro (19th on La Solitaire this year), they now aim to take the step into the Imoca.
The most advanced project is that of Benjamin Ferré, 31-year-old adventurer-entrepreneur, who has converted to offshore racing. He tells Tip & Shaft how he got started: “In January 2020 I found myself at a dinner alongside Jean, whom I already knew. He told me that he thought I was capable of doing the Vendée Globe and that of course planted a little seed in my brain. A few months later, Fabrice Amedeo, whom I had only met once, offered to take me on his boat after he finished the Vendée Arctic. I had barely climbed aboard when he went off to sleep and left me on the helm! I found it magical, that was it, I was off and running.”
Through Fabrice Amedeo, Benjamin Ferré approached Michel Desjoyeaux to explore a possible purchase of Banque Populaire (when it was being skippered by Clarisse Crémer), of which Desjoyeaux is the owner. “He then told me the boat is not just for the elite but also for those who want to do it most. I immediately called Jean, who was racing round the world, to tell him this. He told me there would be a lot of demand after the end of the Vendée Globe and to go ahead and buy the boat. I began to tour the banks, unsuccessfully, until my file arrived on the Banque Populaire desk. I had already bought my Mini from Clarisse, they thought it was a nice gesture to help me buy the boat and Maurice Bourrigaud [boss of Banque Populaire Grand Ouest] gives a little support internally, the funds are released, I call Mich who a few hours later accepts the offer!”
2023 target for Violette Dorange
The sale was concluded on August 15, and he need to find partners to honour the first deadline on December 15. “I moved heaven and earth for three months and only when I had already pretty much told myself I would have to sell the boat at the beginning of December I found a partner at the very last moment, just as the bell was ringing (he will reveal the sponsor at the beginning of 2022) and they keep the project going with half the budget! In the process I have unlocked two more sponsors, so I have two-thirds (he estimates his budget is 1.5 million euros per year until 2025). I am now looking for a second co-naming sponsor, but with what I have found, this all keeps me going no matter what.”
While he was looking for sponsors Benjamin Ferré began training in Port-la-Forêt on his new Imoca, with Jean Le Cam in charge of the sports and technical management of the project, but also working with Violette Dorange. The 20 year old is in the middle of setting up her project – she is actively looking for partners for a budget about the same as that of Benjamin Ferré. She has also called on the expertise of Jean Le Cam’s team to accompany her in her preparation for the Vendée Globe, which she intends to race on the famous Hubert which Le Cam will charter to her.
“The idea is that I will continue on the Figaro next year while doing some training with Jean and Benjamin, and that from 2023, I will get Jean’s boat,” she told Tip & Shaft. Of Le Cam she says: “He has an incredible way of seeing the boat, everything must be simple and reliable, it must work without fuss, I find it a great place to start, I could not have hoped for better.”
On the former Banque Populaire, the two have been following Le Cam’s tutelage in Port-la-Forêt on several trip. “Jean is discovering the role of coach a little, we can see that he is enjoying it. He gives us his yellow or red cards when we do our maneuvers, this really is sailing school,” smiles Benjamin Ferré. “The Imoca is brand new for us, it is ten times that of the Mini or the Figaro, we have everything to learn again,” adds Violette Dorange. “But having two students in the classroom helps you learn faster, you see each other’s mistakes and there are two of you asking questions.”
Tanguy Leglatin in the loop
“I don’t like the word transmission,” said Jean Le Cam when asked about this role as a coach. It’s mostly about sharing and exchanging because young people also bring you their way of seeing things. The small group also benefits from the expertise of another former Mini Transat 2019, Félix de Navacelle and that of the Lorient coach Tanguy Leglatin.
Asked about Leglatin, Benjamin Ferré says: “He taught me everything, it was 80% thanks to him that I managed to finish third in the Mini Transat. I wanted him in this project. I have absolute confidence in him and he makes a great team with Jean, they get along really well.”
With his project to build two or three boats, Jean Le Cam would therefore see himself strengthening this “small team of enjoyable young people who want to learn”. In the meantime, in addition to looking for partners for himself, he has a first mission: to ensure that Benjamin Ferré is ready to take the solo start of the first two races of the 2022 season, the Bermudes 1000 Race (in May ), and the Arctic Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne (in June).
Photo: Jean-Louis Carli/Alea