Clarisse Crémer et Tanguy Le Turquais

What you need to know about the Crémer/Le Turquais affair

Since Monday, ocean racing has been rocked by a new affair following the revelations in Le Télégramme about suspected routing during Clarisse Crémer’s last Vendée Globe by her companion Tanguy Le Turquais. Tip & Shaft tells you more.

The story began on Monday when Le Télégramme revealed that Jean-Luc Denéchau, President of the French Sailing Federation, had asked for an investigation to be opened into suspicions of routing during the last Vendée Globe. Denéchau confirmed this in a message to us: “I received an anonymous e-mail on Sunday afternoon concerning a skipper in the last Vendée Globe, in which we can assume that there is a presumption of routing. In application of rule 69 of World Sailing’s Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), I have asked the president of the race committee and the organising authority of the last Vendée Globe to appoint a new race jury. This jury will be able to hear the various parties involved and possibly draw up a report. We will then be in a position to decide whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings.”

The anonymous email in question – which was also sent to several media outlets and sailors – contained photos of WhatsApp conversations during the last Vendée Globe, taken from the onboard phone of the Imoca Banque Populaire X, between the skipper, Clarisse Crémer, and her companion, Tanguy Le Turquais. The photos on the phone were taken from the Banque Populaire XI trimaran on an unspecified date. Who took them? When asked, the Banque Populaire team, busy organising Armel Le Cléac’h’s technical stopover in Rio de Janeiro on the Arkea Ultim Challenge-Brest, didn’t get back to us.

Tip & Shaft has had access to the screenshots, dated in particular 12 November, 20, 25 and 27 December 2020, 9 January 2021 and the final days of the race. The exchanges make several references to the weather situation, including the following message from Tanguy Le Turquais on 27 December, accompanied by a photo of a routing towards Cape Horn: “Is it realistic or not at all? Take good care of your boat, my little marmoset”; or, on 31 January 2021 at 7:51pm, this question (the only one we know of) asked by Clarisse Crémer, a few days before the finish: “What do you think of this little low pressure on Wednesday morning? Because if you want a clean finish, it’s definitely a lot nicer from 13:00 UTC onwards.”


Routing or not?


Is this a case of weather routing, prohibited by the Vendée Globe 2020 Notice of Race and defined in article 4.3.1? For several skippers who have competed in this edition of the race, whom Tip & Shaft contacted but who preferred to remain anonymous, the answer is yes: As long as you have Adrena screen captures, I don’t see what else it could be other than routing,” says one sailor. “I’ve seen a few screenshots, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s forbidden,” commented another, who was incensed to read some of the reactions suggesting that this type of conversation is commonplace. “We’ve never been allowed to tell you ‘be careful, tomorrow it’s north-westerly’ or ‘hurry up, the low is coming’, everyone knows that. We’re not even allowed to tell you the weather in Brest when you’re in the Southern oceans. If your wife tells you “it’s a blue day”, that’s a bit much. It’s forbidden to talk about the weather!”

Two-time winner of the event, Michel Desjoyeaux, while asserting that “there have already been similar cases that were not revealed, in particular in the 1996 Vendée Globe, that’s a certainty, but I won’t give any names or my sources”, says: “In my 2000 Vendée Globe, my press officer and I were really careful about the way he asked me questions; he never asked me what was going to happen with the coming low, he just asked me about the weather. Before the start, you declare on your honour that you have informed your family, your shore team and your sponsors of the no-routing rules that you are committed to respecting.”

Team manager of Sam Davies’ Initiatives Cœur project, David Sineau, who is frequently seen talking to the British sailor in the documentary Alone around the world, devoted to her 2020 Vendée Globe, explains: “For me, the boundary is very clear: I never talk to Sam about the route, the weather or the competition. Even when she broke, I didn’t say to her: ‘You’ve got some light airs, it’s OK, you can make it to South Africa’, because she was still racing. In my head and in my practice, the line is very clear”.


The two sailors defend themselves


Was it crossed by Clarisse Crémer and her companion? Race Director for the last Vendée Globe (and member of the race direction for the 2024 edition), Jacques Caraës, who was “stunned” and found it “not very courageous to anonymously throw such a pigeon into the pond”, was nuanced: “The little I’ve seen, with an Adrena track and the commentary that goes with it, for me, that’s not what performance support is all about. I’d be a bit disappointed if a sportsman’s career went down the drain for that and, above all, I think it’s a bit unfair that we’re almost getting the people verdict before the jury’s expert opinion.”

Contacted by Tip & Shaft, Clarisse Crémer and Tanguy Le Turquais, who have been deeply affected by this affair, a year after the one which led to the separation between Banque Populaire and the skipper, didn’t wish to say any more than the message sent on their respective social networks on Thursday. “During our exchanges, which essentially concern the intimacy of a couple, Tanguy never gives me the slightest piece of information that I don’t already have,” wrote Clarisse Crémer. No conversation with him ever contributed to me changing course or making a strategic choice that would have had an impact on my race. I always made all my performance choices alone and without assistance, in accordance with the rules.”

In support of these comments, people close to the two skippers, with whom Tip & Shaft has been able to talk, point out that the incriminating messages essentially talked about safety, conceding that the couple “may have been naive”. They add that the skipper, as proof of her good faith, left the onboard telephone at the finish of the Vendée Globe available to her team and the organising authority, SAEM Vendée, without attempting to delete the incriminating messages. It should be remembered that the organiser can check all exchanges with land at any time, particularly at the finish, which according to Jacques Caraës, was not the case: “To my knowledge, there were no checks, and I didn’t receive any request to that effect from the jury or the race committee”.

Finally, for the couple’s entourage, the messages exchanged during the final days of the race, including the question put by Clarisse Crémer to her companion quoted above, need to be put into context. Namely, that due to the violent weather at the entrance to the Bay of Biscay, the skipper, who was 12th in the race with a lead of 1,000 miles over the next competitor, her team and the race directors were exchanging messages to ensure that the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne would take place in the safest possible conditions.


A regulation to be fine-tuned


In any case, this case raises the question of the precise definition of non-support. It’s a question that was particularly discussed during the last Vendée Arctique, in June 2022. Its race director, Francis Le Goff, made no secret of his concerns following the exchanges he had had with certain teams, to the extent that the Imoca Class Board of Directors meeting on 11 July, reviewing the race, stated in its minutes, which Tip & Shaft has consulted: “We can see that we are crossing the limits defined by the assistance rules”.

Contacted this Friday by Tip & Shaft, Francis Le Goff confirms: “During this Vendée Arctique, when the conditions started to become complicated, there were exchanges between teams and skippers about the weather situation. It was public knowledge and I spoke to a lot of people about it, Laura Le Goff (general manager of SAEM Vendée, the race organiser), the teams and Georges Priol (president of the jury), to find out what we were going to do about it in relation to the notion of non assistance. Today, it’s getting out of control, we no longer know when we’re crossing the limit or not, and that worries me more and more.”

“We didn’t wait for this week’s affair to become a central issue,” says Antoine Mermod, president of the Imoca class. “Before the 2020 Vendée Globe, we worked with the sports commission and the race committee to try and rewrite the rule as best we could.” A skipper confirms this: “We had listed everything that was forbidden, but we got caught out on one point, psychological assistance: some skippers had said that they had called their mental coach. We hadn’t written it down, but afterwards, we said to ourselves that it should have been forbidden, because a mental coach that you call several times during the race and that you pay for, is assistance with performance.”


“Everyone is on the edge of the line”


In the Notice of Race for the Vendée Globe 2024, this recourse is now outlawed, with the same skipper adding, with regard to work on the subject: “We were saying to ourselves last Friday that we were perhaps going to extend the declaration on honour to the team and not just the skipper so that there is no ambiguity, we’re also working on sending live data to shore, which is causing problems.” Jacques Caraës, who is also involved in these reflections, adds: “It’s up to us, the organisation, the federation and the race directors, to make an effort to clarify the rules so that there is only one interpretation and not 36,000, I have the impression that everyone is on the edge of the line, families, friends, team managers, suppliers…”

Should routing be authorised, as is the case in some Ultim races, such as the Arkea Ultim Challenge-Brest? “Authorisation would avoid the slightly grey cases, but setting up a dedicated unit to assist a skipper’s performance requires very specialised people and is extremely costly, which is clearly not what we want,” replies Antoine Mermod. I don’t think the essence of the Vendée Globe is to change that rule.”

David Sineau adds: “Non-assistance is part of the DNA of the race”, an opinion shared by all those we spoke to, most of whom were prepared to accept strict controls in return. Controlling everything? It’s sad, but we’ll get there,” sums up one skipper. “Maybe we’ll have to do as we did in The Ocean Race, with no WhatsApp and only emails going through the organiser, which is a shame, because it’s nice to call your wife and kids at Christmas.”

What next? It is now in the hands of the international jury that has just been set up (in addition to its president Georges Priol, it includes Romain Gautier, Cristofol Morales, Liz Procter and Trevor Lewis). As with any race, the jury will hear Clarisse Crémer – as Tanguy Le Turquais did not take part in the Vendée Globe, he is not affected by this procedure – and decide whether or not to impose a penalty. Depending on the jury’s decision, the FFVoile will have the option of opening disciplinary proceedings against the sailor – still supported by her partner L’Occitane en Provence – and her husband.


Photo: Alexis Courcoux

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