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Pierre Le Roy: “This victory is for my father”

This Friday 12 November at 13:02 UTC, Pierre Le Roy crossed the finish line in the second leg of the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef (2,700 miles between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Saint-François in Guadeloupe) with a sizeable lead of around ten hours over his closest rival. Third at the end of act one, just 1h09 shy of the leader Tanguy Bouroullec, the skipper of TeamWork has demonstrated real flair and determination during act two by opting for an extreme trajectory to the south. A strategic choice that was as bold as it was hard-fought, it enabled him to secure a fine leg victory as well as first place in the overall ranking (prior to the jury’s decision). He dedicates his success to his father. We get his reactions on his arrival dockside.

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You’ve pulled off the double, the leg and the event win. Were there moments that you doubted yourself?

“I was stressed for four days. I was convinced of the merits of my southerly option. I was convinced, and rightly so, that my rivals were to the north of me. I imagined that I was going to line all of them up behind me, but until they repositioned themselves, it was impossible for me to know how dangerous they could be. Right to the wire, I was in fear of Fabio’s (Muzzolini) red spinnaker appearing out of the blue at the last moment, as was the case in the first leg. I didn’t want to see a remake of that. I put in an absolutely crazy amount of effort, right to the last. Even last night, I gave it everything I had. There was no doubt about it!”

On setting sail from the Canaries, there were three of you virtually tied on points. We knew that this second leg would be decisive…

“We talked about it a lot in the prototype fleet. It was eagerly awaited. I’m happy because it didn’t come down to a question of speed. The weather was the clincher. I had my plan fixed firmly in my mind. I based my race around that. I trusted in myself. On leaving La Palma, I said to myself that either I would win the race with flair, or I’d take the ‘safe’ option by lining myself up astern of the other three, which would have served no purpose whatsoever.”

Dropping down to 12° north considerably extended your route. It was a daring choice and one that was very full-on. It surely can’t have been an easy thing to follow through on?

“I said to myself that I couldn’t possibly sail by playing it safe. I didn’t want to arrive in Guadeloupe in the knowledge that I’d known what I had to do but hadn’t done it. I didn’t know where the others were, but I pushed hard into the south. I really went on the attack. It’s fair to say it wasn’t that easy, physically or psychologically. By positioning myself a very long way down in terms of latitude, I likely got caught up in more sargassum than the others. I spent 48 hours battling with the seaweed. I removed it rather than getting some sleep, cleaning around the rudders at one point and around the keel the next. That’s all I did. I got myself into quite a state… I’d never got to a point with boating where it hurt like that. Never before had it hurt so badly.”

Upon setting sail from Les Sables d’Olonne you indicated that you hoped this Mini Transat would make you a better sailor. Is that the case?

“I don’t know, but I’m pleased with what I’ve done. I’m going to talk about something personal. That’s not something I ever do, but this is dear to me. Two years ago, during my first participation in the race (he finished 5th in the production boat category), my dad was at the finish. Last year, I said to him that once he recovered from his illness, we’d go off on the boat together. He passed away the week I got the hull. I thought about him throughout, like never before. This victory is for him. My energy to dig deep came from that place. Everything I put into this was to pay homage to him.”

That likely makes you feel even more proud of what you’ve achieved here…

“Either way, this is how I wanted things to play out. By making a solid decision about the weather aspect and never letting up. It hurt, but that’s how I wanted to win. I’m happy with the way I sailed. I love being at sea. It’s all I’ve done for two years and I love it. I really hope to be able to continue sailing further down the track. I’m crazy about offshore racing.”

That’s clear. So what are your hopes right now?

“I’d really love to sail a bigger boat with on-board computers so I can refine the routing. What we do on Minis involves traditional methods, though that’s a fantastic way to learn. I’m bringing with desires. The Route du Rhum would be incredible, the Vendée Globe even more so, though there’s a big hurdle to cross first. These are matters I’ll be discussing with my partners. In fact, I’d like to thank them for sticking by me and believing in me. I’ll try to sort all that out next year in a bid to continue sailing. I feel so good at sea!”

A word about your boat?

“She’s incredible. David Raison created something quite remarkable. The boat is constantly planing. In 15-16 knots of breeze, she just flies. I’d really like to pay tribute to his architect, as well as to all those who helped assemble her. My thoughts go out to these craftsmen, who have an incredible amount of know-how, and also to Cédric Faron who helped me bring it all together. TeamWork was only launched back in February and I’m so fond of her. We’ve written a wonderful story together”.

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