Giancarlo’s dream: Pedote at the Transat Jacques Vabre while waiting for the Vendée Globe

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Orsini Photos

The long sprint that will lead up to the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 (the nonstop, unassisted solo round-the-world trip) has already started and the first real “leg” is about to begin and it is called Transat Jacques Vabre, departure on October 27, the transatlantic in doubles from Le Havre (France) to Salvador de Bahia (Brazil) for a total of 4350 miles. Italy has been waiting for a long time for an Italian skipper to compete at a high level in the queen class of the oceans, the Imoca 60s, and this time the dream becomes reality.

Orsini Photos

Giancarlo Pedote with Imoca 60 Prysmian Group will be on the starting line, paired with Frenchman Anthony Marchand. An important test for the Tuscan skipper, a crucial preparation step ahead of the Vendée Globe. In fact, the transatlantic will serve to take stock in preparation for the winter build-up to 2020. Pedote races the Imoca 60 that finished fourth at the last Vendée Globe, a competitive and reliable first-generation foil boat. We had a chat with Giancarlo to let him tell us about these first months aboard his Imoca 60, between regattas and training sessions, to learn about his emotions, feelings, and find out his moves ahead in the coming months.

Three regattas behind you on your Imoca 60, what do you take stock of the miles you have in your wake?

These were three regattas that were different from each other in structure, results, and feelings gathered. I arrived at the Bermudes 1000 Race after just two months of training. It was my first solo race, and showing up on the start line in 30 knots put enormous pressure on me, which turned into positive adrenaline. That adrenaline rush that gave me the courage to go into the water to free the net that was caught under the boat. Finishing third after a good comeback charged me with positivity. At the Rolex Fastnet Race we started well, but we paid for a wrong tactical option in the ascent to the rock, and unfortunately the descent without any great options to take did not allow us to catch up. It was a 10th place finish that did not leave me fully satisfied.

At Defi Azimut, 13th place was the result of several factors, from which we learned a lot: we realized how much some older generation boats have grown by fitting new foils, and we realized which direction we need to work toward in designing next year’s sails. The pilot had a problem that caused us to overextend ourselves at a crucial time in the race, a problem we are already solving. The final balance is useful for the information gathered, less positive of course for the results. But we are still in our infancy.

How is the skipper?

I am beginning to feel the boat more and more mine, and that is important. I am studying so much, at sea and on land. A skipper preparing for the Vendée Globe has to learn how to manage the project in its entirety: to learn how to work as a team (albeit with a small team like mine), to be present on the dossiers to be dealt with in the boatyard, of which there are many… To understand a boat, I have to take it apart, touch it, look at it… I want to realize everything, to know every detail of my craft. In the first year of such a project, these activities, which are extras compared to sailing, take away so much time, and that pays off at sea. However, these are key activities for creating a true team unity and mastering the boat, two factors without which, in my opinion, one cannot tackle a Vendée Globe.

Giancarlo Pedote aboard Prysmian working with Anthony Marchand. Orsini Photos

But in the meantime, it is already time for the Transat Jacques Vabre

This is the most important regatta of this first year and I am looking forward to experiencing it. The first transatlantic is a delicate passage, not least because it will be a test case for what needs to be done in the pipeline before the Vendée Globe. I don’t want to set numerical goals-I just want to navigate well and make the right choices. Then we will see how it goes. Undoubtedly technology has a bearing on the results-I know that in certain gaits the new boats have a different pace from ours, and we will not be able to keep them. Our reference is boats that mount smaller foils, such as ours. By now this class, recently adopted for The Race, the round-the-world crewed race, has design and technology levels close to those of the America’s Cup. In this Transat Jacques Vabre, the quality of vehicles on the water will be sidereal, with 8 new designs and an impressive level of development and technology. Development and technology that will find in this regatta an important test that will make this edition an event to watch.

We’ve seen older generation boats radically change performance in a matter of weeks, how will you respond in the run-up to 2020?

There are teams of more than 10 people, with engineers working only for them, and in one month they revolutionize the boat. We are not at this level, but we need to be patient and know how to focus on what we can improve with what we have available. First we will start with ergonomics and comfort on board. Being able to do everything easier, with less effort, and staying drier is actually an investment in performance, because a fitter skipper is able to carry the boat at its best and be more clear-headed about the choices to be made. This, in a regatta like the Vendée Globe, is something that can make all the difference. We will therefore make many small changes, starting with a better cockpit cover, as seen for example on the new Imoca. When it is not possible to invest in radical improvements, it is necessary to focus on the details, on punctilious routine maintenance that catches on the fly any upgrades that might affect performance. It is with this in mind that, for example, we are choosing the most suitable set of sails to produce for next year.

How much will pure speed count at the Transat and especially the Vendée Globe?

They are two different regattas. The first one is short and resembles a sprint; there will be situations where speed will really make a difference. Same is not true for the round-the-world voyage, where many more factors are at play: the goodness and preparation of the boat, the skipper’s skills, his physical endurance, his mental endurance. But also responsiveness to difficulties, motivation to stick it out, and, last but not least, external events, those beyond his control. During the Vendée Globe, pure speed will count only in certain phases, such as the Atlantic. Foiling will be important for hooking the southern depressions, but then speed will need to be managed so as not to break the boats and go faster than the depressions: going out of the depression means slowing down, so going faster becomes counterproductive. With this example, it is clear how important skippers’ management of the vehicle is. That’s why I want to know, disassemble, look at as much of the craft as I can, working elbow to elbow with my team.

In a world, the oceanic world, made mostly by the French, you have been the Italian parenthesis for many seasons now, how do you live it?

For many years now I have made the choice to live here to do what I am doing. I arrived in Lorient that I was still engaged to Stefania. Here we got married and here we became father and mother. Here we revolutionized our lives. Here, because this is where the majority of the fleet teams work. A Vendée Globe project, is one that demands, not only of the sailor, but of the entire team that decides to work on it, whether it is the skipper or the trainee trainer. Working in an IMOCA project is a choice: the choice to involve oneself, to dedicate oneself, to be aware that one’s work is important and influences a common goal that does not belong only to the skipper and sponsors: it belongs to all those who follow the project and who “blow in the sails” during the races.

Mauro Giuffrè

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