The 8th Vendée Globe edition has begun and the 29 participants left this Sunday for Les Sables d’Olonne on the West Coast of France. The Vendée Globe is still the only non-stop around the world race without assistance and one of the most difficult sporting events. Nicknamed “The Everest of the seas”, this event brings together the best sailors in the world and requires a true commitment. Fabrice Amedeo, who happens to be a journalist, is participating for the first time. For this occasion, he decided to team up with Vuarnet to protect his eyes which will be severely tested. We are grateful to have had the chance to interview just before his departure.
Hello Fabrice, for those who do not know you, can you introduce yourself?
I’m Fabrice Amedeo, I’m 38 years old and I’ve been sailing since childhood and for fifteen years now, I’ve been racing. It was my parents who introduced me to the joys of the ocean from the age of 3 years. When I was a teenager, I experienced my first race with the Tour de France in sailing, it allowed me to complete my apprenticeship. Finally at the age of 30 years old I got into ocean racing with the Transat AG2R and La Solitaire du Figaro. My background is a bit special because I’m also a journalist! At this point I have put my career on hold to devote myself to the Vendée Globe, but before this I spent the last ten years of my life in the journalism industry at Le Figaro, a well-known Parisian newspaper.
You have the history of being a journalist and a sailor, how do you manage to reconcile these two professions?
For 8 years, I managed to reconcile the two professions. I would take holidays or unpaid period to do my sailing races. For example, at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabres, while others took holidays, I had to go back to the office. I really had a double career between journalism and the racing. But with the progress I made on the ocean, it became increasingly difficult to reconcile the two interests. When the question of the Vendée Globe was raised, the project required too much time to play on both sides. So I left Le Figaro in May 2015. Since then, I just dedicated myself preparing for this race.
You studied philosophy at university and you have written extensively on the open sea, can you tell us what it feels like when one is alone in of immensity of the ocean?
We feel what others call the oceanic feeling. It’s a pretty difficult to describe because it is something that is beyond us. This is both a certain trepidation but also a lot of excitement. We are on very sporty boats and the racing rhythm is pretty intense. So we are go deep in terms of physical capabilities and our strength. We are still in a particular state, focused and ready to meet any difficulties. But it is also a moment of truth meeting with nature like marine mammals or sunsets! These are truly magical moments that remind us how small we are across the ocean. They are, in general, very unforgettable moments.
About loneliness, how do you deal with it?
To deal with loneliness, we often think about your family. We would like to share those moments with them. But solitude when you are on the open sea, racing is really the feeling that you are looking for. The dimension of surpassing oneself is really important. Everything is more difficult alone on a boat, there is a real pleasure to live and experience some very strong moments alone. In difficult times, when there is a problem on the boat or when you have a case of the blues, loneliness weighs a lot. But that’s part of the challenge, we must overcome those moments and keep moving while staying focused on the boat and the race.
In less than three days now, you will take the departure of your first Vendée Globe. What does this mean to you?
This departure, I see as both an achievement and a beginning. This is the result of a lot of upstream work. I am also very proud to compete amongst the best sailors in the world of open sea racing. So it’s a great reward for all the work achieved and a great honor. It is also starting point because it is the beginning of a new adventure, 3 months on the ocean to sail around the world. It’s a first for me! There are lots of unknown elements, but that’s what makes this very exciting.
How do you prepare this kind of event?
I’m working with a team that prepares the boat for a year and a half. It’s a real team project which has finally materialized. So for me it’s the big day, for those who stay ashore, it’s an accomplishment. They will, of course, continue to follow me and will be available 24/7. They are an essential resource especially if I have a technical problem, they will provide me invaluable assistance to recover. So the collaboration continues, even if our paths separate on the starting line when they come down from the boat and I l continue on alone towards my personal “Everest”.
You will soon spend almost 3 months alone, what kinds of difficulties do you encounter on a race of this size?
Difficulties, there will be many. The first is the Bay of Biscay, which is famous for its swell and waves of several meters. The south is also a complicated time especially because of it’s long route, almost one month. I also heard that Cape Horn is a difficult time to manage. It gives the impression of being close to the end when in reality there is still a third of the race remaining. So for difficulties along the way I am well prepared to face them.
What was your physical preparation for this event?
The preparation for the Vendée Globe, it’s also what makes it exciting, because it is very multifaceted. There are sports and physical training on the water and ashore with a coach. There is also a fundamental technical aspect with my team to be able to identify failures, anticipate and fix what is needed. I also worked with a medical sleep specialist and a dietician to organize my life on the boat. Finally, there is a strategic part, including time management and weather. On this occasion, I had the chance to work with Jean-Yves Bernot who is a great meteorologist specialized in racing. It is a varied preparation, very rich and very cross.
And what are the qualities you must have to achieve such a challenge?
To complete the circle, it must first be well prepared but I think it should be something what you really want deep in your soul. In my view, there is an important part played in the mind, which will depend on how I will understand the difficulties and navigate through them.
Vuarnet is very proud to team up with you in this race and I would like to know your point of view about the brand?
First off for me, this is a brand I associate with the mountains and then offshore racing. In the world of mountains, I respect them a lot, but I don’t know them as much I know the ocean. To me, the ocean is a very demanding habitat particularly in terms of sun protection and therefore I associate Vuarnet with this type of extreme environment. Personally, I am very happy to have Vuarnet sunglasses for this world tour. My eyes will be strained between the wind, salt, sun and fatigue. It is essential to be well protected to preserve them.
What models have you selected for the race? Do polarized lenses provide a real benefit for navigation?
I chose polarized lenses and I loved them. They allow me to look into the horizon or watch my sails without interruption while maintaining a certain brightness. The sunglasses provided the feeling of eyes rested and it is very calming. I never feel like wearing them which is amazing. Technically they are really a great product.
Finally, can you give us your vision of your Vuarnet Day?
My Vuarnet Day is a day where I’m sailing a boat that floats all alone on the water, I’m wearing a tee shirt, leave my work boots behind and it’s a nice warm sunny day. I would relax and enjoy the view.