Interview with Benjamin Ferré: “Returning to Lorient with a big boat is just mad!”
Meeting the rookies of Défi Azimut 2022!
Aboard his Monnoyeur-Duo for a B (ex-Banque Populaire X), the 32-year-old adventurer will be making his Défi Azimut debut in Lorient, which is the town where he started out in offshore racing in the Mini Transat 2019. Switching up from the Mini 6.50 to an Imoca measuring 18.28 m is no mean feat, but fortune is smiling down on Benjamin: Jean and Anne Le Cam, together with ‘Le Roi’ Jean’s racing stable, are supporting, advising and reassuring the young hotshot in the Vendée Globe monohull class. A giant leap, driven by a massive amount of desire and constant recognition of the elements which have led him to this point, inspire the young Breton skipper onwards and upwards!
Can you tell us about your early days in offshore racing?
"My nickname, ‘Benjamin envoie le Pépin’ was given to me in the Mini Transat, and it’s stuck! I’m a youngster in the Imoca class and I got into offshore racing via the Mini Transat in 2019. At the start, I was more interested in the adventure aspect. I’d been to Antarctica, I’d hitched around the world and I’d crossed the Atlantic using a sextant. We were a group of three friends and we thought it would take us 3 weeks, but it took us 3 months to reach the other side! That was the point that I fell in love with the ocean. Then in 2019, my podium place in the Mini Transat changed the course of my life. In the end, it was over dinner with Jean Le Cam that the idea came to me. He talked to me about it and told me that it was possible to do the Vendée Globe at a point when I wasn’t really considering going boating again."
Was it a dream to participate in the Vendée Globe?
"What actually appeals to me is experiencing something extraordinary through projects. The Vendée Globe inspired me. I went to see the starts, I was really into it, but it seemed totally inaccessible to me. It’s like me going to see the football world cup and wanting to become a footballer. Jean made me believe that it was accessible. I’m incredibly lucky. I have some fabulous people in my entourage: Jean and Anne Le Cam, my sponsors, Pierre Brasseur, Gildas Mahé. They reassure me and I feel like I have lots of people rallying around me. Jean is extraordinary; in human terms he's incredible. I lived with Jean and Anne for three months; it was papa Jean and mama Anne."
Then you got things off to a great start in the Vendée Arctique where you finished 4th…
"Yes, it’s fantastic, but the result in itself changes nothing about the philosophy behind the campaign, which is to finish the Vendée Globe. The idea of going for it with the support of a fantastic team is really bold and this fine result has enabled me to thank everyone. It was a way of saying to them “Thank you everyone for believing in me!”
The Défi Azimut is fast approaching. How are you tackling the event in Lorient?
"I love the format. I think it’s great to be able to invite partners along on the runs and the circumnavigation of Groix Island. It’s fantastic! Added to that, it’s based in Lorient, where it all started for me in the Mini Transat. It’s going to be strange returning with a big boat. The Défi Azimut comes just at the right time and it’s a chance to gain confidence and for all the Imoca skippers to hook up with one another again. That’s another thing I liked about the Mini Transat, the family aspect, where all the sailors exchange ideas."