Interview with Eric Bellion: “The Défi Azimut has really got into its stride. I’m coming into it with complete confidence”
They’re the rookies of the Défi Azimut, making their first foray into IMOCA. Let’s meet them!
Cultivating difference to create and be happy… such has been the message conveyed for the past 20 years by Eric Bellion, who fell in love with the Vendée Globe in 2016 on his IMOCA Comme un seul homme (9th). This year, Eric, 46, is returning to the water with a powerful project, namely to get the same two boats onto the start line in 2024, together with two skippers who will share every aspect of their adventure to make them stronger. He’ll be making his Défi Azimut debut from 13 to 18 September in Lorient and will be counting on sharing it with his partners and exchanging ideas with his fellow sailors. He’s excited at the prospect of skippering Altavia, which is none other than Hubert, Jean Le Cam’s cherished boat!
Tell us about your project for the Vendée Globe 2024…
"My project is fairly original. We’re going to build not one but several boats. The idea is to have the first Vendée Globe team with at least two boats and two skippers flying the same flag and sharing absolutely everything. The idea stems from the Formula 1 Grands Prix where the teams have two cars and two drivers on the start line. The aim is to have three boats for the Vendée Globe 2028. For the past 20 years, I’ve been promoting a collective adventure. It is through mixing with different people that we are creative and happy. The Vendée Globe is the most solitary event in the world. There’s no other discipline, which requires a woman or a man to head off so far and for such a long time in competition. We want to show that a team that shares everything is capable of enjoying an extraordinary experience. Added to this are the very powerful aspects of energy sobriety and sustainability. Together with Jean Le Cam, I’ve come up with a concept for the first boat according to a David Raison design and she’s currently in build at Persico Marine (Italy). The launch is scheduled for the spring of 2023. For 2022, I’ve chartered Jean Le Cam’s boat, Hubert, and I’ve already competed in La Bermudes 1000 Race and the Vendée Arctique, and I’ll soon be racing in the Défi Azimut and the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe."
You’ll be one of 9 rookies at the Défi Azimut in Lorient. What does this event represent to you?
"Yes, it will be my first time! It’s an important event for me because it sets the tone for the autumn season. The boat needs to be ready and able to perform well. That’s the case for me as I have great support around me with all of Jean Le Cam’s team. What I like about the Défi Azimut is the opportunity to showcase our sport by bringing together our partners and prospective clients, as there are a great many of us still looking to secure our budgets. I’ll be coming along with my sponsor, the company Altavia, and my future partners. The event has really got into its stride and I’m coming into it with complete confidence. I know there’s going to be some great visibility. On top of that, after a long break since my Vendée Globe 2016, it seems to me that there’s a breath of fresh air filtering through and there’s a great atmosphere in the IMOCA class. I’m going about things conscientiously, without taking myself too seriously, and it’s sure to be a great occasion where we’ll all have the opportunity to chat and exchange ideas."
Where are you at with your preparation for the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe?
"There’s going to be a fair amount of sailing on other boats. My aim is to do as much sailing as possible. Hubert is a simple, tried and tested, optimised boat. She’s ready now and she needs to be sailed. The last few weeks will be an opportunity for me to sail all the time. That’s part of the appeal of the Défi Azimut!"