Interview with Tanguy Le Turquais: “IMOCA is a combination of everything I love”
Meeting the rookies of Défi Azimut 2022!
Tanguy Le Turquais is one of the IMOCA Class’ newbies. With over a decade of offshore racing to his credit, early this year he purchased a 2006 boat with daggerboards. At 33, this skipper, husband to Clarisse Crémer, has set his sights on the Vendée Globe. At the helm of a project of human proportions, he aims to fly the flag for Lazare*, an association committed to helping those who have experienced the hardships of life on the street. We get the low-down on this skipper-entrepreneur whose enthusiasm is infectious…
How have you got to this point in your life?
“I’ve been racing offshore for the past eleven years, firstly on a Mini 6.50 and then on the Figaro circuit for five years. I’ve always dreamed of racing an IMOCA. I bought the boat back in January, but I chartered it out for the pre-season races. I’ve spent the past seven months at my computer looking for funding. I’d got to the point where I was wondering why I was even looking. Fortunately though, I had my Route du Rhum qualifier to do. I set sail in late July. I’d never sailed an IMOCA singlehanded, let alone for five days in a row. However, at no point did I feel like I was in difficulty, even though I never had less than 25 knots over the 1,200-mile course. It was a sheer delight to be aboard my boat!”
What appeals to you so much about IMOCA?
“IMOCA is kind of a combination of everything I love. Offshore racing and technology. I’m essentially a sailor-mechanic and an inherently complex boat like this enables me to really tap into the pleasure I get out of this aspect. Moreover, every manoeuvre requires you to be very methodical, which really suits my finicky, organised side. There’s the speed aspect too, which you have to admit is pretty exhilarating! Today it’s all systems go, even though it’s a big step up and I’ll be riding a steep learning curve going forward. I worked hard on the racing aspect on the Figaro circuit, and to learn about the technological aspect I have good support. I have a small team alongside me: youngsters who, just like me, don’t necessarily have a lot of IMOCA experience. All of them are competent though and they ask the right questions. There’s no reason for it not to work out!”
And your boat?
“She’s a Finot-Conq design built for Marc Thiercelin. She’s the boat from the En Solitaire film, with which Eric Bellion, then Damien Seguin – who did a significant amount of optimisation work on her -, completed the Vendée Globe in turn. She probably won’t enable me to shine in transatlantic races as she’s not designed for that. However, she’s clearly a great machine for racing round the globe. She’s one of the most high-performance boats in terms of downwind VMG, keeping pace with the foilers. I’m convinced that if I respect her, she’ll get me around the world. I’m not doing any work on her this year. My priority is to make her reliable to contest the Route du Rhum. Further down the line, I may make some changes, but I’d never add foils to her as it’s too big an investment for too limited a performance boost.”
You also stand out through an original campaign, which shines a spotlight on the homeless?
“It was important to me not just to race an IMOCA, at the risk of ending up in a ‘man-sandwich’ role. Sam Davies’ project with Initiatives Cœur has always been a great source of inspiration to me. I was also keen to inject a societal dimension via the Lazare association*, for which I’ve been volunteering for the past ten years. For this campaign, I’m kind of transforming myself into a sailor-entrepreneur. I’m sort of managing everything on the sports side: the search for sponsors, communication, marketing and management… Clearly I’m small fry in the class I’ve just joined, but that suits me to a T!”
And your very first race is just around the corner on home waters…
“Yes, we’ll see Lazare’s colours on a start line for the first time. The Défi Azimut will herald the realisation of the campaign. However, I see it more as a first full-scale test for my small team rather than as a baptism of fire on the racing circuit. We’ll each be able to get into our stride. Furthermore, by rallying together Lorient’s ecosystem every year, this meeting enables the skippers to hook up with future partners. I’m grateful for the opportunity! Setting sail from Lorient harbour, we will be playing on home waters, since Locmiquélic, just opposite, will soon be the official port of registry for both my boat and the campaign, which only adds to its appeal!”
* Lazare is in the business of setting up flat and house shares between former homeless people and active youngsters. The association is about to open new houses in Nantes, Bordeaux and Lorient.