“A huge amount of work is required to prepare the Vendée Globe. This is carried out in the background by an enthusiastic team. Every day, we move mountains to be ready for the start in Les Sables d’Olonne, on 10 November. After that, it will be up to me.” For four years, Kito de Pavant has been living for these Olympic Games of offshore racing. At the helm of Groupe Bel, the skipper is currently carrying out a succession of training sessions in the Mediterranean.
After a summer of hard work, devoted to the painstaking preparation of the boat for these three months of racing round the world, the team is putting the finishing touches to Groupe Bel, which is in top shape. New mast, new sails, new fittings; the 18 meter monohull is the fruit of the long reflection and know-how of the experts surrounding Kito.
The advantage of experience
To compete in such a single-handed race is not mundane and it requires expert preparation of both the yacht and the sailor. Launched in September 2007, Groupe Bel has sailed 100,000 miles, i.e. the equivalent of four round-the-worlds. This is valuable experience for the skipper, as emphasizes the architect, Vincent Lauriot-Prévost, who together with Guillaume Verdier did not only design Groupe Bel, but also five other of the boats at the start of this Vendée Globe: “Kito has an in-depth knowledge of his boat, which is now one of the most homogeneous of the fleet. This is a real strength when sailing single-handed round the world.”
Preparation worthy of the challenge
This winter, the team changed the ballast, going from six to eight tanks, to optimize the boat’s trim even more at certain speeds. The experience of the Barcelona World Race (double-handed round-the-world) also confirmed the effectiveness of many choices, such us the hydrogenerators for electricity on board, not to mention a small fuel-run heating system to keep the atmosphere in the boat, and the equipment dry. The watch station seats outside and the chart table inside have been molded to fit Kito’s body, for greater comfort.
With Marinepool, the skipper has also developed a whole range of clothing suited to extreme sailing in all latitudes. A glove with three fingers was designed to enable Kito to continue, in severe cold, to feel, grip, untie or press buttons on the autopilot.
Lastly, to be able to endure three months of exertion in wet conditions and under stress, the sailor has been working in Montpellier with the same staff as the Handball champions, Nikola Karabatic and Michaël Guigou. On the program: weights, rowing, cycling, jogging and relaxation to increase his muscular power as well as his endurance and litheness.
Back to the water
The varied weather in the Mediterranean has been perfect, enabling Kito to re-familiarize himself with his boat, first with a crew and then single-handed, on 24 hour sailing trips. “We are beginning the last leg before the Vendée Globe and I’m very happy with the boat as it is. I have 50 days before me now, to completely get back the feel of Groupe Bel single-handed.”
Early October, the skipper will deliver his yacht from Port Camargue to Les Sables d’Olonne. This will be a perfect simulation of racing conditions around the Iberian Peninsula and across the Bay of Biscay.
21-28 September: Kito sets off to meet the Bel employees in France.
26 September: Vendée Globe press conference in Paris.
Around 15 October: Groupe Bel arrives in Les Sables d’Olonne.
19-23 October then 2-10 November: Kito present in Les Sables d’Olonne.
18 October: Publication of the book ‘Le plus grand marin de tout l’étang’, written by Kito and published by Télémaque Editions.
30 October: inauguration of the Seaquarium Media Centre in Grau-du-Roi.
8 November, 11 :00 : Groupe Bel press briefing, Les Sables d’Olonne Village media center.
10 November: start of the Vendée Globe 2012-2013