HomeDÉFI AZIMUTDéfi Azimut 48 Hours race is going to be something...

Défi Azimut 48 Hours race is going to be something special



With no less than 34 teams on the startline, an interesting weather picture and many new skipper-co-skipper pairings, this year’s Défi Azimut-Lorient Agglomération 48-Hours double-handed race is going to be something special.

We have already enjoyed The Ocean Race, The Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race and the Rolex Fastnet Race this season, but the Défi Azimut marks the beginning of the build-up to the two big tests this year – the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts at the end of October, and then the solo Retour à La Base which sets sail a month later.

Gathering at the IMOCA headquarters at Lorient, the skippers are looking forward to trying out their boats and testing themselves and their teammates in what could be challenging upwind conditions on the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel.

Among them is the V and B-Monbana-Mayenne skipper Maxime Sorel, whose recent achievements include conquering Mt Everest and finishing in a strong fourth place in the Fastnet classic in his new Guillaume Verdier foiler alongside his Défi Azimut co-skipper Christopher Pratt.

Sorel, who finished tenth on debut in the last Vendée Globe in a 2007 daggerboard boat, is enjoying seeing the fleet on the dock assembled in full for the first time this season. “It’s nice to see everyone again,” he said. “During the Rolex Fastnet Race everyone went their own way, so we didn’t have much time to chat.”




While the Concarneau-based Sorel is certainly an IMOCA veteran these days, there are some new skippers starting their journey in the Class this week, among them the young French star Violette Dorange at the helm of DeVenir (the former Hubert / Yes We Cam!), sailing alongside co-skipper and boat captain Damien Guillou.

For 22-year-old Dorange from La Rochelle, who cut her teeth in 420s, the Mini Transat and then three seasons on the Figaro circuit, this is a step up to the big time as she races alongside some of the sailors she has looked up to as a record-setting youngster. Not surprisingly, she is feeling the pre-start nerves.

“It’s a bit of a mixture of everything,”said Dorange, taking a break from her preparations at La Base. “I’m a bit shy one the one hand thinking, ‘Oh, this is too much’ because these are the skippers I’ve been following since I was a little girl, so to be among them is really impressive and it’s a source of pride.




Nervous or not, Dorange can’t hide her joy at starting her first IMOCA event in a proven older daggerboard boat in which she will look to take on the likes of Benjamin Ferré and Guirec Soudée, amongst many others. One of five female skippers in this year’s Défi Azimut, and among eight female sailors altogether in the fleet, she is relishing every moment. “I feel like I’m starting a new sport,”she said. “Everything is different, the set, the technique, everything. Right now, I’m living my best life!”



Dorange is also enjoying sailing with the vastly experienced racer and preparateur Guillou who started as favourite in the recent Golden Globe Race only to be forced to retire with self steering system failure at Cape Town. “We communicate very well – he’s a good sailor and that’s important because he is teaching me a lot about being alone at sea – doing the right things, avoiding getting into trouble. And then he’s got the competitive side and that’s great – we’ve got a great balance,” said Dorange.

With so many boats on the startline on Thursday, and strong westerly winds pushing in a big swell off the Brittany coast, all the skippers will be focusing on getting away cleanly with no incidents at the start. Both Dorange and Sorel mentioned this element of a short race which can have big negative consequences for the remainder of a busy season if things go wrong.


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