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Advertorial: The Vendee Globe – Musto’s ultimate proving ground

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When Armel le Cléac’h won the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe race he did so wearing all-Musto technical clothing. Time to go for the back-to-back win then in 2020.

For Musto, the Vendée Globe has always been the ultimate proving ground for its offshore gear. Armel Le Cléac’h wore Musto on his way to victory four years ago in the last edition of this non-stop solo circumnavigation. The French veteran will be wearing his Musto clothing in more comfortable circumstances this time as he follows the race intently from the shore.

A year ago he raced with Clarisse Crémer in the Transat Jacques Vabre, when together they sailed Banque Populaire X across the finish line as first non-foiling Imoca 60 and sixth overall. Since then he has continued his mentorship of the 30-year-old Frenchwoman about to embark on her round-the-world debut.

Crémer will be one of many sailors wearing Musto in this edition of the Vendée.

‘I feel both anxious and excited! Which I believe is a normal way to feel when you’re about to race the Vendée Globe for the first time,’ Crémer comments. ‘My kit bag is almost ready, my new Musto clothes are being branded with my sponsor’s name, the next step is to pack them neatly. I was lucky to have a look at Armel’s clothes list for the VDG 2016 to make my own list.’

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While Crémer is sailing with old-school straight foils, Sam Davies has taken a similar generation boat – around 10 years old – and fitted it with hydrofoils that could put the 45-year-old English woman within striking distance of the podium. There is no doubt that the hydrofoils have lifted the IMOCA 60 fleet to previously unimaginable levels of performance.

It was widely expected that this edition would see the winning time driven below the 70 day mark, compared with Le Cléac’h’s winning time of four years ago – 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes.

Musto
Main picture: The Vendée Globe is the ultimate ocean racing challenge for singlehanded sailors – and also the most rigorous way to develop and test new designs for technical clothing. Mustoʼs HPX Pro Race Dry Smock, worn by Jérémie Beyou above, is one of the few garments that will keep your torso dry on the foredeck of an IMOCA 60 at 25 knots while allowing full freedom of movement.

But with the added speed has come a whole new level of discomfort, as Davies explains: ‘You are scrabbling on your knees a lot of the time because you just can’t stand up safely. So one of the early bits of feedback I gave to the designers at Musto was “more padding in the knees, please!”’

There are times when Davies has been obliged to use other manufacturers’ products when she’s been part of fully-crewed teams. But for as long as she can remember, whenever the choice has been hers, Davies always comes back to Musto for her offshore adventures.

‘We spend money on sails, foils, we do a whole heap of development, and when you’re going offshore in an extreme boat, there’s a big human element. If the human isn’t optimised, warm, dry, comfortable, if you’re not achieving those basic human needs, you’re failing in your performance.

‘That’s one of the reasons why I choose to work with Musto, because it’s about performance and making sure my boat goes faster.’

Davies is taking nothing for granted, not least friends and family who are helping out with child care arrangements seeing as she will be lining up against her husband, Romain Attanasio [skipper of Pure, Best Western], on the Vendée start line in November.

Ellen MacArthur is another British skipper who made her mark on the race 20 years ago when the then 24- year-old sailed Kingfisher to second place behind Michel Desjoyeaux. MacArthur was wearing Musto then, and Musto’s latest signing, Spanish sailor Didac Costa, will be wearing their kit when he sets sail on the ex-Kingfisher, now called One Planet – One Ocean.

Costa will be looking to better his 14th place in the previous Vendée, an incredible achievement considering his boat was hit by lightning, forcing him to turn around to repair the damage in Les Sables d’Olonne before heading out to sea again, four days behind the fleet. ‘I am very happy to take part in this extraordinary race again,’ he says . ‘Anything can happen during a Vendée Globe but the boat is ready and so am I.’

Boris Herrmann becomes the first German sailor ever to cross the start line of the Vendée Globe. Herrmann’s Imoca 60 Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco (previously Malizia) was the most recognisable sailing boat of 2019 when the team delivered the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic to the UN Climate Summit in New York. Herrmann will be wearing Musto for his circumnavigation, in which he hopes to be competitive with new foils on his 2015 VPLP design.

Musto
Sam Davies is a long-term tester of Mustoʼs ocean racing kit whose feedback to the Musto design team informs the ongoing development of the wet weather gear that the rest of us rely on. She endures the ʻfirehose effectʼ so we donʼt have to. And when you notice that your next set of HPX Pro Series trousers have more comfortable padded knees than the last ones, you can thank Sam for that.

‘Competing in the Vendée Globe has been a dream of mine for over 20 years and I am honoured and excited to participate as the first German competitor. I feel ready for the race and we have managed to test the new foils and train hard on the boat even during these difficult times. The race means more to me than only the sailing as it also gives me the chance to further our scientific and ocean mission. With our onboard laboratory we will be measuring ocean CO2 throughout this whole journey and doing our bit to contribute to science.’

Vendée veteran Jérémie Beyou is in the Vendée for the win. Now on his fourth attempt, the 44-year-old wore Musto four years ago when he finished third. Now with his supercharged high-speed foiler Charal, Beyou is doing everything in his power to make it first back to Les Sables d’Olonne in February 2021.

Victory in a strong IMOCA line-up at last year’s Rolex Fastnet Race along with victory in this summer’s warm-up contest, the Vendée Arctique, bodes well for Beyou’s preparations. He is looking to leave no stone unturned in his bid for Vendée glory and believes Musto remains his best option to carry him to victory. Beyou comments on the course that awaits them, saying: ‘All the course is challenging. The first days can be rough, and you really can be surprised by it after three weeks of stand-by in Les Sables d’Olonne. You won’t win the race there, but you definitely can lose it. Our boats can sail between 10 and 25 knots average boat speeds, so depending on the wind that you catch, you can win or lose more than 300 miles a day. So maybe these last weeks will be the most important.’

With a great offshore pedigree in his own right having completed three Solitaire du Figaro, multiple RORC class and overall victories and skippering a Nord Stream Race team, Musto’s marketing project manager Hugh Brayshaw has been the vital link between the five Vendée competitors and the company.

Musto
Above: the first German to enter the Vendée Globe, Boris Herrmann has a brand new set of next-generation foils on his 2015 IMOCA – and a full wardrobe of Musto kit.

‘It’s my job to look after our Musto ambassadors and make sure they’re getting the right kit for every stage of the race, from the Equator to the Southern Ocean. My degree in technical clothing design paired with my experience as a professional sailor are useful for relaying the feedback from the sailors back to the designers and the development team,’ Brayshaw says.

While the hydro foiling boats are another level faster and wetter on deck, the latest generation of IMOCAs have also been designed to minimise the time required for sailors to spend out in the elements. The water proofing and breathability needs to be as high as ever, but a big push this time around is increasing flexibility, to enable the sailors to move around these bucking broncos with agility and in comfort.

‘In the last race Armel Le Cléac’h really loved the HPX trousers but would often wear an MPX top because it is lighter in weight and he wanted that bit more flexibility,’ Brayshaw says.

‘This time it could be even more extreme and they’ll have an HPX bottom and an LPX top which is super lightweight and really breathable. Because the boats are going so fast they don’t actually need to change sails that often

Musto
Clarisse Crémer is preparing for her first Vendée Globe in an unmodified 10-year-old boat, but with the winner of the last edition, Armel Le Cléacʼh, as her mentor. Like Armel, Clarisse will be wearing Musto.

so they’re spending more time moving around their cabins; it’s still a bit damp in there so they still need a layer of protection which is why they’re keen on the LPX for a lot of the time. But when they head into the Southern Ocean they’ll be fully into their HPX for the very highest level of warmth and protection.’

While the latest generation of IMOCA 60s is very different from the type of boat a typical Musto customer might sail, Brayshaw says the Vendee Globe remains as important as ever to the brand’s principles and ambitions.

‘It proves that Musto is still the best brand to take care of you when you go offshore. We remain fully invested the very pinnacle of the sport and it ensures we continue to understand and deliver what sailors need as the sport progresses. That means all of our customers can be assured that that whatever we do is coming from thousands of miles of testing, acting on the feedback from the very best yachtsmen and women in sailing.’

Musto’s excellent line-up of sailors will need a powerful range of kit to tackle the Vendée Globe through a variety of challenging conditions. Musto’s Hugh Brayshaw walks through the course, with the best garment choices in mind.

VENDEE GLOBE KIT LISTS

Start/ Finish – Bay of Biscay – November 2020 and January/ February 2021

This spot will see potentially cold conditions, usually wet, wavy and windy. It will certainly provide high adrenaline and action for the first few days, with congestion of the race fleet and shipping traffic being two things to watch out for. There will be plenty of sail changes and manoeuvres as the fleet try and make it into the trade winds, so correct kit choice offering protection from the cold and the wet will make our sailors’ lives much more straightforward and efficient.

HPX GORE-TEX PRO SERIES TROUSER – robust and reliable for mixed weather and foredeck sail handling. The Codura fabric on the seat and knees will certainly be needed to protect again abrasion, tear and scuff.

MPX GORE-TEX PRO RACE DRY SMOCK – keeping the upper body dry from the elements but also highly breathable with unrestricted movement to keep our sailors cool and calm during the mayhem.

The Trade Winds

These are usually reached off the coast of Portugal, allowing some more comfortable sailing downwind in warm airs. Sailors will be looking for kit here that is lightweight yet protective in windy conditions.

MPX GORE-TEX PRO OFFSHORE TROUSERS – A great all-rounder for warmer conditions with Gore-Tex technology, keeping dry from the spray when surfing down the waves.

LPX GORE-TEX JACKET – This jacket is ultra-breathable and lightweight, offering good protection with Gore-Tex, perfect to quickly reach for when needed.

The Tropics

The boats will start to get seriously hot and uncomfortable in the Tropics; keeping cool and protecting from the sun is key here.

EVOLUTION SUNBLOCK LONG SLEEVE T-SHIRT 2.0 – Fast drying, quick wicking and with a unique texture to hold the fabric off the skin for improved air flow, this UPF 50 top is essential here.

EVOLUTION PERFORMANCE SHORT 2.0 – These lightweight, fast drying, stretch shorts with excellent reinforcement will be sure to tick every box in the tropics.

EVOLUTION FAST DRY BRIMMED HAT – These sailors cannot afford to get tired in the sun, all-around protection to keep you focused through the doldrums.

The Southern Ocean

The Roaring Forties into the Furious Fifties, extreme winds, colossal waves and freezing seas are just a few of the challenges facing our sailors on this leg. Team Musto will be glad to have the very best clothing on the market for the very toughest conditions.

HPX GORE-TEX PRO SERIES SMOCK – High protection but with great mobility to foil across the Southern Ocean, this smock is a must. The ProVision hood will allow our sailors to maximise their peripheral vision in tricky conditions whilst maintaining protection too.

GORE-TEX MIDDLE LAYER SALOPETTE – Worn under your HPX trousers to keep you insulated, these mid layers will provide you with the warmth and the breathability needed.

MERINO BASE LAYER LONG SLEEVE T-SHIRT / MERINO BASE LAYER PANT – We know many of our veterans insist that only Merino wool base layers will do, so we make these 100% Merino. All the natural benefits of wool but softer against the skin, comfort when there is no comfort to be had from the elements.

GORE-TEX OCEAN RACER – A light, flexible yet protective and insulating boot, designed for ocean sailing.

HPX GORE-TEX OCEAN DRYSUIT – The best all-round performance product to have in your kit bag when conditions get tough. This garment provides outstanding weather protection for the whole body, using Gore-Tex technology it performs to the highest standards. After all, you could find yourself in it for days on end.

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