As revealed during his recent interview on The Yacht Racing Podcast EXTRA, Vendee Globe line honours winner Charlie Dalin will make his return to competitive racing in this year’s Transat Jacques Vabre double-handed transatlantic race.
What we didn’t know then that we know now is that his co-skipper for the race which he won the IMOCA 60 division last time will be fellow-Frenchman Paul Meilhat – winner of the singlehanded Route du Rhum in 2018.
Dalin says the Transat Jacques Vabre which starts from his birthplace – the French port of Le Havre – and finishes this time in the French Caribbean island of Martinique, has an extra special place in his heart.
The course for the IMOCA 60s is 5,800 miles (10,742 kilometres) and includes a loop around the Brazilian archipelago Fernando de Norohna. That’s a challenging prospect and Dalin says he chose his co-skipper carefully to help him take it on.
“What mattered first was his experience on the IMOCA circuit,” Dalin said. “Then, his profile corresponds well to the specifications of the race, which promises to be longer and more intense than the 2021 version.
“Paul is a sailor with very good physical qualities. He is used to sailing at this pace, he has already proven it several times, especially on the Route du Rhum, where he never stopped pushing. Finally, we are on the same wavelength and we know how to work together – and that is important.
Meilhat meanwhile is making no secret of his delight at being called up to the Apivia squad.
“When Charlie contacted me, I didn’t hesitate for a second,” he said. “I had several proposals on the table for the double-handed transatlantic Figaro race, but I had declined all of them to stay fully available to sail an IMOCA, which I made my priority objective
“Obviously, there is a bit of pressure associated with getting get involved in such a project, but I love it – joining a winning project is a dream! I’m very happy to find myself in this position, to have the opportunity to commit myself fully alongside Charlie – who over the last two years has been the most consistent on the circuit in terms of results.
Meilhat (38) is originally from near Paris and began his career sailing dinghies. He is now regarded as one of the rising stars of ocean racing and as such is highly sought-after – as illustrated by his collaborations with Michel Desjoyeaux, and more recently Samantha Davies, with whom he worked on her preparation for the Vendee Globe.
At the shipyard activity is in full swing around the Apivia IMOCA 60 as the team give it a full check-up before its scheduled re-launch in May. That will be when Dalin and Meilhat begin a sustained training program that will be punctuated by two races: the Fastnet Race in August and the Défi Azimut in September.
“The challenge for me will be to get used to not being alone on board this boat that I know like the back of my hand,” said Dalin. “Getting a duo to work well is never easy, it’s like alchemy. It’s up to me to quickly pass on the knowledge about the boat to Paul. And it’s up to both of us to refine the way we work together to find the most effective formula.”