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Vendee Globe: Skippers’ advice on dealing with life alone

Vendee Globe

As those of us around the world in full lockdown start to come to terms with the daunting prospect of an extended period of living with only ourselves for company, here is some pertinent advice from a selection of solo round the world racers, courtesy of the Vendee Globe website.

Nick Moloney (AUS, Vendée Globe 2004-2005): “In the 2004-2005 Vendée Globe, we were alone at sea, but alone together. We had the same ocean, the same status, and we were there for each other. I have always said that everyone should sail across the Atlantic alone once in their life. That was the most fantastic personal experience I have been through. The peace you find when alone is something magnificent and you find your own rhythm and learn to accept your situation. Take advantage of the time you have to dream your wildest dream. Study each detail. Bring together everything you thought impossible. Gradually, your vision may become your goal in this way. All these steps you take as you learn generate a whole lot of energy.”

Conrad Humphreys (GBR, Vendée Globe 2004-2005): “I think that spending a month alone could enable people to overcome their fears. During the Vendée Globe, after my steering was damaged, I managed to block out the negative voices I kept hearing in my head and I managed to live each moment as it came, taking things one day at a time. When you are faced with the feeling of being powerless, most of our thoughts become negative. Today, I try to focus on what I can do, not what I cannot do.”

Arnaud Boissières (La Mie-Câline Artipôle): “When you are completely alone sailing around the world, the slightest incident becomes massive. That is likely to happen now (to each of us – editor’s note). You have to keep cool. When things start to drag a bit in the Vendée Globe, I start to write. It’s good to write down what you are thinking and feeling. Your doubts, fears, what pleases you… Above all, you have to avoid remaining passive. You need to set yourself a strict timetable. That is something I need to do in times like these.”

Sébastien Destremau (Faceocean): “I live alone and I find myself in the same situation as at sea. It’s interesting: I think I’ll soon be moving onto writing my second book, and creating texts for my poetic works. It is when things are very calm ashore and at sea that your mind starts to wander and that helps you become creative, and it may even lead some people to grab the opportunity and change things around in their life. You have to think of what comes after all this.”

Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Cœur): “When time starts to drag for me, my strategy is to divide up the time. Psychologically, that is extremely important. Today when I am ashore, I divide up the days. (with Romain Attanasio, her partner, editor’s note), and we set the timer. There is the time I have to spend with Ruben, my son, time for myself and for work – he is not allowed to disturb me at that point. We work in thirty minute shifts. When each day is like the next, it’s good to establish some sort of order.”

Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Arts et Fenêtres): “It is hard being alone at sea, but I like facing up to that difficulty. When you are completely alone, you manage to do things you would not be able to do ashore. At sea, there is no alternative. You simply have to manage, and that always surprises me. I suggest that you enjoy the beauty of nature around you, even if it is just from the window of your flat. Look at how beautiful the sky is. It is a way of getting away from all this and learning how to appreciate what really matters.”

Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Oceans): “I have learnt a lot in these moments of being alone. I learned to accept myself for what I am with my physical and mental weaknesses, which is something I always wanted to ignore. You want to do things in a certain way? Now, you have to learn how to them differently. I learnt how to stop lying to myself and to get things straight in my head, admitting what I want. It all makes much more sense like that. I also worked a lot on my character, becoming suspicious of anything which brings out certain elements and try to get away from that.”

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2): “When I returned home after the last Vendée Globe, where I suffered a lot in my mind: the custom is to remove the sailor from life ashore during the Vendée Globe, but I fight against that. My competitive spirit as a sailor is nothing in comparison with the bruise on my dear daughter’s knee or my son’s anger when some stupid bastard said that his father was useless, as he only came seventh in the Vendée Globe. I always need to be in contact with the outside world, think about others who mean so much. During this lockdown period, you really have to keep in contact with the means that are available, get all the news from wherever you can and listen to various opinions.”

Dee Caffari (GBR, Vendée Globe 2008-9) in her blog in English,, the British sailor offers some useful advice for this lockdown period. “Focus only on what you can control and don’t waste energy worrying about things that are outside your control. Look for the opportunities and be creative. Accept that we must adapt to the new environment we are living in.”

Jérémie Beyou (Charal): “You should avoid films that are too sad, go for comedies or films about sport. When you are at sea you don’t watch Schindler’s List!”

Rich Wilson (USA, Vendée Globe 2008-9 and 2016-17): “I know of some decent freeze-dried food that you can order online. You’ll love it!”