Thierry Dubois is confident in his boat and preparations for Around Alone. Could this finally be his race?
His boat is ready and he is composed. Thierry Dubois, one of the favourites to win Around Alone, is unsettled only by the prospect of the prologue race from Newport to New York in the leftover wind and seas of Hurricane Gustav. It’s a risk he’d prefer not to run. He’d prefer to be leaving for real today.
Dubois, 35, is one of the most experienced skippers in this race and has a good boat, Solidaires, that he has already sailed more than 50,000 miles. The only piece that has never quite fallen into place is luck. Sailing Amnesty International in the 1996 Vendée Globe he first hit a growler then capsized in the Southern Ocean and had to abandon the boat. During the last Vendée electrical problems forced him to divert for assistance, which ended his competitive race. So Thierry Dubois knows the odds.
One look at his boat shows how well he is prepared for this race. Entire tool kits have been disgorged and last minute repairs made on other boats in the last few days, but Solidaires has been relatively quiet. It’s clear that feels there’s little more he can do and is impatient to get out and sail.
“The only major things that are changed are the sails. I’ve made no other changes, only a total check and a lot of little of details,” he says. “I spent five months last winter in the boatyard and took everything off, not just the rig and the keel, but every single bolt,” he says. “Everything came out and was checked. We changed some things, some materials; if it was too strong we made it lighter.
“I’m happy with the performance of this boat. When it was launched it was good and in the last three years I haven’t had a lot of trouble. It works.
“With a little bit more money I would change the bulb on the keel, add more lead. All the jobs we’ve done we were not limited with money. I’ve done what I wanted. Sure, if we had more we could have new sails, one for the north and one for the south, but the boat, the hull and the rigging are no problem. You can always buy a new sail later, but you can’t change the boat during the race.”
Is the possibility of equipment failure troubling him? “I had electrical problems from last Vendée, but I know why. The solar panels didn’t work. Not only that, they actually caused problems, so one new battery died. I had no solar panels, no principal battery and problems with the generator. It wasn’t safe to go on into the Indian Ocean. But if I have the same problem in this race it is not finished for me and I won’t lose a lot of time.”
Thierry Dubois views Bernard Stamm as his main competition and in terms of preparation thinks they are both on the same high plateau. “Bernard and I have built our boats ourselves so we always know why everything is the way it is. We know where it is, what length it is, what diameter. I have to keep everything this way and don’t change, so I’m not looking around at other boats. It’s too late.”
Although Stamm has what is considered to be the faster of the two boats, Dubois unarguably has the confidence to win. “Each time the winner is the most intelligent skipper – it’s something that comes from your choice, of the design, of the build, the preparations and the sailing. If you ask me, I’m sure I’ve made the right choice. I’ve got the right boat for me and my way of sailing,” he says.
Dubois is not aiming for glory in every leg, and on the first stage to Torquay he will be trying to get the measure of his rivals in Class 1. “I’m not after a record on the first leg,” he says. “I want to see the other boats. I have to stay close to them so I don’t risk losing a lot of points. On the first leg, you don’t try strange options.”