As the 2022 Route du Rhum approaches, we take a look at some of the top names set to compete in the race. Toby Heppell looks at Damien Seguin's chances
Whilst there are some routes that are well-trodden to becoming an IMOCA skipper (Mini Transat, Figaro, Class 40…), there are a variety of routes into the world of offshore shorthanded sailing. The skills needed to make a successful solo racer are so multi-faceted that there is no one set path to success, but Frenchman Damien Seguin’s route to the Vendée Globe is undeniably unique.
Seguin was born without his left hand and this disability, coupled with his love of sailing, led him to the Paralympic Games. He was incredibly successful in Paralympic sailing, winning two golds and one silver medal between 2004 and 2016.
However, sailing was removed from the Paralympic Games ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo, and Seguin switched his focus to full time offshore solo racing.
Damien Seguin already had a good deal of offshore sailing experience, having completed the Tour de France à la Voile on three separate occasions from 2015-2017.
In terms of solo racing, he has completed many races in the Class 40 – seen by many as the direct feeder for the IMOCA 60 class. He’s finished two Route du Rhum races and three Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantics.
In 2020 Damien Seguin set off on his toughest task to date, competing in the Vendée Globe race. His 7th place finish would be remarkable for most first time competitors in the race, add to that his ability to keep an older boat competitive amongst the newer foilers, and becoming the first Paralympic skipper to complete the race and you his achievements are unequivocally impressive.
After crossing the finish line of the 2020-21 Vendee Seguin displayed his trademark flamboyant style, donning a pirate costume, complete with hook, to sail up Les Sables d’Olonne’s famous channel.
IMOCA 60 Groupe Apicil
Sail number: FR 13
Designer: VPLP – Verdier
Builder: CDK Technologies, Port la Forêt
LWL: 18,28 m
Beam: 5.8 m
Draught: 4.5 m
Weight: 8 tonnes
For the 2024-25 edition of the Vendée Globe, Damien Seguin has picked up a first generation foiling IMOCA 60 and, crucially, the boat that won the 2020-21 race in the hands of Yannick Bestaven last year (ex Maitre Coq).
As with all IMOCA 60s, there is an important balance to strike between outright pace and reliability. Although history would suggest that it is usually a new boat that wins the race, getting hold of a fast boat that has proven itself on a lap of the planet is a sensible option for those without the multi-million Euro budgets of a new custom build.
With a newer boat underneath him that is proven it can be quick in the right hands, Seguin should be a force to be reckoned with. He may not be a nailed on podium contender for either the 2022 Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe, but you wouldn’t put it past him.