What if it was her? At 46, Briton Samantha Davies, finish 4e in the Vendée Globe 2008, is by far the best placed of the six women entered in this ninth Vendée Globe to do at least as well as Ellen MacArthur, 2e in 2000. “I put a coin on her, she has enormous experience, she won a Volvo stage (race around the world with a crew, Editor’s note) with a female crew, she is an engineer by training and knows how to prepare a boat wonderfully. “
The prognosis should be taken seriously, since it comes from Catherine Chabaud, the first woman to have completed a Vendée Globe (6e in 1996). “The only box she does not tick is that her boat is not the fastest, but to win you have to come back, and Samantha knows how to save her horse”, continues the former navigator.
The person concerned takes the compliment with the joyful relaxation that characterizes her, while confirming: “A third of the fleet is made up of new, latest generation boats and not one has been entrusted to a woman, it is an inequality that remains, and it is regrettable”, explains the sailor, who is still happy to see so many women at the start. “Parity is on the march”, she says.
Seven women in five editions will have tried the adventure before the pistol shot of the ninth Vendée Globe on Sunday 8 November. All but one returned safely, classified or not, like Isabelle Autissier, disqualified in 1996 after having to stop over to repair. If the six sailors of 2020 have different levels, “There are no tourists”, rejoices Isabelle Joschke, undoubtedly the fastest behind the Briton, who notes the rise in range of the sailboats.
We will also have to reckon with the youngest Clarisse Crémer, who will leave aboard the winning boat in 2012 (with François Gabart). Some people criticize the young woman who graduated from HEC for having benefited from a form of positive discrimination from the sponsor Banque Populaire, who wanted a woman at the helm. Then to have been formed and propelled by a man, Armel Le Cléac’h, winner of the 2016 edition. ” So what ?, retorts Isabelle Joschke. The only one who could have trained her so well is Samantha, who was not going to give weapons to a competitor. “
“In any case, at one point or another, you stop being a man or a woman to become a sailor and you have moreover a little tired of this different look”, annoys Catherine Chabaud, who has never suffered from sexism. “The real runners showed us, Isabelle (Autissier) and me, respect, when they were interested in our navigation methods”, she continues. Other methods? “ Of course you have to find ways to compensate for the athletic deficit when you are 1.59 m like me ”, continues Isabelle Joschke.
Women maneuver less, which implies more… thinking, before initiating or not a transfer, which will cost a good hour of effort to the sailor and… to his boat. “We go a little slower in the short term, but we break less in the long term”, confirms Catherine Chabaud. Not to mention the little manufacturing secrets that allow you to tire less when maneuvering. Samantha Davies’ boat is full of these tips, but shhh, top secret until she returns. Then, she promises, “I’ll share it with everyone. Men and women included. “