Rising star of the Route du Rhum, Maxime Sorel will leave Saint-Malo for Guadeloupe aboard his VandB monohull on 4 November. This gritty Breton could well arrive first at Pointe-à-Pitre, and win this legendary solo transatlantic race. Go Maxime!
France.fr: You were born in Cancale near Saint-Malo – so you must be happiest by the sea?
Maxime Sorel: Yes! The bay of Saint-Malo was my childhood playground. I started sailing here when I was 8 years old, and started competing a year later. Since then I’ve never looked back. My family has definite sea legs and we enjoyed lots of waterborne tours of Brittany, from Trinity-sur-Mer to Saint-Malo.
France.fr: Without ever getting tired?
MS: Brittany is magnificent and always different, from the wild coast of Finistère to the softness of the Cornouaille. The sea colours constantly change. For a sailor, the water is exceptional. You learn to negotiate currents, rocks and lots of traffic…
France.fr: Your departure day is 4 November. Will you be in your element?
MS: It’ll be emotional to cross the start line in view of Cancale and the Pointe du Groin, where I learned to sail, and take part in one of the world’s greatest races. Especially since the 125 boats competing will be escorted by thousands of others, carrying all the spectators. The atmosphere at the Race Village, at the foot of the ramparts in Saint-Malo, then at the official start, at sea, is incredible.
France.fr: Have you ever experienced it?
MS: I was at the start of the 10th edition in 2014, but with a vintage Class40, for fun and adventure. With the VandB Sailing Team project, I'm here to win! In the category of 40-foot (12-metre) monohulls, there are about 15 of us. It is rare to have such beautiful surroundings and it’ll be a close call across the 3,542-mile course. Over the 16-19 days of racing, you have to stay focused, like a robot. With peak speeds up to 28 knots, there’s no time to admire dolphins or sunsets!
"You feel land before you see it"
France.fr: Do you not feel alone at sea?
MS: I team up with my boat. VandB is a demanding like me, so we get on well! On the ground, there is also my small team and all the Volunteer Cystic Fibrosis volunteers, the cause for which I run and who support me. During the race, you only sleep around four and a half hours a day, along with micro-naps of 15 to 30 minutes. You spend 10 hours navigating the route. The rest of the time, you steer and adjust the sails. And the more you adjust, the faster you go! With this routine, there’s no time for emotions to take over.
France.fr: Even when the end is approaching?
MS: You ‘feel’ land before you see it. Guadeloupe has a smoky smell, that of sugar cane. Brittany is more iodised with the smell of seaweed. Guadeloupe is a high island, very green – in winter, I often sail there for the pleasure of the trade winds and the heat. I look forward to returning with the Route du Rhum. But before the final finish, you have to navigate around it, so it’s all still to play for at that stage. I won’t let myself be distracted by the beauty of the landscape!
France.fr: Does the 40th anniversary of the race promise to be extra special?
MS: The atmosphere on arrival should be extraordinary, as it is every time. The Guadeloupeans are a unique community – very enthusiastic and demonstrative. They welcome all the boats, whatever their ranking. And then it’s party time!