It was past the witching hour in his packed Vendée Globe press conference when Jean Le Cam shared his own views about the remarkable race fought between – ‘this old bloke’ – by Damien Seguin – the Paralympic champion born without a left hand – and by Benjamin Dutreux, the young Vendée dude. The simple, no frills message mirrored thar of their respective boats.
Individually and together these three swashbuckling musketeers fought a race of incredible intensity, sailing equally smooth, direct course aboard otherwise unfancied, 2008 generation IMOCAs, equipped with modest budgets and all three finished inside the Top 10 from the biggest Vendée Globe fleet yet.
From five consecutive starts since 2004 Le Cam at 61, completed his fourth Vendée Globe 2nd, 5th 6th and on a wet, windy Thursday afternoon appeared out the Bay of Biscay murk to cross the finish line eighth. With his time redress allocated for his rescue of Kevin Escoffier Le Cam takes fourth.
“I believe that between Benjamin Dutreux, Damien Seguin and me, we gave young people confidence that the Vendée Globe is still accessible. Today this race is becoming financially inaccessible. There are boats at 6-7 million euros, so you wonder if you need to have a multinational sponsor to be able to participate and not be left out on the sidelines. I hope that this edition of the Vendée Globe will allow the organizers to look at the future from another perspective. It is important and essential that the Vendée Globe be accessible to SMEs and young people.” Said Le Cam.
Seguin (Groupe Apicil) prepared his boat while benefiting from Le Cam’s counsel and his less-is-more philosophy, taking the powerful 2007 Finot Conq design which in 2016-17 raced as Comme Un Seul Homme, through a close contact, boat for boat race with Le Cam and Dutreux. Who can forget Seguin rounding Cape Horn in fourth just 49 miles behind Thomas Ruyant’s latest generation LinkedOut and 130 miles ahead of fifth placed Dutreux on the 2007 Farr design which was built in England in 2007 as Estrella Damm before taking third as Hugo Boss in 2012-13.
Seguin responded to Le Cam, “This Vendée Globe was exceptional and I am here today because it is thanks to you Jean. I could thank you every day, but it could never make up for everything you gave me. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about you. I just want to say THANK YOU. When I had this Vendée Globe dream, I dreamed of foiling boats, and you were able to make me look at the essentials. There are some that have spent millions of euros and are sitting at home tonight. We’re at the finish line and that’s great.”
If the night belonged to ‘Le Roi Jean’ Le Cam who has never been more popular or indeed famous – Friday belonged to the new generation that Le Cam want to see prosper, and specifically to Benjamin Dutreux.
Accordingly the 30 year old affable lad-next-door Dutreux was afforded a hero’s welcome by the townspeople of Les Sables d’Olonne where he lives and went to school after growing up on the Ile de Ré. Social responsibility being what it is the numbers were nothing close to usual but nothing would stop the passionate locals welcoming back their favourite son.
Dutreux enthused, “The first boat I saw at the finish was that of my partners with my brother driving the boat and it was quite incredible to see so many people suddenly all so happy. It was a very strong emotional moment. All this on my boat that has brought me all this way with the little Water Family emblem, with “Flagy” next to me, was a special moment.”
“What would make me really happy now is to sleep, but I have a lot of adrenaline now, so it is going to be hard. My shore crew have brought a big pizza and really what is the nicest thing is to see everyone and to have completed this race around the world.””
In the name of his Water Family initiative Dutreux carried ‘Flaggy’ a small flagon of melted ice from the glacier of Chamonix around the world…
“This is a real mission accomplished for Flaggy, because thanks to Flagy, Water Family have been able to go into around one hundred schools, with video conference lessons in schools. I do not have all the stats, but everyone is really happy, so it is huge. All that is left to do it to take him home to Chamonix so he can become solid again.”
And speaking of Le Cam, the young Vendéen skipper said: “What Jean has done is indescribable, he has done an incredible race and shown and shut up a lot of people. It is pretty mad what he has done. He even told me that I am young and have many ahead of me. For him to have finished his race at his age and to have his level of energy is just amazing. I call him the child, because he is like a child and just gives his all and above all he has fun, which is wonderful.”