Jean Le Cam: “Our skills and experience add up to more than the sum of their parts”

He is regarded as a regular fixture on solo races and had done his share of two-handed Transats and crewed racing, but sailing two handed around the world is something almost new for the very experienced French sailor Jean Le Cam. “I did this Barcelona World Race in 2011 with Bruno Garcia but we dismasted after just 10 days, so for me that scarcely counts as useful experience”. Le Cam maintained last week when he was in Paris for the famous boat show there, Le Salon Nautic. 

Interviews DEC 8, 2014 19:51

But the three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro who was runner up in the 2004/05 Vendée Globe behind Vincent Riou and more recently finished fifth has no worries about sailing two up with Swiss co-skipper Bernard Stamm on the IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat in the upcoming Barcelona World Race.

How was your partnership formed?

It came about largely by chance. It was an opportunity which came along. Bernard has been able to charter Jörg Riechers’ IMOCA 60 Mare. He was looking for a co-skipper. I was looking to get back into the race. The FNOB (race organisers) initiated the contact and here we are.

And how has your preparation been?

We have not really had much time to prepare the boat. It has been important to get to know it and how it works. It is a good boat which has had successive owners who have strong personalities (Michel Desjoyeaux, Iker Martinez and Jörg Riechers) and each has made their mark on the way the boat is set up. And so it is important to understand these differences and why they have happened. And so sometimes it is hard to find our own marks.

How have you divided your roles during your preparation?

They have happened quite naturally. I’m more focused on the sails, the rig and the layout and Bernard has taken care of all the electronics, the instruments and so on. And we have really worked well together, a lot of crossover of ideas. It has not been each to his corner. We exchange ideas all the time.

The fact you race with someone who is very experienced too is an advantage, but it can be a source of conflict too?

That would only show us up not to be smart. The sticking point is if one of you has a misplaced big ego. But if you both respect and listen to the words and ideas of each other then you are ready to learn and that is an opportunity to grow together.

Expand a little…

Bernard does some things differently. So we have made an effort to compare our methods and discuss them openly. And so far, often it has proven a combination of the two which has been the most effective. The interface there, if you manage it well, only serves to enrich you both and strengthen you as a team. That is part of the magic of sailing as a duo.

That means being able to compromise…

Such is life. We make compromises daily. Do you know people who live happily as a couple and do not compromise? That is unrealistic. We will be the same in our little couple. Except our little couple will only be for three months. The goal of our race is to find the optimum from each other’s experience.

And the key benefits?

Well for a start there are two brains and two pairs of hands. That, for a start, makes it easier. And we are both very competitive. We know our common hunger is to win. And from the moment you are both pushing in the same direction, things are easier and simpler.

Will you have specific areas of responsibility in terms of strategy and decisions?

Not really. We must know and exchange ideas and thoughts enough that big decisions are taken together. And if we cannot agree on decisions you can’t really expect to get a result.

You are used to being solo, so it is still quite a challenge three months together in a small space?

It’s a bit of a false perception. Personally I love sailing as a duo, like the Transat Jacques Vabre and the AG2R, I have a few miles under my belt two up. And Bernard is not a loner. He is a social animal too. We are both normal, outgoing people who like to share. After you cast off, two days, five days or three months nothing really changes in that dynamic. The goal, the outlook is always the same, make the most of the boat and keep it fast.