“I’m Back,” Roura has Race he Needed

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Swiss sailor Alan Roura will sail into Les Sables d’Olonne later this week having taken his IMOCA game to the “next level” after finishing in seventh, the top international skipper in the 2022 Vendee Arctique - Les Sables d’Olonne. The fleet finished the shortened race in Iceland last weekend and is expected to arrive in Port Olona starting Tuesday ahead of the weekend awards ceremony.

In his first Vendee Globe, 2016, the tears flowed from Roura as he departed le Chenal, overwhelmed with the outpouring of human energy emanating from the crowds of thousands. In 2020, it was frustration that forced his emotions to a tipping point as the wind gods seemed to conspire against him. In the Vendee Arctique, sailing HUBLOT, Alex Thomson’s 2019 beast of a foiler, he needed to prove to himself that he deserved this boat and deserved to compete with the best. In the Vendee Arctique, he did just that.

“The Vendee Globe hurt me a lot,” said Roura today, Monday, as he neared the Dingle peninsula off the Irish coast. His first race in the new boat he placed 15th out of 18 in the Guyader Burmudes 1000 last May, which he called a “messy race.” “I needed to have a good race here. Not thinking about anything just racing and fun and sailing properly. I spent too much time in the past asking myself if I was made for [solo sailing], and I am made for that. I needed this race. My team watched me and told me, ‘Alan, you’re back.’”

Roura was 17th in the last Vendee. He left that campaign exhausted after having managed the program virtually alone with a small team. With a new sponsor, a rocket ship of a boat and more resources, he is designing his pathway to a top result in 2024. He has the boat to do it, and he has a plan to make sure he’s ready.

“This is a totally different way of holding the project,” Roura says about the HUBLOT team. “Now I have Allyson (HUBLOT team manager). It’s time to prepare myself, mentally and physically. You want to race with the others. If you don’t have enough money, you can’t break anything. Then you can’t push your boat.”

This tricky preoccupation, fear of breakages, is familiar to all IMOCA sailors as they have travelled their Vendee Globe journey. In the Vendee Arctique, damages aboard the boats from the smaller teams have an exponentially negative effect. Repairs must be prioritized or the campaign may miss training or events, de-railing a campaign. The bigger teams have the human power, and funds, to quickly get their boats and skippers back in race form.

Roura said he now has the luxury to, “push like I think I should and learn how my boat works. I have to be in the skin of Alex Thomson and be 100 percent professional.”

The effects of a shortened race and horrendous winds and seas left the fleet of the Vendee Arctique shaken. And Roura said the scene was surreal. “We had a fleet of IMOCA zombies off Iceland,” he said, “listening to music on their boats and watching movies. But all the boats were in one piece. That shows the preparation of these IMOCA sailors.”

Roura said that he’s looking forward to the Route du Rhum later this season as he progresses on HUBLOT. “We are sailors, we’re supposed to just sail,” he said. “I think it’s not just about racing, it’s about lifestyle, about being. I was racing with the good ones. Now I have everything to grow up.”