New Kid on the Block
So clean was the path of the top three in the second Vendee Arctique that the story barely had legs. It was the surprisingly quick pace set by Soudee and Benjamin Ferre (Monnoyeur - Duo for a Job, 4th) that shocked observers as they watched the pair speed through the first light wind pothole and hold tightly to their positions like veterans.
Both are influenced by legends of the Vendee Globe. For Ferre, it is a growing friendship with the king, Jean Le Cam. Soudee has recently re-connected with Roland Jourdain, Bilou as he’s affectionately known. Bilou knows Soudee’s Farr-designed IMOCA well, sailing it under the name Veolia Environnement.
Soudee lowered his main in a choppy sea outside le Chenal and entered Port Olona with small packs of crowds blowing horns and cheering from the streets. He said his solo ocean racing journey began when he met Vendee Globe veteran Eric Dumont while sailing around the world and was inspired by his stories of the great race. And it was also a chance meeting with Bilou that helped to sharpen his mind on Vendee dreams.
“When I started my trip, I had to turn back in the south of Brittany,” said Soudee who, over five years, wound up visiting both poles, becoming the youngest to transit the Northwest Passage alone and being iced in for 130 days along along the Greenland coast. “I met Bilou when I worked for a day on his expedition boat. I saw him and wanted to ask him so many questions. But I thought he would call my parents and tell them that it’s too dangerous and tell me not to go.”
A 16th in this year’s Guyander Bermudes 1000 showed only a little of Soudee’s potential and the Vendee Arctique proved he could play the game with the best. What was it that allowed him to break out so early in his career? Sea miles.
“I’ve learned a lot about the seas,” said Soudee who has twice rowed across the Atlantic, a combined 180 days at sea. “I have a lot of work to do. But this is my element. I have sea in my body.”
Romain Attanasio (Fortinet - Best Western) said we shouldn’t be too surprised by Soudee’s result. “Somebody said at the beginning that he was not a competitor,” he said. “He knows the sea. Maybe he wasn’t a competitor but he is a sailor. If he started in the Figaro, it would have been harder for him. In the IMOCA you have to be a good sailor first.”
Soudee has no illusions of rocketing to the top of the IMOCA leaderboard. He has his head down and is looking forward. “I am happy to go to Concarneau and work with Bilou if that’s possible,” said the native of Yvinec, Brittany.
Not forgetting his roots, Soudee is still attached to his old shipmate Monique. When asked if he missed her in this Vendee Arctique (pets are not allowed aboard), he quickly responded, “Of course! I called her this morning and everything is ok.”