Published Saturday 22 October 2016, 18h30 by the official Vendée Globe site:
But the pioneering skipper has been to every Vendée Globe race start since then, sometimes in denial that he would ever take part again. But after his two girls grew up and now have their own careers and his business responsibilities diminished four years ago when he walked the race dock amidst the pre-start buzz he already knew he was looking at the assembled fleet only for the fine details, any little gizmo or set up that he might like for the IMOCA he had already designed and was having built to compete in this edition 2016-2017 edition.
Fa has been a fixture in Les Sables d’Olonne since last December. In fact he arrived on Spirit of Hungary, which he designed himself, under a jury rig – 13 metres of iron tubes fashioned into a mast – arriving from Madeira after he had to retire from last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.
Fa’s new rig was originally built for Sébastien Josse’s BT but remained unused because it was deemed to be 40kgs too heavy. Fa has cut 80cms off it to make it fit the IMOCA rule.
Now after two solo Transatlantic passages and months of preparation the veteran is ready to go armed with total faith in his raceboat.
“This is a much better mast than my previous mast and I have all new sails from Doyle New Zealand. The new sails have a nice shape and fit the rig very well.” Fa opens.
“But looking back to the old race. Everything has changed but the passion is the same. I have been to every start but you really feel the difference when you are on the inside. I am so happy to be here. I enjoy being here with my boat. It was always difficult to come here and not think about doing it again. I was always missing it. But back in 2011 and 2012 I knew I was coming back, I had less responsibilities at home and good offers of carbon for the boat. The design was already on the way. I saw the boats then but I saw a lot of interesting things and innovation but nothing which was really my favourite.”
“We were adventurers then not professional skippers like we are now. Everything was on a completely lower, different level. We were sailing like we were blind. We knew nothing. If I saw the weather I would try and read the clouds. If we knew where the low pressure was and the high pressure and the way they were moving. That was pretty much it. And of course the boats have speeded up so much.”
“ I so much prefer it now. Absolutely. I love the performance and it is much more pleasant on board. My first circumnavigation was made with a paper chart and a sextant. If I had to do that again I would not do it. I would never do it again. I love this technical level, really high tech boats and highly detailed weather info. I love it and would not have it any other way.”
“I appreciate that I did learn the classic way and I span the centuries. But I absolutely love this now, I love complexity. The boat is fast, sensitive and friendly, it does what I ask of it.”
Fa, having designed and built most of his boat himself, would not swap Spirit of Hungary for any other IMOCA docked in Port Olona.
“Some of them step too far for me. I don’t think the foil systems are fully tested for the long game. If I was building a new boat I would build this boat again but much lighter.”
And Fa is once more enjoying the recognition and respect from the visitors and Vendée Globe fans in Les Sables d’Olonne.
“It is tiring but it is incredible and inspiring to see these thousands and thousands of people passing on the dock every single hour.” He concludes.