When The Ocean Race starts on Sunday, Thomas Cardrin, Technical Team Leader of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, will have an intense year of building the yacht and assembling the Shore Crew behind him. However, the 35-year-old will not be taking it easy. He will constantly be on standby to advise the crew on repairs in the event of a technical problem. He is also concerned that there could be serious damage. The focus here: the mast. With the further development of yachts, especially foils, the loads on the rig have constantly increased, which could also quickly lead to an overload. The campaign cannot afford a breakage of the mast – not for the race and not with a view to the future. Because for yacht owner Benjamin Dutreux, The Ocean Race is indeed an important race, but above all he is looking ahead to 2024, when he wants to start his second Vendée Globe.
Thomas Cardrin will do everything he can to get his friend and skipper Dutreux to the starting line of the Vendée Globe in 2024. In 2018, the two were sparring partners and competitors in the La Solitaire du Figaro. Shortly after, Dutreux launched his campaign for the Vendée Globe and asked Cardrin to take on the role of technical director. Cardrin wanted to, and shortly thereafter was on a plane to Japan to look at an Imoca for purchase.
The boat didn’t have a mast, but Thomas Cardrin inked the deal and had the yacht transported to France. In Les Sables d’Olonne, he built a tech team with Charles Drapeau, Axel Levesque, and Mateo Le Calvic, and was also able to draw on the capabilities of the Eole Performance shipyard, which Benjamin Dutreux had built with his brother.
Even for the 2020/21 Vendée Globe, the window for preparation was minimal. But within a year, Cardrin put the boat together for Dutreux.
After the successful performance with ninth place at the Vendée Globe, the circuit started again. The old boat was sold. In the summer of 2021, Benjamin Dutreux reached an agreement with 11th Hour Racing to take over their yacht, the former “Hugo Boss 6,” in the fall. But instead of an almost finished boat, there was again a mountain of tasks to accomplish for this project.
At the Transat Jacques Vabre – before the Dutreux team took over – the yacht was dismasted. So the first hurdle was to rebuild the rig. By taking over the spare mast from Offshore Team Germany, this problem was solved. In spring 2022, the season started with the Brest 1000 regatta, followed by the Vendée Arctique. But time was already running out again. Because the electronics also had to be completely rebuilt. “11th Hour Racing had used the yacht as a design platform for a new yacht, with no focus on the electronics. So we started from point zero here,” Cardrin reports.
He had just under two months to reinstall all the systems, as training with the team for their subsequent participation in the Le Défi Azimut began as early as September. After that, things continued to go at a rapid pace: Benjamin Dutreux sailed a strong Route du Rhum, finishing eighth with the black yacht. In Guadeloupe, Robert Stanjek, Phillip Kasüske, Annie Lush and Sébastien Simon took over the yacht and sailed it back to Europe. A refit took place in Barcelona, where the mast, foils, keel were removed and all parts were checked through.
Looking back on the past years, Thomas Cardrin has to say: “It’s a crazy time. There were hardly any vacations. At least we were able to take about two weeks off as a family in August.” The family is son Gustave and his wife Alice Potiron, who manages Dutreux’s campaign. This means that the Imoca expert at least has his family around him during the race – not without taking a somewhat crazy route here, too: the family home has been sold, and all three travel around the world together with the race.
Faults during the campaign are therefore not allowed. Aborting The Ocean Race would mean returning to the unknown for Thomas Cardrin with Alice and Gustave.
A good reason, therefore, to gather an experienced technical team around him. With boat captain Jimmy Le Baut (50) and Jean-Noël Souchet, who already has experience in the America’s Cup, Cardrin has a high level of expertise at his side. The young but highly trained engineers and technicians Axel Levesque, Pierre Boulnin, Mateo Le Calvic, Tristan Estèves and Clovis Gautier also provide a lot of dynamism: “Money isn’t everything. We have a small budget, but we have a very dedicated team that has put an incredible amount of time into the boat over the last few months and has gotten to know it very well. What we were able to do, we did. We are happy, we have an approved boat. Of course, hard moments will come. We are ready. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it,” Cardrin says, but makes one caveat: “The mast must not break under any circumstances!”