Arthur Le Vaillant, another idea of ​​the ocean race

That’s a great story. A nice person too. This is also how – if possible – those who knew him well would sum it up. Rochelais Arthur Le Vaillant is at the start of the Route du rhum, on November 6, in Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), destination Guadeloupe. What is far from victory for the man who, at 34, will be alone at the helm of Bettera giant trimaran (Ultim class): its social conviction and a specific vision of ocean racing do not necessarily facilitate the search for sponsors.

This month of July, he came to pick us up – barefoot – at Auray station (Morbihan) and it was on the ground, in the garden of his shared apartment, in La Trinité-sur-Mer, where we spent a long time. chatting with this hybrid sailor. That of shared houses and keys under the fig tree, eating organic, mostly local and vegetarian, quoted by Victor Hugo and Marguerite Duras, Michel Serres and Edgar Morin, Greta Thunberg and Adèle Haenel, chef Olivier Roellinger, and also Winston Churchill because who said that: “Success is not definitive or an end in itself, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that matters. »

Arthur Le Vaillant was born two days before Christmas 1987, from the love of Isabelle, his adored mother who recited Paul Eluard to him and made him listen to Barbara, and Jean-Baptiste known as “Jean Bat “, a man with many nicknames, with gentle eyes and a smile on Mona Lisa. Known to be quiet and yet very generous with stories and knowledge, he even better practiced the art of humility – “I know a little about it”, He teased us by waking up sailing and attacking his chocolate crepe – when, to him, Loïck Peyron simply said that “He is the best master sailmaker in the world”.

In sport-study, Arthur swears only by windsurfing and dreams of participating in the Olympic Games

Wisely, this father has been a crew member of many big names in sailing over the past thirty years. “Maybe that’s why I want to be a captain. To differentiate myself », Arthur asked. However, when he was in sport-study, Arthur only swore by windsurfing and dreamed of participating in the Olympic Games. Before putting himself in the lead, in 2010, to participate in the Solitaire du Figaro.

He made some sarcastic remarks. It must be said that, at home, all the greats of the offshore racing parade. Benjamin in this edition, he ranked the best “rookie” during the fourth and last leg: not bad for a solo newbie.

Also read Article reserved for our subscribers Sailing: the Solitaire du “Figaro”, “it has become a race for athletes”

An accident that marked a turning point

And then there is this regatta in Mallorca (Spain), “Today April 24, 2011”, he said, suddenly as accurate as a foil can be sharp. This was the accident: a piece wrapped around his right arm and cut the muscle, the artery and the radial nerve. He owes his life to an emergency doctor: the onset of internal bleeding.

In 2018, Arthur Le Vaillant started in Rhum and finished fourth. In 2020, he gave the Grand Prix de Brest Multi 50

With doctors telling him he could never use his arm, he preferred the sirens of his physiotherapist. It hurt, it was good, Arthur Le Vaillant hung, although it is possible that this accident marked a turning point. Assisted by a close family member, the naval architect Marc Van Peteghem, the Rochelais spent several hours in Paris, before returning to the pontoons, which were second. in Transat Jacques-Vabre in Class 40, in 2017. The following year, he took the start in Rhum and finished fourth. In 2020, he won the Brest Multi 50 Grand Prix hands down.

The port of Brest is like going back to basics. This is where his father tacked. In the ravine, under the Térénez bridge. and ” this is it [sa] life, the multihull: it is a tribute to lightness and flexibility”.

But the story was not so good when his sponsor released him. “I have landed for my unconditional support for SOS Méditerranée [ONG de secours en mer aux migrants] and for the inadequately defined project of life”says one who prefers to keep his freedom of speech than to please investors. “We have to convince the sponsors, and it’s true that I can’the has a fun, selfish smile. I have to have dreams and follow. »

“It’s the world of yesterday that hangs, it scares me”

Dreams, here we go again. On land, Arthur is also active. Co-founded Sailcoop, a passenger transport cooperative, and La Vague. In this collective, launched at the beginning of 2020, of skippers concerned about the impact of their sport on the environment, we find Paul Meilhat, Gwénolé Gahinet, or Roland Jourdain at the start of Le Rhum with his fiberglass catamaran. and the expressed desire of“Leading environmental performance”.

“There’s still so much inertia, it’s the world of yesterday hanging around, which scares me”

Because, as Roland Jourdain said, if sailors “cloud catchers” and that one “A boat is beautiful when it is good”, the goal of these sailors is “paradigm shift”. For Arthur, there is no doubt: “There is a real drift always more in terms of budget, boat. We put a lot of intelligence into making our toys faster, we put our intelligence into less impact” on the environment, promotes those who dream to see organized, before the races, training on environmental issues. “There’s still so much inertia, it’s the world of yesterday hanging around, that scares me. »

Also read: Transat Jacques Vabre: “We cannot be against innovation, but sometimes it is good to question it”

He is afraid to lock himself, too, in a world of competition and performance alone. And to continue, aware of its paradoxes: “What is beautiful is the battle, the commitment we put into it. I found it very beautiful that, in the last Vendée Globe, the winner was not the one who crossed the line first, but the one who saved Kevin Escoffier. It was also nice if Kilian Jornet [le champion d’ultra-trail] ended up in the hands of his “opponent”: that, I dream of! »

Like his dream of the Route du rhum, when, as a child, he showed in his room the poster of Florence Arthaud, the family friend who, at sunset in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), on November 18 , 1990, has “proves a girl can win”. He is 33 years old. Arthur is 34, and the desire to wear “combined” this project formed from December 2021.

Launch of Ultim

A recycled boat

To respect his hospitality, the sailor uses recycling: his boat is Geronimo Olivier de Kersauson, before being successively checked and skippered by Thomas Coville and Yves Le Blevec. Since then, the sails have been recolored and a brush stroke has been given to show its color: it will be Better, a collective of entrepreneurs who care about the environment.

In the fall, the goal is to make the boat more reliable, which was launched again on July 4, in Lorient. To maneuver, a light team: there are only two when some sponsors employ fifteen people. But that doesn’t count the help of friends. The weekend of July 23 and 24, Loïck Peyron. And then there’s Jean Bat, the rediscovered father, very enthusiastic about being there and giving a “a little help” that he sleeps in a tent at the top of the garden. Smart (“It’s his life, I let him do it”) and no doubt proud, but a little worried – “Not sure how to always sleep well at night”.

With a brave heart, moreover, nothing is impossible. like winning, “but without crushing the other”. Even if it means cutting the road rather than crossing the line, like Bernard Moitessier in 1968 in the first solo round of the world race? “That’s rude, isn’t it? » Can’t change Arthur. Sensitive too. Because of course he asked himself the long way. Which he’s not really right about – he wants to be a songwriter and singer too “leave the songs and lyrics in the hearts of the people” -, but that he dreams of it as beautiful, inclusive, united.

Let’s say, in the Le Vaillant family, we also have to remember Arthur, because sailing may have found its new wave.

Also read: Sailing: justice gives reason to François Gabart, who is able to compete in the Route du rhum

Leave a Comment