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Maxime Sorel, V and B Mayenne 10th in the Vendée Globe

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© Adrien François
© Adrien François

The 34 year old skipper, who wanted above all to "complete his round the world race", has achieved his main objective. He has driven hard all the way through his race until the end, notably by outrunning  a big Atlantic depression over his last few hours of racing, Maxime Sorel did much better than just finish.

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The green hull, the fiery dragon on its sails appeared from the driving rain and stormy seas and were immediately picked out by the lights of the media boats. The smile was visible, Sorel’s joy already apparent, illuminating the night, as he pressed his IMOCA V and B Mayenne the final mile to the finish line.

Sorel’s young, boyish features belie his 34 years, his shock of blond hair lightens with the seasons. But behind his smile and affable, desire to communicate, Sorel is a very driven, professional individual who is most often described as ‘a very nice guy’.

Before taking on all the oceans of the world Sorel has always shown great self-sacrifice. He admires Michael Jordan "because he has fought all his life", as has Sorel who at times struggled to carry out his projects.

In his previous, recent life he was a consulting engineer where hours of work  are never counted, but always harbouring the idea of taking up ocean racing. "What made me want to do it is not just to race on the seas, but to manage a project as a whole," he explains.

From surfing waves to a wave of emotion

To lead your life as you do at sea, without giving up anything. Over the years, he has raced in Class40 (one Route du Rhum, three Transat Jacques Vabre), found and served faithful partners (VandB) and built up a community around him, to the point that a French region with no access to the sea, the Mayenne, supported him and became passionate about his adventure. The desire to escape enchanted him in the days before starting to the point of braving the confinement and offering himself a last surfing session away from prying eyes. Surfing waves before the wave of emotion. On D-Day, he enjoys himself - "you get up in the morning and tell yourself you're going around the world" - then burst into tears in the arms of his brother, Jérémy. Then the emotions evaporated and the adventure began.

The first night was tricky (more than 40 knots), he had to remove a net stuck in his rudder but Maxime did better than resist. He even took the lead of the fleet on the 2nd day and is leader 8 times. Then there is the tropical depression Theta The skipper speaks of "boiling seas", "strenuous manoeuvres", mentions pilot problems but assures that "we still have a word to say all the way to the equator. "He crossed it in 14th place, the day after the leaders. His first days of racing? "Exceptional at all levels. I felt as if I was one with the elements, the machine and the weather".

Muscular conditions and damage: a skipper never spared

Maxime Sorel keeps his smile in all circumstances, the eyes are slightly more ringed, but his gaze is always fixed, always lucid. Of course, he is not spared and takes up again the oft repeated maxim "one pain in the ass a day" attributed to Michel Desjoyeaux. There is this complete stop after a week's race, probably caused by a UFO, which blows the cap of the diesel tank and vibrates the keel. Gradually, the skipper gradually learns the new experiences: the longest time ever spent on board, the discovery of the South "which obliges to squeeze one's buttocks for a month", the gnawing cold and the chaos that emerges.

At the beginning of December, Sorel flirts 1.2 miles from the ice exclusion zone, adapting as best she can to the messy sea and the 40 knot gusts in the Indian Ocean. "It's squall after squall... I had been told that the Deep South was grey, cold and wet, but not that the sea was high like that! "Maxime has to adapt to the time difference - "it's very disruptive" - and turns into a relentless handy man. He had to climb the mast in 18 knots, due to two big tears in his headsails, and then spend "nine hours non-stop" to repair his J2. His knees hurt and his hands hurt ("they're smashed, they burn"). However, the skipper is holding on, firmly attached to the 11th place which he holds on to the in the south

"I'm not a pure solo sailor"

On the long road to Cape Horn, the setbacks of some days do not make one forget the smiles and lighter discussions. The cold meats and chocolate mousse in the Atlantic have been replaced by hot dishes. At Christmas, he savours the meal concocted by a starred Saint-Malo chef. And then Maxime stays connected with the land - "I am not a pure solo sailor" - reads articles and knows that on land the situation is much more chaotic than at sea.

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