With Karine Fauconnier injured, Lalou Roucayrol recruits Alex Pella to take her place on the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017
Monday 21st August 2017
Karine Fauconnier suffered an injury during a training session on the Multi 50 Arkema in July. She will not be able to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre race alongside Lalou Roucayrol, who therefore has had to find a new co-skipper to replace her at very short notice. And the choice fell on the highly experienced Spaniard Alex Pella. Lalou and Alex now have 80 days to get to know each other and become an effective team, ready to sail off from Le Havre on 5 November. Meanwhile, on land, Karine Fauconnier remains actively involved in the project, in charge of routing and weather strategy. In her words, “it’s now a threesome we’ll have to contend with”!
Changing a co-skipper less than three months before the start of a major event surely is not a comfortable situation. But Team Arkema Lalou Multi took the right course of action when Karine Fauconnier suffered an injury while training on the Multi 50. After setting off on a qualifying course despite being in pain, the skipper realized that she would not be able to take part in the Transat Jacques Vabre race under those conditions. “We’re very sorry about this situation as the Lalou and Karine pair had already put a lot into this. They were working very well, and now we have to start all over again. But this was the wisest and most reasonable decision when it comes to the health of a sailor and the performance of a boat”, explains Fabienne Baron-Roucayrol, team manager.
Once Karine Fauconnier had officially withdrawn from the race, there was no time to be wasted finding a replacement that would be able to fit in without delay to make up a new dream team and enable the Multi 50 Arkema to perform well in the Transat Jacques Vabre. Spaniard Alex Pella, who was up to this worthy challenge, was chosen. A highly experienced all-rounder, Alex has an impressive nautical CV and a superb record of achievements to his credit: three round-the-world races (one on a monohull, two on a multihull), joint holder of the Trophée Jules Verne with the IDEC Sport crew skippered by Francis Joyon, winner of the legendary Route du Rhum 2014 in Class40… “Alex is an excellent recruit, the best of the candidates given the very busy schedule”, continues Fabienne Baron-Roucayrol. “He’s a smart guy who is also approachable and friendly. We’re not too worried about things gelling with Lalou.” Despite her injury, Karine Fauconnier remains involved in the team with a key role as she will be looking after the routing and the weather strategy from land with Eric Mas.
Here are the reactions of the various protagonists following this change of co-skipper on the Multi 50 Arkema.
Karine Fauconnier, land-based routing manager: “My goal is for our team to win, with or without me on board…”
“I injured myself the day before we were due to set off on our qualifying course. Nevertheless we did set off for three days, and I was in pain despite pain relief medication. When we got back I took advice and decided with my physician’s and Lalou’s agreement to withdraw from the Jacques Vabre race. It’s a decision with heavy consequences. For me, as I’m putting my sailing career on the line. For Lalou and for Arkema who have placed their trust and confidence in me and have had to find a replacement at a time when our two-man crew was working so well.
I could of course still go, with shots of anti-inflammatory drugs, but then doing even more harm to my body and my health, but I have too much respect for the sea to tell myself that it can work like that and my ethics wouldn’t let me. You can’t win if you’re in pain. You tend to forget that these are competitive races and you’re racing extreme boats on seas that can be intimidating, and sailors have to remain humble. I also have respect for our competitors, and I may not be 100% fit physically, but they definitely will be.
My goal with this decision is also and above all for our team to win, with or without me on board. I’m delighted with the choice of new co-skipper: Alex Pella is a super guy, highly positive. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll do my utmost in other ways, I mean by helping the new twosome to perform by guiding them to keep on course and giving them advice from land. It’s a fine way to continue the story. I’m lucky to have had experience on the boat, to have won with it already, to know Lalou well and be familiar with this course which has no secret for me. So it’s now a threesome we’ll have to contend with.”
Lalou Roucayrol, skipper of the Multi50 Arkema: “Alex will soon get the hang of it!”
“We had got off to a good start. As a team, Karine and I complemented each other. We had trained well and had found our stride. After Karine got injured, we had to come up with an alternative solution. We selected various profiles, the aim being to stay focused on excellence. But there weren’t many sailors available by this time as most of them were already involved in the Transat Jacques Vabre or the Volvo Ocean Race (a round-the-world crewed race with stopovers (Editor’s note.)
Alex Pella’s name soon came up. I had met him on the Route du Rhum 2014 and I had got on with him straight away. Since then I have been following his achievements, and he was already on my short list of possible co-skippers before I selected Karine last winter. So we called him straight away and he was available! I like the man, he’s fun and friendly. Alex Pella is an international skipper with an eclectic profile. At sea he’s ruthless, very hard-working, He will go to any length and is very good at sailing and managing the boats. He’s a good all-rounder who sails a lot, on monohulls, on multihulls, on traditional boats… He’s not too familiar with the Multi 50, but I’m absolutely sure he will soon get the hang of it.
We have 80 days to sail together, get to know each other better, qualify, practise getting our bearings together, and sail the Multi 50 Arkema efficiently. I’m pleased that Karine is staying with us despite what’s happened. We have been working with her for the last two years and are happy with her work. Keeping her on the team will ease this stroke of bad luck.”
Alex Pella, new co-skipper of the Multi50 Arkema: “I’m going to give it my all!”
“When Lalou called me to ask me to join him in the Transat Jacques Vabre, I was both surprised and very honored. These offers don’t come up every day just a few months before the start of a race. I thought about it for a while as my schedule was very full already. But I freed up some time and agreed to take on the challenge. I’m happy on the water and I like meeting people. Sailing off on a new boat and with a new team is exciting.
Karine was very tied to the project, whereas it’s all new to me. I have yet to find out about the Multi 50, but this series has always appealed to me. I have been following the fate of Lalou and the Multi 50 Arkema for years. The Multi 50 are boats of a reasonable size, relatively straightforward, and no doubt a lot of fun, especially with the foils! I have sailed a lot on bigger multihulls in recent years: on the maxi trimaran IDEC Sport, on MOD 70, on the trimaran Prince de Bretagne… So I won’t be lost. Especially as I sail a lot. I’m always on the water.
I’m fit and in good shape and feel I’ll be able to get to grips with the boat in no time. The challenge is to catch up as quickly as possible to help Lalou run an excellent Transat Jacques Vabre race, if not win it. I’m certain we can achieve this. It’s a big challenge for me personally and from a sporting viewpoint. The competition is going to be tough and this is spurring me on even more. I’m going to give it my all!”