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A well prepared, confident and highly motivated Sam Davies is poised and 'ready to rumble' on The Transat CIC

Updated: Apr 25

A strong 2023 season which concluded with an excellent fifth on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre and a sixth on the Rétour à La Base sees Briton Sam Davies ready to take on The Transat CIC full of confidence armed now with a well proven and competitive Sam Manuard designed Initiatives Coeur. She is firmly on course to complete her Vendée Globe qualification on this race and will be giving her all to break into the top five in this very competitive IMOCA fleet.

 




What’s your mindset going into this, the first big race of 2024?

I am good, it is all so cool. Last year was a big confidence gain. The boat was ready and ready to be pushed hard. And meantime I got to do the Southern Ocean leg with Biotherm. And so I did tonnes of miles in different boats, that is last generation boats with powerful foils. I sailed with loads of really good people. I sailed the first race with Damien Seguin, the second race with Nico Lunven and then the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre with Jack (Bouttell). And so had loads of really good sailors come with us And when you sail double handed you learn twice as fast, especially with good people. 

 

And anything that you really picked up that’s been especially useful? Discovering the boat was the main thing I was learning. The year before the boat wasn’t really ready to be pushed as we had some reliability issues, nothing major but it was just too late. So in 2023 we kind of used the races to train. And this time we could train as well with the Port La Foret, learning everything with the trimming to using the foils and what settings to have them, and discovering all the sails. Nothing real major but just learning that the boat is really pretty good all round and then learning with the team as well. We cracked the boat here and there a little bit and then had to repair it which is always good when you break something because then you realise, ‘ok that’s good, now we’ve found out we need to make that stronger’ and as the year goes on you get more confident. 

 

But it was a busy, intense year in the end with the two Transats back to back, were you burned out by Christmas?

Surprisingly I wasn’t too burned out, I think because it was a good season and everything was kind of well spaced out anyway. I think it depends on your approach as in, if you approach it as: ‘oh my god, two Transats with only five days in between its going to be too hard’ …..Whereas for me it was more of a… ‘No, this is an opportunity to do a single handed race on the back of all the double-handed sailing I’ve done so I don’t forget everything I’ve learned. I felt pretty good when I got back but for sure around January/February I realised with recovery it took a little while for me to get back into shape. Luckily I had January and February off. It was a good season and we didn’t really have to change much with the boats this winter. We had a bit more broken stuff that we needed to repair and reinforce and that took a lot of resources. We changed foils but they’re very similar to the last pair. We just got  new ones to have a spare. It’s kind of frustrating in the class that we don’t have all the same or a means of just having one spare pair for the class. We don’t have two masts but the class has a spare mast.

 

And how are you and the boat Initiatives Coeur suited to this ‘north face’ course? I feel pretty well suited, for a various reasons. The boat seems to be pretty good upwind and upwind in a breeze it seems pretty good as well. If I can survive and withstand the pounding that we get from sending it upwind, because they go quite fast now upwind. I have a really cool shock absorbing seat that is for reducing the discomfort, let’s not call it ‘increased comfor’ We used a Beta version on the way back from the Retour à La Base and I was really happy because I wanted to be facing backwards. When I broke my ribs on the Vendee Globe I realised that we get thrown forwards a lot,  and so if you don’t break yourself you break your (nav) screen. 

In the Retour à La Base I was unique in that (having an aft facing seat) but I wasn’t quiet about it at all. I think a few people now have opted for the same option. I think with the Retour à La Base one of the reasons why I came out quite well was because I already had my shock absorber on and the seat facing backwards. It wasn’t a seat that supported me well enough that I could sleep in it but we had already started making changes to test to be sure that it was what was going to be good. The team took the time in Martinique to set it all up so that it was all ready and I think that that did make a big difference on the way back. 

 

And is there a number, a target finishing position you are hoping for on this race? I don’t have a target because all I have to do is cross the start line to qualify for the Vendée Globe so that takes a massive load of pressure off. I don’t have to finish, I don’t have to get to the other side to race back because I don’t have the problem of not having enough miles. So that’s really cool because I think we’re doing the ‘money raising’ on the way back for the charity. So it’s nice to feel like we’re setting off and thinking ‘ok well now I can just sail it as hard as possible knowing that if it breaks we have got time before the Vendee Globe to fix it and there’s no pressure to sail it or get to the other side, hopefully I will get there though’.


Sam Davies on her previous experiences with a mental coach...."I’ve tried before but they’ve mostly just sent me away saying ‘Sam spend your money on something else!’"


In terms of your self preparation is there anything different? Do you, like others, have a mental coach?  

I’ve done a little bit of work with the same coach that Alex Thomson uses, Ken Way. I have a little catch up with him now and again, not very much, just occasionally. The year 2022 was really hard for me for a lot of different reasons. I don’t really work with mental coaches that often, I’ve tried before but they’ve mostly just sent me away saying ‘Sam spend your money on something else!’ But after 2022 and the crash (ed note, Sam hit an object on the Vendée Globe and damaged her boat and had to retire into Cape Town, also breaking her ribs) I had in 2020 which scared me a lot. I did a little bit of work with someone else here when I got back from the Vendée to try and not be bothered by what happened in 2020. And with 2022 with some issues more from my personal life along with issues with the boat being late and I was like ‘No I do need to speak with someone’. And Alex and I have always been in touch. On one of the first Vendées we were dock neighbours. Our kids are the same age, we’re not best mates but occasionally for various reasons we will catch up about stuff. He’s pretty supportive about female sailors and diversity in the class….maybe more so since he’s stopped sailing with having more time to think about it. So we do have a catchup from time to time. One time we were chatting and talking about issues and struggles and he gave me Ken’s number. 

 

This season how do you pace yourself to peak for the Vendée Globe? The first thing I did was I managed to do as we don’t have an unlimited budget and it’s hard to help everyone, and do everything you want to do, but I managed to keep Jack Bouttell with us because that worked really well. I get on with him really well and he’s just amazing. He brought so much to the project -  coming off The Ocean Race win  and having sailed with 11th Hour, he understands what it’s like with small budget and not being able to pay for everything. He is a good confidence builder as well which is good because I was like ‘I can’t do everything and the two Transats and everything else. I want to do these two Transats because it’s the best training so I need another skipper as well. I’m not very good, I’ve got FOMO so I don’t like it when my boat sails without me, I don’t even like it when it’s not me driving off the dock or driving in. I have to force myself to sometimes let go and think ‘ok I’ve got enough experience now I can miss one or two sailing days’ and so that’s the idea as well. For other reasons as well Jack’s there, and he’s our reserve sailor for the Vendée Globe too. The idea was to try to take a bit of pressure that wears you out off me so that I can make the most of these two Transats and use them as training for the Vendée. 

 

Characterise the relationships between the women in the race, is there an unspoken rivalry, are you all out supporting each other, or on the race course skippers are skippers and boats are boats?

Every boat is a boat and every skipper is a skipper. There is no ‘first woman’s’ prize and I’d say it’s almost the opposite in terms of any rivalry, they are some of my best mates in the fleet. Especially JuJu (Justine Mettraux) we sailed around the world together (on Team SCA) and we go wing foiling together. I wouldn’t say there’s any rivalry. Isa (Isabelle Joschke) is a very good friend as well and until now we’ve always had boats with a very similar performance and ended up finishing very close to one another but there was no more rivalry with her than with Yann Eliès or Jéremi Beyou, that I’m sailing against. It’s almost the opposite because you’re almost happy when the girls finish in front of the boys. We don’t do any team racing either! I have just identified the boats that have a similar or are equivalent to me, that I will be fighting against and that’s how I work out my objectives and there’s clearly a handful of boats that are above what I imagine to be my or our capabilities and then there’s a whole bunch of boats that are equivalent so whether that’s a better skipper with a less good boat or the other way around. That puts me at trying to get into the top ten but probably not making it beyond fifth. And in there for sure JuJu is one of my equivalent so hopefully we’ll be fighting it out together. She’s probably got an advantage because on the northerly course  she’s already practiced it on the TJV! (laughs, Mettraux took a bold northerly option on last autumn’s Transat Jacques Vabre.

 

And what are the keys to this North Atlantic course? . 

We don’t do this as often so it’s a little bit different. There will be a lot of manoeuvring, the currents, the conditions are more extreme so I think the human body is going to be getting closer to its limits quicker. Often when we first set off we go quickly into warmer weather and we’re not going  to see that with this race and sometimes that can be a bit of a trap. I remember that from the last time. We are sending it against everything so a lot of slamming and structural testing I’d say, especially with these boats that are really powerful we are going to have to be on it with all of our alarms and loads and keeping an eye that we don’t overload everything. 

 

What will be your reward at the end of this race, any special incentive? I think it’s pretty crazy that it’s not often that we get to sail into New York, I’ve done it once in my life and I’ve sailed out once as well, I did The Bridge in 2017 and it’s pretty amazing. That’s my reward, it will be the landfall on that New York skyline and I hope the visibility will be good on that day. That’s my reward, the landfall in New York should be pretty impressive. 

 

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