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Interview: Gilles Morelle
Franck Noël, are you a sea-going sailor?
I have always sailed on the sea, because I started sailing on my father’s Dragon in Calais; Although my personal and professional life has taken me away from the sea, I’ve been back in competition sailing for ten years. I’m focusing on my Near Miss on the Mediterranean. I no longer have enough time to sail on the Lake.
How was the Near Miss project born?
I hadn’t been racing for years. In 2000 I went to Auckland for the Louis Vuitton Cup. That’s what triggered it all. Back in Europe, a friend of mine offered to sell me his IMX 40. I didn’t hesitate for one second. First race, the Giraglia Rolex Cup, and first victory. I was hooked.
How did the Near Miss project develop?
The year after, we decided to change boat and to build an IMS 600 on a Bottin design, so as to run the major classic Mediterranean races, with, as a climax, the Copa del Rey, which we won. Unfortunately, the IMS rule wasn’t viable. It didn’t go in the right direction and the rules kept changing. The boat spent more time in the shipyard than on the water! So I decided to quit the IMS and go IRC on the Med circuit: Marseille, Porquerolles, Saint-Tropez. But this Near Miss wasn’t adapted to the IRC. The MedCup was at the time offering the new GP42. I was seduced by the real time aspect between competitors and by the possibility to build our own prototype. At the end of the season I was disappointed with our results and the number of participants. It was just not worth it with only six boats racing on a circuit when the Farr40 were thirty to race on every leg. So I left the MedCup and we came back to the IRC on our GP42. Even though it was the greatest boat I have sailed to date, I wanted to change boat one more time. The TP52 seemed to be the best compromise on the IRC circuit. I didn’t want to go back to the MedCup as budgets are high and I don’t have a sponsor. All the money invested in this project is my own. On the MedCup, the budgets are clearly unreasonable and the results too uncertain against teams that are 100% professional.
What is your motivation?
Alongside sailing, I am interested in, in general, developing projects. To improve, you have to compete against people better than you. Racing with professional sailors makes you question your abilities and move forward. I am only an amateur. So every day I learn new things. And this is what drives me to keep setting new objectives.
This summer, you participated in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Why this English experience?
The Fastnet was a childhood dream. I ran it when I was 17. And I had longed to be back. With a GP42, it’s difficult to spend more than one night at sea. The TP52 means you can sail longer races. It’s a faster boat in many situations and it’s also more comfortable. The Fastnet, the Middle Sea Race… these are races which are now accessible with a TP52. I dream of racing in the West Indies, Antigua, Saint Barthelemy…
What would you say qualifies you the best?
I’d rather race in human scale categories, projects where I won’t have any financial issues. The TP52 is a beautiful project with an affordable budget. The expenses match the size of the boat! Therefore the TP52 seems to be the best compromise. In this size of boats, the competition level is high. Of course, as a consequence, the goals are much harder to achieve, but when you do, victory is all the more exhilarating and sweet.
What do you value the most?
If you are methodical, you can compensate a lack of financial means. You also need a good team spirit. Modesty is a key quality, and doesn’t mean a lack of ambition. But you have to know why this or that didn’t work. You have to question yourself. It’s never somebody else’s fault. Other than the equipment, training prevails over all.
How do you organize yourself?
Benoit Briand is Near Miss’ project manager. I draw the programme up. Then he has carte blanche within a budget limit. Of course he asks me for my opinion when he’s about to take a major decision. I do have my say and together we choose the crew who will compete during the season.
What are your best memories?
Definitely a long tack on the GP42 with a spinnaker during the Rolex Giraglia . One burst of speed after another between the mainland and Corsica. We turned round the rock in third position with a pack of boats nearly three times our size. The second best memory would be our victory in the Copa del Rey (Palma de Mallorca, Spain). The level was very high. As high as a world championship!
Near Miss (SUI 1957). Where does this name come from?
The first boat I purchased was called Near Miss. After the first good results, because I believe in luck, I decided to keep the name. Because nearly missed means… successful!