Departure on 30 April 2023

Meteo consult

Violette Dorange: "This race is one of the best I have ever done in a Figaro"

© Alexis Courcoux - 

After three years on the Figaro circuit, 21-year-old Violette Dorange is looking ahead to the 2024 Vendée Globe, a race she hopes to compete in aboard the same IMOCA that Jean Le Cam sailed to fourth place in the 2020 edition of the solo, round the world race. She is currently preparing to bring the boat back from the West Indies, following the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, in which it has been raced by Éric Bellion. She looks back on her experience on the Figaro circuit, culminating in her double-handed transatlantic race with Alan Roberts in which they finished in 9th position, less than 4 hours behind the winners Nils Palmieri and Julien Villon.

The Figaro circuit is known to be one of the toughest. What have you learnt over the last three years?

“This circuit has allowed me to become a professional. Before that, I did the Mini Transat, which was my first taste of offshore sailing. On the Figaro circuit, the level is very high, the competition is serious! The fact that we have a one-design boat, meaning that everyone has exactly the same boat, is very interesting. I've learnt a lot during these three years, in terms of strategy, sleep management, life on board... Especially as the formats on this circuit are often quite short and difficult. The Figaro Beneteau 3 is a very interesting boat, which is both hard and at the same time 'manageable'. I loved this circuit, you can really learn a lot from it.”

You have raced in several mixed double-handed races on this circuit, including the transatlantic race with Alan Roberts. Can you tell us what that was like?

“When you sail double-handed, the choice of co-skipper is very important. You don't want to be crushed, you have to choose someone open and willing to share. I wanted to take on board someone who could bring me knowledge, who could help me improve my performance. I have always chosen more experienced skippers to sail with me on my boat. I was careful to choose a profile that suited me well. It always went well, with Alan or with Julien Pulvé or Erwan Tabarly. There was good communication on board and on land everything went well. As it was my project, it was probably easier to get my place. I loved these double-handed races, each time I came out of them better. I think that a man and a woman are very complementary and on a boat, you can see it. In the strategic decisions, in the way of life on board, it works well!”

Violette et Alan en mer

Is it a strength then, to sail as a mixed male/female duo?

“I think the most important thing with your co-skipper is that there is good communication, whether you are mixed or not. There has to be a good organization between the two sailors. I also sailed double-handed during my years of dinghy sailing, in the 420 with another girl and it was the same thing. The most important thing is the cohesion of the pair, the sex of the person doesn't really matter.”

Were you apprehensive about competing in a mixed doubles race as long as an Atlantic crossing?

“Of course, a Figaro is a small boat, so obviously there are no showers, no cabins, no toilets on board! But these are things that we prepared with Alan. Before leaving, we really took the time to discuss and ask ourselves all the questions. Questions related to the boat, technical questions, safety questions... And we also asked ourselves some questions related to life on board. For example, I told him that when I was changing, I didn't want him to get into the boat at that time. We had set all the limits, we set sail without any taboos. So, there was no embarrassment, no problem. It's all about respect and communication.”

What do you think of the fact that mixed doubles are now compulsory in the Transat Paprec?

“I understand that some people who wanted to do it with someone of the same sex might be disappointed. However, I think it's good to go through this. I think there are still a lot of women who would like to sail in offshore races but who don't dare. Because they think that this environment is not for them, but also sometimes because they are not given a chance. I think we're going to discover a lot of profiles and we'll realize that girls are not ridiculous when they're at sea! I just hope that we won't have to impose it all the time, that one day things will change and that the girls will be able to more easily set up their own projects.”

What is your best and worst memory of your transatlantic race in a Figaro?

“I remember the passage of the Canaries, it was amazing. The wind suddenly picked up very strongly. Alan and I had prepared ourselves very well, we had started to reef the mainsail and the J2, we were ready to drop the boat. Everything went very well, we were both really into it! We passed very close to the coast, it was truly beautiful. 

And then of course the arrival in Saint-Barts! The atmosphere there was incredible. It was really a magical moment. Especially as we left from Concarneau where there were still Covid restrictions in place, and there (in Saint-Barts) it was a party! 

And my worst memory... The start! We were over the line and there was an individual recall. We started almost 20 minutes behind everyone else. We spent the early part of the race trying to catch up

Your IMCOA programme is very busy - is there any chance that you will take part in the 2023 edition of the Transat Paprec?

“It is a possibility. In any case, I'm keeping a small option in the back of my mind if the opportunity arises. I loved it in 2021, it was one of the best races I've done in the Figaro.”