Status: It’s Complicated

Published on November 12th, 2020

Chris Museler, The New York Times, caught up with the couple sailing around the world in the Vendee Globe. Racing against each other…


Sam Davies and Romain Attanasio have long supported each other in yacht races. Now, they are both in the Vendée Globe, a four-month race around the world. “For both of us, it’s our dream,” Sam Davies, said of both her and Romain Attanasio, her life partner, racing in this year’s Vendée Globe.

Before beginning the Vendée Globe, a solo, nonstop around-the-world sailing race, Romain Attanasio could only describe the preparation as complicated.

Sure, there was sorting out the sails. And fine-tuning the navigation systems and acquiring and storing three months worth of freeze-dried food and troubleshooting myriad technical issues, all while dealing with the pandemic.

But the real complication was the skipper in the next room, Samantha Davies, who is his life partner, the mother of their 9-year-old son Ruben, and for this race, a competitor. An accomplished British ocean sailor, Davies was also among the 33 sailors on the starting line.

They are the first couple to race in the Vendée Globe, which covers 24,000 nautical miles over nearly four months and is run every four years, starting and ending in the Vendée area of France.

In a phone interview from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, the rough edge of the North Atlantic where the race starts, Attanasio likened the two of them racing to any working couple seeking a balance with the division of labor at home.

“It’s like in traditional family fishing,” Attanasio said. “The husband goes fishing and the wife sells the fish. The work goes well because the two work together, like when Sam is sailing and I am with Ruben.’’ Said Davies, “For both of us, it’s our dream. We used to take turns, but as Ruben gets older, we are sharing a lot more of our experiences.”

This took a lot more calibration.

Davies and Attanasio arrived together in Les Sables-d’Olonne before the start after dropping Ruben off at school. Davies’ parents are now taking care of her son, as they have each time the pair leaves for a race.

This time, however, “there’s no one to help with the details,” Attanasio said. “Normally you can just grab your sea bag and head off to the race while the husband or wife takes care of everything, but one of us has to deal with the rental house.”

Splitting up their training over the past two years, each taking turns being with their son while the other is at sea, is distinct in the hyper-focused world of solo sailing. Once working on each other’s campaign in the past, they are now competitors but they are not competitive with each other, mostly because Davies is probably going to be a front-runner in her more modern sailboat.

Her boat reaches 30 knots. Attanasio has a slower, older-generation boat that is competitive with about half the fleet, though mishaps and sea conditions can make for unlikely gains.

Still, he knows his place. Full story.

 

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