If your family's business happens to be renting out classic boats and racing yachts from a quay in St Malo, named after the famous corsair Duguay-Trouin, it is almost inevitable that you are going to start dreaming, from an early age, of a life where the sea plays a major rôle. The fact that your father, uncle and various cousins are already ardent ocean racers only adds to the appeal and that's the start of Servane's story!
Now, she has got that all important big break; the one that takes you from doing it all yourself to being able to really focus on sailing your race boat! Marian Martin talked to Servane on the eve of her first transat in a Brossard sponsored Bénéteau Figaro.

Servane has an impressive sailing record. Where it comes to Transats, her first was a double hander with her father, Bob, in the 2003 Jacques Vabre, where they finished 12th. In 2005, she finished 3rd, but it was the 2006 Route du Rhum and her second in Class 50 that really brought her to the attention of a major sponsor.

It all happened at the right time, Fred Duthil had left Brossard to persue other sailing ambitions; Servane had performed outstandingly in the Route du Rhum, against more advanced yachts, and Brossard was weighing up the fact that most of it's products were bought by women! The result was a Brossard Figaro for Servane.

I asked her first how she felt, on the eve of her first race - the Trophée BPE, from Belle-Ile-en-Mer to Marie-Galante - in this class.

"Very happy!" she replied and sounded it! "Happy and excited, because it's something new. A new sort of boat and the first time I will have to do my own weather routing, because the rules of this event don't allow outside routing assistance. I'm going to have to be very vigilant in Biscay, where there is a strong chance of storms and then I will have to decide whether it's better to go around the Azores high, to the north, or the south. I will have at least 20 days at sea and each one will bring something new, so it is very exciting."

Before she took up sailing as a career, Servane's father said she should get a qualification that would stand her in good stead, if things didn't work out, so she took a diploma at La Rochelle's Ecole Superiéure de Commerce. During her time there, she had work experience at Offshore Challenges, which gave her an insight into what lies behind a truly successful ocean racer.

"I learned a lot about the way things are planned and how everyone there is so very supportive of the person who is sailing." she told BYM News.

For the first time in her career, Servane now has professional support and doesn't have to rely on getting everything done herself, with the help of family and friends. One thing she does still find difficult, despite intensive training in Paris, is sleeping in frequent, but very short spells.

"For the first couple of days, I find it impossible," she told me "but it gets a bit easier from then on."
Asked whether she preferred solo and shorthanded sailing, or crewed events, Servane said: "I love double handed sailing, I love crewed sailing, I love being single handed, I just love sailing."

When she's alone on the ocean and not thinking about the weather, the boat, or the route, her thoughts stray to friends and family and the pleasure of seeing them again. She also dwells on the anticipation of real food; nothing special, just an ordinary meal "with a big pile of frites." Servane's main target for this year is the Figaro, in August, but her longer term aim is to do a round-the-world event. Either solo, in the 2008 Vendée Globe, or in a Volvo Ocean Race crew, would suit her just fine!

Entrants are accepted for the Vendée Globe on a first to qualify basis and, as yet, Servane doesn't have a boat and it isn't yet definite that Brossard will buy her one. It's unlikely that a new boat could be built in time for her to qualify for a place on the start line, but that doesn't bother Servane in the least.

I think it's better to do your first ever round the world event in a well proven boat." she says. "One that has already been round, so then you have confidence in the boat and you don't have to worry about it being right, so you can concentrate on getting to know it so that you can sail it to its best potential."

What about the more distant future? Multihulls appeal, but a long way ahead:

"I've always sailed monohulls and I want to continue to concentrate on them for now; to get really good." says Servane "Multis would be after that."

I asked Servane if she thought being a woman, in a mostly male world, was a disadvantage or a plus?

"Where it comes to sailing, I don't think it's either. The men have bigger muscles, but I think we women get around things by using our heads more. Of course, being a woman makes getting a sponsor very much easier."

Don't forget to check out our America's Cup stories.

Adds Image
Adds Image
Adds Image