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From Virtual Regatta to the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre the amazing transition of Basile Buisson

From Virtual Regatta to the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre the amazing transition of Basile Buisson

For the first time in ocean racing history a highly skilled Virtual Regatta player will make the move from competing behind a computer screen to actually competing on the open ocean on a double-handed race boat, racing one of the most renowned Transatlantic races, the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre. After a selection process which drew more than 10,000 applications, ten virtual game players were short listed and called to Le Havre for a final trial lasting a week. At the end of the comprehensive tests  it was a 33-year-old Merchant Navy officer from the Hautes Alpes, Basile Buisson who has been selected. Now he has just five months to train for the real thing, to be ready for the start of the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre on the coffee route from Le Havre across the Atlantic to Martinique.

Basile Buisson from virtual reality to real reality!

At the end of a tough, emotional week of trials organized by the Normandy Sailing League, Buisson is the one who made the grade. No sooner had he docked early Friday morning at the pontoons back in Le Havre after a night of testing aboard the Class40 Du Virtuel au Réel skippered by Kieran Le Borgne, Basile Buisson was told that he had been successful.

Never before has a “virtual race” player had the chance to take part in one of the major ocean races. That said Basile Buisson is passionate about the sea and the ocean. He grew up in Marseille and has been sailing since he was very young. Now based in Gap, he shares his time between the Hautes-Alpes and his job as an Officer of the Merchant Navy in Toulon where he serves on an intervention craft.

Buisson discovered Virtual Regatta a few years back and played over a Vendée Globe. "I was hooked right away," smiles Buisson who has been playing slightly less since the birth of his son.

"Basile has great human values and actually a very good level of seamanship," explains the Class40 skipper Le Borgne. He is someone who is not afraid to push himself, to accept challenges and who, I am sure, will be a very good co-skipper”.

An unprecedented process with skipper Kieran Le Borgne

Basile Buisson made the selection after a particularly intense selection. Originally more than 10,000 players applied for a contest which is unique in sailing and pretty much also on sport. The ptganisers only know of one similar process in the world of motorsport.

A jury and a public vote helped to select ten players of different ages, professions and origins. These ten players were invited to Le Havre, start city of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre, where there was a program of physical tests, tests of knowledge and numerous sails aboard the J/80 and Class40s of Kieran Le Borgne who has two transatlantic races to his credit.

The jury monitored the candidates throughout the week in order to judge their skills and their potential ability to race across the Atlantic in just five months time.

Cédric Chateau, sports director of the Le Havre training center, explains, “This was an unprecedented selection because for the first time we had to determine which Virtual Regatta player would be best able to participate in the Transat Jacques Vabre from such a varied panel of candidates. What struck us all was how they all supported each other and the solidarity they all showed all week. They also made their own substantial commitment. We had some very nice times together. It's a bit of a crazy project and it's only just begun since they now have five months – both of them - to prepare as best as possible.

The last three contestants took to the sea one last time with Kieran Le Borgne last Friday. The final objective was to see how each measured up over nearly 24 hours including how each took to the watches overnight in complete darkness. The skipper did his utmost to teach and inform as they went along. And then early in the morning, the Class40 returned to Le Havre and Le Borgne’s suggestion told to the jury.

Basile Buisson who will be the co-skipper. And herein a new race against the clock starts, a compact preparation to progress and to be ready to face the great thrill of a transatlantic start.


They said,
Basile Buisson, winner: “I am so excited at the idea of going through this adventure which is one of the key ocean races which has made me dream since I was a kid. It's a challenge that promises to be all encompassing and that does scare me a little. I spent such a completely magical week with the other ten triallists. I did not expect to be chosen at all because each of us had different things going for us. Now I am looking forward to starting the preparation and doing it all to the maximum to be at the the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.”

Kieran Le Borgne, skipper of the Class40 Du Virtuel au Réel: “We had a very intense week both from the human and sporting aspects. We had to project ourselves on board with the ten candidates and it was not easy. But it was exciting until the end. I am very happy because I found my co-skipper. We will now be able get right into our preparation and work hard to do something great during the race. I know it's a big challenge but it's very rewarding. I am really happy to have the chance to participate in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre with a sailor who is going from virtual to a full-on offshore racing event”.

Antoine Robin, co-director of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre: “We were party to a great human adventure throughout the selection process. The group of ten trialists who participated in this course proved to be united, enthusiastic and had a great mental approach. We were all touched by their reactions when we announced the final three finalists and then the winner. I know that this wider group will continue to support each other through this season and to be supporting Basile and Kieran. Basile will now focus on progressing and giving everything to continue his express learning of ocean racing. And there is no doubt that Virtual Regatta players will have stars in their eyes thinking that it is possible to participate "in real life" in a race as prestigious as the Transat Jacques Vabre.”

Benjamin Thomas, deputy director of the Normandy Sailing League: “We did not expect to experience such an intense human adventure and such a level of emotion from the first to the last day. They were all so united right til the moment when the big winner was announced. We had ten candidates who were all able to live this adventure from Virtual to Real. Basile had a great week in terms of supporting and his skills on the boat. His qualities as a sailor and sailor and his interpersonal skills won us over, Kieran and the jury alike.