The University of Nantes helps a French skipper remain focused during his amazing Vendée Globe sailing race around the world

03/29/2021 | Nantes

Armel Tripon, a successful and experienced French skipper, solicited the University of Nantes to help him prepare his first Vendée Globe: a solo, nonstop, and without assistance sailing race around the world in an 18 meters long IMOCA boat. The race, which lasts around 80 days, both begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne, France. The Vendée Globe is known to be extremely tough and is even called the ‘Everest of the seas’ by the public!

In such around the world races, skippers often experience visual or auditory hallucinations on the high seas, due to difficult sailing conditions and important sleep deprivation. These daydreams are very powerful and can impact the performance of skippers during competition. They can also become dangerous: “I thought my sister was here, I hugged her and when I woke up, I realized that I was hugging a sail. […] From the beginning of this world race, I don’t sleep a lot, maximum four hours a day.”, told Jean Le Cam (1), a French skipper (fifth participations at the Vendée Globe).

The LuciEole project was dedicated to prevent those hallucinations and assist the skippers in their extraordinary sports performance around the globe. A team of researchers specialized in sports psychology and physiology from the laboratory “Movement, Interactions, Performance” of the University of Nantes, joined forces with Capacités SAS, the University engineering subsidiary, and Armel Tripon.

This project led to the development of a mobile application, which evaluates the skipper’s fatigue and lucidity, and alerts him/her in real time during competition if a critical threshold is crossed. It relies on a short self-evaluation questionnaire, that the skipper has to complete every 6-10 hours. The application was tested by Armel Tripon during his qualification races and accompanied him during his Vendée Globe 2020, in which he finished 11th after 84 days, 17 hours, 07 minutes and 50 seconds, and an extraordinary comeback from 32nd (due to mechanical problems) to 11th in the 33-boat fleet!

The LuciEole project will continue to develop through the fruitful collaboration between the University of Nantes and Armel Tripon, especially for the next Vendée Globe in 2024. In the future, LuciEole should enlighten more skippers on their state of fatigue.

(1) - Interview from Le Monde's article 'Vendée Globe: halluciantions en haute mer.':