There was the joy of endless surfing, the wild beauty of the Southern Ocean, the captivating flight of the albatrosses, the rounding of Cape Horn, but also the pride of finding the right route, perfect manoeuvres, the ability to withstand the physical and mental pressure, the pains and doubts. So much going through your mind. On the tracker, we see the route taken by the boat. A wavy line indicating strong winds, options, damage, repair work… Thanks to the photos and videos, pictures remain and time stands still. The first light of dawn indicates the atmposhere for the day to come. In the pitch black night, a glimmer appears to the east. A line, then the sun appears, revealing the clouds. The deep blue sea regains its colour. Turquoise, before the full sunshine turns it golden. A group of dolphins got close to dance around the bow, as if they were saying hi!
In your job as reporter, you filmed that magic moment. It’s hard to express your feelings and how magical that moment was, but there were some great pictures. A postcard from the Southern Ocean, a place that very few people will see for thmselves. Looking beyound the difficulties, this life at one with the sea was what you were looking for, a privilege you are well aware of and one that you wish would continue.
You look back at what it took to get here. It has been a long race and not everyone was able to complete it. Paris, the metro, a folder in your hands. Meetings and appointments. Time slips by. You’re not sure you’re going to make it. The best boats have already been sold or chartered. But the big problem is if you don’t find a partner, you won’t have the budget and there will be no race.
The obstinacy will pay off. You could see that they were interested in your project. It’s now or never. In front of everyone, you give it your all, the sea, the wind, the trade winds, the boat, surfing in the Forties. The sunshine enters the office. Once the contract is signed the company’s staff will unite around the project and you. But first, you have to answer their questions. “Are you in with a chance of winning?”
- It’s going to be very hard. But the key thing is sharing the adventure with others. We have three months of coverage. So much to say!
A few days later the head of communications calls you to say they are happy to join you. There is the satisfaction that you managed to convince them, but that is just the start. Now the work begins, even if the hardest part is over.
It was all down to your personality, your skills, your ability to convince others, your enthusiasm. There’s not just the financial aspect, as there also has to be that click when they agree to back you. The relationship between the skipper and his partners. The human aspect is at the heart of this sporting event. It’s all you in this event. There are no cameramen filming you. You have to do it yourself during the eighty days or so. Some skippers find it easy to charm others. They fascinate, amuse, conjuring up images or making us dream. There are those are enjoying themselves and it comes naturally and is spontaneous. Others are more methodical, giving details and explanations. Others are much quieter and keep things to themselves.
There are few sports, where people have to expose themselves to the elements for so long, but that is what brings the sailing fraternity together. It’s not because you’re a specialist in VMG, troughs or carbon fibre. These are real people we discover, admire and appreciate. This sport is not one of muscular men and their machines that interact for a few seconds or minutes. At sea, there is the endurance aspect and the importance of know-how too. You have to deal with how you sleep, eat, deal with accidents ort sicknesses. You have to be a mechanic, electrician, electronics and computer expert, meteorologist, router, sailmaker, rigger carbon specialist. But you also need to be a film director, script writer, actor and editor. This is not just a sporting event, but also a human adventure.
Some people wonder how the sailors manage to keep up this pace for so long. Are they on something? The answer is clear: impossible. Impossible to use any products to manage your sleep even for a short time. Stop the pills and the situation would be worse, leading to dozing off a nd a lack of attention, which would be extremely dangerous. It is also impossible to use products to build up your physical strength, as that would require regular tests. You would have to increase the doses to have the same effect and then the body would not cope.
No one believes this is possible and no one wants to mess around with that sort of stuff when you are alone out there. The sea is a hostile environment so you cannot cheat it. On top of that these sailors are all aware of how lucky they are to be in this completely natural world. You have to be yourself to be able to appreciate it and live in this universe.
Dr Jean-Yves CHAUVE