Where are they now? Isabelle Autissier, the sea is my constant

Isabelle Autissier
© DR

When she talks about the sea, her voice reflects the many different moods of the ocean, but often she tells amazing stories in a matter of fact way. She tells of the sea's fury and its calms, the howling of the wind in the rigging or the whisper of the water on the hull. « There is one priority which is non negotiable. I maybe stop doing other things in my life but I wll not stop sailing. »

For the last fifteen years or so, Autissier has still be pursuing her role as a professional sailor. But for two to three months every year, she switches off and heads off to the deep south or the north. « Being at sea is always a surprise, it's never the same thing twice ... Then I disappear. I head to places where I cannot be reached and that's fine by me. »

Messages for life

She makes the time to take her time. In a high speed, highly connected world where the human effects on the environment become ever more of an urgent issue, Autissier - the President of WWF-France - is an advocate for ideas and initiatives which are dear to her.

« We are getting sick at all levels, emotionally and intellectually because everything runs so fast and with such momentum we no longer take time to stop and think. We are all caught up in the emotion and the moment, therefore we no longer make good decisions. In the name of communication and speed, we also ransack the planet building railways, highways and flying planes everywhere. That does not even finally make us happy of more fulfilled. It just sets in train a very difficult tomorrow. »

Today's Isabelle Autissier lives and embodies her messages for life: safeguarding of the oceans, great assets which we squander and destroy with a certain abandonment. A concerned, caring woman, she observes the world that shaped her with the eyes of  the child that she was, but armed with the teachings that life has taught her. She has specialized in sustainable fishing  since 1979 and took time to learn before passing on her informed ideas.

Adventurer at heart

In all, Isabelle Autissier has sailed around the world’s oceans four times, including once in the Vendée Globe. That was in the terrifying 1996-1997 race, when out of the fifteen boats that set off, only six finished the race. It was the race which saw Gerry Roufs lost at sea. Isabelle Autissier spent a long time looking for him in hellish seas in the Pacific. Out of the official race after a pit stop in Cape Town to repair a damaged rudder, she made it back to Les Sables d’Olonne after 105 days with a lot of memories. « I knew I would only do that race once. The Vendée Globe is something that has to be earned. »

From sailing to exploring, Isabelle Autissier remains an adventurer at heart and the sea will always be an object of fascination for her. « It remains magnificently beautiful, is always changing, and is always intriguing. We don’t know a quarter of the living organisms in the sea. It’s still a huge intellectual pleasure, a game, an emotion and going out to sea always requires hard work and commitment. Sometimes it’s to be fast and sometimes to go very slowly. But setting off in a sailing boat is still something that excites me and fascinates me more than anything else. »

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