Thursday 6 July 2017
Maison des Océans
The data collected during the OceanoScientific Expedition were
presented to scientists on Monday, 3 July at the Maison des Océans
After completing his single-handed round-the-world trip at the Yacht Club de Monaco on 2 June, and 152 days of sailing from Monaco to Monaco, on Monday, 3 July, in the library of the Maison des Océans - the Paris branch of the Institut océanographique, Fondation Albert Ier, Prince de Monaco- Yvan Griboval handed over to scientists the oceanographic data and seawater samples collected during the sixty days of the first campaign ever conducted by sail at the Air-Sea interface in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current under the three Capes of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia), and the Horn (Chile). The scientific expedition was carried out on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", a 16-meter (52.5 feet) monohull high-performance sailboat, without producing any CO2 emissions or waste, flying the flag of the Yacht Club de Monaco.
From left to right: Geneviève Chabot et Fabrice Messal (Mercator Océan), Laurence Eymard (OSU Ecce Terra - CNRS), Olivier Piquet (Lise Charmel), Patrick Farcy (Ifremer), Yvan Griboval (OceanoScientific), Robert Calcagno (Institut océanographique), Gilles Reverdin (LOCEAN - CNRS), Thierry Reynaud (Ifremer), Cécile d’Estais (OceanoScientific), under the photo representing Albert 1er, Prince de Monaco. Photo Mathieu Kandaroun - Institut océanographique
Robert Calcagno, Director of the Institut océanographique, Fondation Albert Ier, Prince de Monaco, chaired the ceremony celebrating the handover of the results of the OceanoScientific Expedition. "As Director General of the Institut océanographique, I was honoured to have been able to follow and support the mission of the OceanoScientific Explorer carried out single-handed by Yvan Griboval. This project and the values it conveys are completely in line with the humanistic and scientific ideals of Prince Albert I of Monaco when he founded the Institut océanographique at the beginning of the 20th century, and which we are still pursuing today: to increase and extend the influence of scientific knowledge for the benefit of society at large.
This ceremony, in which the samples taken by Yvan Griboval in the Southern Ocean have been handed over at the Maison des Océans, under the portrait of Albert I, has made this moment particularly symbolic. I am convinced that Yvan's work will count for future generations, because improving our knowledge of the oceans by involving the younger generations will leave an indelible trace!
The Institut océanographique has chosen to support the OceanoScientific Programme in accordance with the will of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to federate and bring together initiatives that make the oceans better known, loved and protected: in the footsteps of the Prince, the Institut océanographique acts as a mediator to extend the influence of projects that are meaningful for humankind and knowledge about the oceans. Incontestably, the OceanoScientific Programme is one of those initiatives".
Mathieu Belbéoch, Lead JCOMMOPS (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, World Meteorological Organization / IOC-UNESCO - WMO), emphasized the importance of private initiatives in collecting data in regions of the seas that have seldom been explored if at all, and in deploying scientific floats (Argo), as Yvan Griboval successfully did by sail as far as 50° South in the Indian Ocean.
"The implementation of a sustainable and balanced observation system in the Southern Ocean is a real challenge for the scientific community. Research campaigns and opportunities to deploy stand-alone instruments or to collect data from volunteer vessels are rare in the Southern Hemisphere.
The commitment of the OceanoScientific Programme will allow us to fill in a number of gaps in areas of the utmost importance for climate research. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) is delighted to coordinate these operations, in particular through JCOMMOPS, its operational centre based in Brest.
This ambitious form of cooperation between oceanographers and skippers is another step towards optimizing and modernizing the components of the Global Ocean Observing System. A big thank you to Yvan Griboval who braved the Roaring Forties in the name of science!"
Before submitting the data and samples to the representatives of Ifremer and the CNRS, Yvan Griboval insisted on the fact that "This oceanographic campaign is dedicated to the memory of Fabienne Gaillard (Ifremer), who died on March 25 after a long illness the day before I rounded Cape Horn. Fabienne Gaillard had been the precious scientific guide of the OceanoScientific Programme since its inception in the autumn of 2006 and shall always be with us on our other expeditions".
Representing the Managing Director and Scientific Director of the Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer (Ifremer) of which he is Deputy Director, Patrick Farcy recalled: "The Southern Ocean in which the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" sailed absorbs a large amount of man-made carbon in the form of CO2. It is important to know if the pump is working well or if it has breakdowns as it had in the 1990s.
In order to determine the state of health of the Southern Ocean, satellites are used which give surface information on temperature, salinity and CO2. Nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary to regularly combine satellite data with field (in situ) data in order to calibrate the instruments and validate the measurements made by them. In-situ measurements by vessels equipped with precise and reliable measurement systems, such as those on-board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", is therefore indispensable and must be carried out on a regular basis in order to provide a database for understanding and monitoring the characteristics of an ocean which is subject to climate change".
Thierry Reynaud, Ifremer Research engineer at the Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS), will now use the data collected by Yvan Griboval and the samples taken during the sixty days of navigation. He stated: "This campaign allows us to obtain accurate measurements of the surface temperature and salinity in regions of the seas that are less frequented. The data transmitted hourly around Antarctica before any processing were already promising. These measurements will be useful to our community, particularly to our colleagues working on satellite measurements".
The presence of Laurence Eymard at the Maison des Océans linked up with the origins of the OceanoScientific Programme. Indeed, Laurence Eymard hosted the founding meeting of the initiative, on 14 November 2006 in the meeting room of the Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentations et Approches Numériques (LOCEAN) that she then directed. The joint research unit, in partnership with the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) guided the development of OceanoScientific Programme in close conjunction with Ifremer and also coordinates the scientific side of the expeditions.
Today, as Director of Research at the CNRS, and director of the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers (OSU) Ecce Terra, a CNRS / INSU-UPMC unit in charge of the national observatories of the terrestrial environment and space, Laurence Eymard explains: "Observing the natural environment (ocean and atmosphere) is imperative to understand its functioning and to foresee its evolution, both in the short term (weather, oceanography) and in the long term (climate).
This area of the southern ocean is poorly covered by in situ measurements, with only a few drifting floats for the ocean, and satellites for the atmosphere. The very low atmosphere is also a difficult – and even impossible – area to reach by satellite. But exchanges between the Ocean and the Atmosphere and the combined operation of the two environments govern the seasonal and inter-annual variations, and hence the climate of this southern region of the Southern Hemisphere.
In addition, there are many questions about climate change in these areas of the ocean, which also provide shelter for unusual fauna. Measurement campaigns have been organized in recent years, but have neither the repeatability nor the spatial coverage required to monitor the key variables of the Air-Sea interface. An observatory approach, with regularly renewed visits, would complement the work carried out in the campaigns while providing the necessary data for monitoring the Air-Sea interface around the Antarctic continent".
Gilles Reverdin, CNRS Research Director at LOCEAN / Sorbonne Universités and Scientific Director of Coriolis, will analyse some of the samples collected by the navigator - explorer. He said: "The Southern Ocean, as well as the Arctic Ocean, are among the regions we expect to have the strongest response to climate change in terms of physical properties (temperature and salinity T/S), ocean circulation (circumpolar current, ocean ventilation), as well as the ability to capture carbon dioxide or produce plank tonic biomass.
It is also a region with very high oceanic variability, both at the timescales of ocean vortices and at large scales. Its sampling therefore requires regular and repeated monitoring. Expeditions such as the OceanoScientific Expedition thus provide a foundation on which to base that monitoring and improve our understanding of these issues. Their primary interest lies in the simultaneous measurement of several ocean surface parameters, under well-understood weather conditions".
More generally, Nicolas Metzl, CNRS Research Director at LOCEAN / Sorbonne Universités, insisted on the "mare incognito" aspect of the Southern Ocean Climate and its role as a sentinel: "The ocean, by its capacity to absorb approximately 25 to 30% of man-made CO2 emissions and more than 90% of the excess heat, plays a crucial role in regulating climate disturbance. Without that ocean carbon sink, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would be much higher than today, leading to a more pronounced climate change.
The Southern Ocean, south of the Roaring Forties where Yvan Griboval sailed, is known to absorb much of man-made CO2. This is due to both physical and hydrodynamic mechanisms (more soluble cold water, formations from the surface of circumpolar deep and bottom waters) and biological mechanisms (phytoplankton production, sedimentary export). We refer in these cases to physical and biological carbon "pumps".
On the basis of observations made since the 1990s, it is estimated that the Southern Ocean alone accounts for 40% of the global oceanic carbon pump, accompanied by inter-annual to decadal variability that we have only just begun to identify and explain (the change in wind conditions for example). In particular, it has recently been demonstrated that since the start of the millennium, the carbon sink has intensified in the Southern Ocean.
Furthermore, in the future, by the end of the 21st century and despite the uncertainties simulation of numerical simulations, climate models suggest that the Southern Ocean is the only one capable, in the long term of maintaining an effective carbon pump to reduce the accumulation of CO2 in the air.
If this is confirmed by the observations -which must be continued and increased!- this is good news for the Climate. But there is another CO2 problem. The accumulation of man-made CO2 in the ocean leads to so-called “ocean acidification”, which is noticeably faster in cold waters, with consequences still unclear on marine ecosystems and the food chain, all of which perhaps more vulnerable in Antarctic waters.
For these reasons and in order to monitor from year to year the oceanic carbon pump and the associated acidification, it is urgent to regularly observe, if possible every season, summer and winter, the physicochemical properties CO2, pH) and biological properties of the Southern Ocean to better understand climate change and its consequences on vulnerable marine ecosystems.
New in-situ observations, which are still rare in this ocean remote from sources of local pollution and which can be described as a "Climate Sentinel", will also make it possible, once synthesized -for example through the international database SOCAT- to better qualify climate models and thereby reduce uncertainties about future projections. An increase in the number of OceanoScientific expeditions in summer (December-February), but also in winter (June-August) would be a valuable factor in increasing our knowledge in this respect..."
Pierre-Yves Le Traon, Scientific Director of Mercator Océan (Centre for analysis and forecasting of the global ocean) recalled that "Despite the advances of the last decades, the ocean and, in particular, the South Seas remain insufficiently observed. New regular and repeated observations as proposed by the OceanoScientific Programme are and will be of great use to validate the analysis and ocean forecasting models produced and disseminated to thousands of users worldwide by Mercator Océan and the EU Copernicus Marine Service and thus provide a better response to the major challenges involved in the sustainable management of the oceans".
Finally, Olivier Piquet, Managing Director of the Lise Charmel company, one of the main sponsors who allowed this unique expedition to take place, recalled: "It is important for the private sector to effectively support initiatives such as the OceanoScientific association to accelerate research on climate change. In these times of stagnation or a decline in the resources of state institutes, we need to help scientists increase their knowledge about climate change so that our governments can make the strategic decisions that will ensure the future of our children. The tax incentives for individuals and businesses to do so are a real asset that must be properly exploited for such a just cause".
Finally, Cécile d'Estais, General Delegate of the OceanoScientific philanthropic association, said: "Over and above the scientific issues, this unprecedented expedition has provided an opportunity to raise the awareness of the public and especially that of children aged 7-10 years old about the need to preserve the Ocean thanks to the publication of weekly newsletters written by Yvan Griboval on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo".
That constant exchange with children, to explain life in the Far South and raise their awareness about the effects of climate change on the Ocean, is a priority for the OceanoScientific association. Let us hope that this expedition will in turn inspire such a particularly attentive young audience to become defenders of the ocean!"
The expedition, organized by the OceanoScientific philanthropic association and registered charity, has been supported and supervised by Ifremer, Météo-France, and the CNRS. It is sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) with the support of JCOMMOPS and Mercator Océan. It is supported by the Yacht Club de Monaco, whose flag is flown by Yvan Griboval and Boogaloo, by the Institut océanographique, Fondation Albert Ier, Prince de Monaco; by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, and by the Centre Scientifique de Monaco.
Friday 2 June 2017
Yacht Club de Monaco
Yvan Griboval terminates at Monaco
his around the world OceanoScientific Expedition
On Friday, 2 June, at 10h00, HSH Prince Sovereign Albert II of Monaco held out the mooring ropes to navigator Yvan Griboval who arrived at the pontoon of honour of the Yacht Club of Monaco on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" (a 16-meter / 52.5-foot high-performance mono-hull sailboat), at the end of 152 days of a single-handed round-the-world tour, over a total distance of 35,230 nautical miles (65,246 km). Having set off from this very quayside, the navigator-explorer was determined to return to the point of departure. This circumnavigation which fits in perfectly with the tradition of historical expeditions departing from the Monaco Yacht Club, whose flag he flies.
HSH Prince Sovereign Albert II of Monaco surrounded by, from left to right: Pierre Casiraghi, Vice-Président of the Yacht Club de Monaco; Bernard d'Alessandri, Secrétaire Général of the Yacht Club de Monaco; Yvan Griboval, his kids, Léa, Quentin, Malo and his wife Cécile d'Estais-Griboval. Photo Eric Mathon - Palais Princier.
Yvan Griboval arrived in the Principality after having successfully completed the first ever oceanographic data collection campaign by sail at the air-sea interface in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current rounding the three major capes: that of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and the Horn (Chile), leaving no CO2 or waste, during sixty days of single-handed sailing in the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties.
A hundred or so local schoolchildren who had been following the whole expedition were there to welcome the navigator - explorer who was very moved emotionally to the reunited with his family. The notably present at the quayside were Pierre Casiraghi, Vice-President of the Yacht Club de Monaco, his Excellency, Mr. Bernard Fautrier, Vice-President and Administrateur délégué of the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, Robert Calcagno, Director of l’Institut océanographique, and navigator Catherine Chabaud, Déléguée à la mer et au littoral, representing the Ministre d’Etat, Mr. Nicolas Hulot.
The data and samples collected under the 40th Southern Parallel at the air-sea interface in regions of the seas seldom explored if at all will now be analysed by scientists (Ifremer, CNRS, Météo-France, etc.), and will therefore only produce tangible results in several months. They will also be the subject of an international scientific publication.
His Highness Prince Albert made the following declaration: “The long navigation of Yvan Griboval with its important scientific objectives, is an example of what can be obtained with tenacious willpower, when it is employed to a common cause. We will lead all the energy and goodwill available to save the oceans, that of men of action and passion like Yvan, whose initiatives and liberty are precious inspiration for us all, that of the scientists, of which you, like myself, are aware of the importance, and that of the world leaders who I will endeavour untiringly to convince when I meet up with them again next week at the UN to discuss the durable Development Objective no 14 dedicated to the oceans.”
“What an immense joy today for the Institut Océanographique, which has been supporting this project for a long time, to see Yvan coming back to Monaco in good health, completing his mission. He is a valuable person, whose commitment for the oceans is strong. Beyond the human challenge, it’s a scientific adventure and I look forward to get all the results, which will be officially handed to the scientific organizations on July 3rd at the Maison des Océans, in Paris. Yvan plays an outstanding mediator role, he knows perfectly how to find the right words to deliver a collective message, to raise public awareness, particularly to young people. The arrival, today, of the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" echoes – in a slightly different way but with the same degree of fervour to learn and inform - to the Yersin’s departure on July 27th, as part of the Monaco Explorations, led by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. All these initiatives strengthen Monaco’s implication in the oceans-related questions and issues, on the eve of The Ocean Conference at the United Nations next week.” said Robert Calcagno, Director of the Institut océanographique.
As for Yvan Griboval, there is no question of taking a break to facilitate his return among landlubbers. Starting next week, he will be attending a series of previously-scheduled meetings to prepare and put into operation the next OceanoScientific Expedition, backed by the extraordinary experience acquired over the last few months in the Far South.
Yvan Griboval will also embark on a long crusade to obtain the permanent protection of the Far South, outside territorial waters, notably by devoting all his energy and commitment to that purpose alongside that of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, as he confirmed during his arrival speech at the Yacht Club of Monaco: "I have returned to shore with the firm intention of fighting until my dying day to ensure the region of the sea between the 40th and 60th Southern Parallels be sanctuarised forever. I place myself at Your service for that purpose, Your Highness, for You are the only Head of State in a position to successfully carry out this task of immense importance for our children. We need to help You. We must raise an army of millions of people with goodwill throughout the world to convey Your convictions and efforts to protect our Ocean. The objective is to obtain ratification by the world's major powers of what I call the "Monaco Protocol" which will make that protection irreversible for the benefit of generations to come."
This expedition, organized by the OceanoScientific philanthropic association and registered charity, is supported and supervised by Ifremer, Météo-France, and the CNRS. It is sponsored by the Commission Océanographique Intergouvernementale de l’UNESCO (COI-UNESCO) with the support of the JCOMMOPS and Mercator Océan. It is supported by the Yacht Club de Monaco, whose flag is flown by Yvan Griboval and Boogaloo, by the Institut Océanographique, Fondation Albert 1er, Prince de Monaco, by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco and by the Centre Scientifique de Monaco.
A hundred or so local schoolchildren who had been following the whole expedition were there to welcome the navigator-explorer Yvan Griboval - Photo Eric Mathon - Palais Princier.
Friday 26 May 2017
37°33' North - 00°57' West
In a week * the three letters of the word END will be lost in a last, lingering gaze towards the horizon left behind. On Friday, 2 June at around 10:00, with the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" I shall come alongside the pontoon of honor of the Yacht Club de Monaco with a level of emotion I shall try to contain. The indescribable happiness of seeing again those whom I love, and all those who have done so much with such kindness to make this 2016-2017 OceanoScientific Expedition a success, will be mingled with the immense sadness of leaving the ocean, of disembarking, of abandoning my companion of adventure. Broken-hearted. The contradictory feelings have such emotional power, I do not know how I shall react. I'm more apprehensive about my arrival than when I dreaded my departure, last 17 November. I felt the stress of someone who has to fulfil his commitments: to successfully complete a round the world tour single-handed on the one hand, and carry out an innovative oceanographic mission on the other. But I had a future. I'm returning to port with the pride of a worker who has done his job, who has achieved his goals without fail. Now I have a past. Between 17 November and 2 June I experienced the intensity of someone living at one with the Ocean. I'm definitely not the same anymore. Living in harmony face to face with the Ocean for 152 days is no mean achievement, or has its consequences. Having become a citizen of the Far South, how am I going to handle being back on land, after the champagne and excitement of being reunited? Am I still "earth-friendly"? Who or what have I become?
A strong wind, three reefs in the mainsail, the tiny "storm jib" out and a cloudless day: we had another depression of the Far South ahead of us. I still have a few pictures like this and memories galore. Memories of wonderful sailing in perfect harmony with what is perhaps the last authentic space of freedom of our planet. A sea zone to be turned into a sanctuary as quickly as possible! Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
I am writing this text in Cartagena, Spain, where we are making a port call until Saturday, 27 May, due to good progress in the timetable for the end of our expedition, while waiting to reach Monaco at on the scheduled time and date, covering the 570 nautical (1,000 km) on the direct route we still have to cover. Crossing the Equator, passing the Doldrums and sailing back up the North Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) all took less time than we imagined. We covered 5,810 nautical miles (11,000 km) in just 28 days, at an average of 207.5 nautical miles (385 km) per day at 8.65 knots. Not bad for a small sixteen-meter sailboat, is it?
Today*, Boogaloo has clocked up 34,406 nautical miles (64,000 km) on the meter since leaving Monaco. Which for me means 55,482 nautical miles (103,000 km) since I put my oilskins back on to take the helm of Boogaloo in the autumn of 2013, after more than thirty years of abstinence from ocean sailing. Even sailing of any kind. God, that was long! Why? I still wonder...
At this point, my most prevalent feeling is Pride. While retaining the humility of seafarers and the modesty of those who always reach for the horizon, and the sky beyond. The route to the Future lying ahead is still long, wide and unforeseen...
First, the personal pride of having made the dream come true of the teenager that I was in 1972, at fifteen, when I read and read again "The Long Way" by Bernard Moitessier, when I too made a commitment to sail around the world single-handed, and round Cape Horn alone. Forty-five years later, I made my dream come true. How obstinate a Norman with Viking blood can be! During the journey, perhaps I became a little adolescent again, in the secrecy of single-handed sailing, but which was never marked by loneliness. I communed with what is most profound in a human being, what can be felt only with the heart, what you seek after your willpower has been exhausted. Was it my soul? No, for I also had my boat, the ocean, the birds of the Far South. So I was never alone.
Secondly, the professional pride in completing this innovative oceanographic expedition inspired by Albert 1, Prince of Monaco after I read "The Career of a Navigator" a dozen years ago; imagining that a sailor of the 21st century could probably be as useful to the international scientific community as was a seaman of the 19th, with the same objective: to search, to see, and say. The three foundation-stones of the Future. They always have been and always will be so, transmitted from one generation to the next by the power of passion.
In the sixty days I spent sailing the 40th Southern Parallel, I successfully completed the first-ever survey of oceanographic data at the Air-Sea interface in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, rounding the three major capes, those of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia), and the Horn (Chile), without creating any CO2 emissions or waste.
Next, the pride of a seafarer in completing this round the world tour without any damage, "without having to take out the tool box", as Michel Desjoyeaux says in such cases. The random breakdowns of the automatic pilots which occurred had nothing to do with the sailor, whether in terms of preparation or use. Zero damage, at least between Monaco and Cartagena, including rounding the Horn. But the risk of damage, whether minor or major, still faces the bow of Boogaloo during the 600 to 800 nautical miles that I will be actually sailing in the next few days, depending on how the wind blows towards the end of our journey. At sea the risks are not related to the distance travelled, but with that that remains to be travelled. That pride will only be fully expressed - at least I hope - in Monaco, once we have landed. It is important to maintain the humility that befits sailors who respect the laws of the sea to finish our ocean-going journey.
Then there is the pride of the former professional competitor that I was until the late 80's. On many occasions I have helmed Boogaloo as if I really was in a race, pursued by a pack of aggressive competitors or chasing a leader who had broken away from them. It was the case all along the way. Whether for fun near the Canaries; in trying not to lose the good weather conditions as we approached South Africa; to avoid being swallowed by the dead calms of an anticyclone in the Indian Ocean; in the strong wind to escape a depression that was too deep and threatening in the Pacific; just for fun when the autopilots had broken down; or to play with the Azores High in less than ten knots of a wind with which I couldn't afford to lose contact under any pretext, even if it meant sleeping like a competitor in the Solitaire du Figaro the single-handed event, but for a non-stop leg lasting ten days and nights...
There was only one problem in all of this. Only one. The way I puffed and panted in trying to hoist the sails and the reefs of the mainsail, bent over the winch column trying to catch my breath, feeling my heartbeat race and wondering how far it would go or last. Under these conditions, I kept motivating myself by saying: "Stop complaining, keep turning the crank and think of the competitors of the Vendée Globe and how much bigger and heavier their mainsails are than yours!"
Then, forty-eight hours ago, I contacted two of our loyal Official Suppliers and partners for the expedition: our sail-maker North Sails France and our equipment manufacturer Harken France. In fact, the mainsail of 115 square meters of Boogaloo, made with materials (SRP 95) are less sophisticated than the high-tech mainsails (3DI Endurance) of the last Vendée Globe, which weigh 130 kilos with their polyester slats. Compare that with the 80 kg of the mainsails of 155 square meters equipped with carbon slats of the IMOCA 60 prototypes. As for the winches (capstans) which are used to hoist the mainsail up the mast, those of the prototypes for the long looped bowline have a down-drive system which means the seafarer benefits from the better gearing. In short, I have lost any complex I may have had in that respect. So I will continue to puff and pant until Monaco!
Finally, the pride also of being a reporter on the open sea. In all, I shall have written a little more than fifty lengthy newsletters, half of which have been sent to my young supporters in the primary schools of Monaco (Ecole de la Condamine), Cabourg (Ecole Saint-Louis) and Ouistreham (Ecole Jean Charcot). I have tried to convey the emotion, to express my admiration for the immense sea zone, which I dearly wish would be turned into a sanctuary as soon as possible. I have tried to make their elders believe, but above all to help schoolchildren of seven to ten years of age understand that the ocean is a living heritage we need to preserve. And understand that the effort to preserve the Ocean can only begin on land. I have also tried to make the children dream, so that they learn to want and are prepared to fight to reach for the horizon, for the sky, with their will and abnegation alone. The only wealth we have as human beings lies in ourselves and in our dreams. We have to cultivate that wealth and those dreams until they come true. So, with the precious assistance of their teachers, if I have succeeded in transmitting my passion for going beyond one's limits to at least one of those attentive children, I shall have accomplished a little better my God-given task as an elder.
Now, all I have to do is to learn to live among landlubbers again. It's not as simple as it sounds! To mitigate the effort, there is no miracle: all I need to do is prepare for the next OceanoScientific expedition in the Far South, with a new boat, as soon as possible. This is my life, and it still contains so many questions...
* I finished writing this text on Wednesday May 24, it was translated into English and prepared on Thursday, before being published on the association's website () and transmitted to subscribers on Friday morning, 26 May.
It is always a pleasure to stop in Cartagena in Spain, about 250 nautical miles from the Straits of Gibraltar. The port facilities are complete and easy to use, even when sailing single-handed. The reception provided by Real Club de Regattas de Cartagena (RCRC) is as friendly as if I was a member of the family. I'm here with José Zapata, the manager. Photo Olga Sevilla - OceanoScientific
Friday 19 May 2017
36°38' North - 04°15' West
The Great Albatross told me....
I have arrived* with the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" at the gateway to the Mediterranean. We crossed our initial wake on Wednesday May 17 and in so doing we've come full circle: we've been around the world. Given the above, I have been reluctant to report the following conversation. Because it's private. Because it's pure emotion. And it will affect the rest of my life until my dying breath. But my correspondent kept his word. It's up to me to do the same. For we sailed back up the Atlantic under such exceptional conditions belying the best weather forecasts, with winds so lenient and favourable they even surprised Christian Dumard, our excellent router. So here is my message, given out of respect for the one who has obtained from the gods of the seas and the winds a dream of a course bringing me back to Monaco. Because the message I bear is addressed to a Head of State. The sooner I have handed it over, the better it will be for the People of the Far South, for whom I have been named Ambassador for life. Here is the strange conversation on which it is based, held shortly before we rounded Cape Horn, retranscribed as best my memory will allow.
This is the Great Albatross with whom I spoke, Lord of the Skies, the supreme representative of the People of the Far South. It is also the finest picture from my expedition, a photo neither retouched nor cropped, the result of countless hours of observation attempting to understand the flight of his Lordship before immortalizing him at the precise moment when his incredible balancing act seems to defy the law of gravity... and he is looking right at me.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
HE was the Great Albatross, Lord of the Skies, Supreme Representative of the People of the Far South, including all living beings of the sea and the air in the region between the fortieth and the sixtieth Southern Parallel outside any country's territorial waters. Where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current streams on forever. Where we successfully completed the OceanoScientific Expedition: the first-ever survey by sail of oceanographic data collected at the Air-Sea interface rounding the three major capes, that of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and the Horn (Chile), leaving no CO2 or waste, during sixty days of single-handed sailing in the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties. Henceforth my home country.
ME is the kid who spent his best years on the foreshore at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux (Normandy), before becoming a sailor-racer, sailor-journalist, sailor-entrepreneur, then sailor-explorer; rather rebellious and ill at ease on land, but in such harmony with the Ocean on a sailboat; always best when off the beaten path, the only one that's worth anything in my eyes; endowed with a strong will to do the impossible, always with humility and abnegation, for, whatever we do, whether we succeed or fail, our only wealth is ourselves and our dreams. "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught, to say the things he truly feels", sang Frank Sinatra (My Way).
HE: "Why are you crying?"
HE: "Why are you crying, white man on the grey sailboat?"
ME: "Because in a day or two I'll be rounding Cape Horn ..."
HE: "Dumbo, on the contrary you should be happy. You've sailed smoothly through the Far South - I've been watching you carefully - and rounding the celebrated cape is the culmination of your voyage. Surely you must be relieved... "
ME: "Well no, that's just the problem, I'm not relieved, I'm not relieved at all!"
HE: "... .."
ME: "I have just realized that once I've rounded Cape Horn I will have to leave the Far South. And I don't know if I'll ever come back.
I don't want to leave. I don't want to leave at all!
And if I come back, in what state would I find it?
I suffer too much when I return to Saint-Valery-en-Caux and I know the sea has been emptied of the fish it had in my childhood, when I find the foreshore has lost most of the life that fascinated the kid on the shingle that I then was. The environment has suffered so much that I feel like a stranger in a strange land, a tourist, when my soul has its roots there. I don't want that to happen here, which is why I'm crying.
And our children? Have you thought about our children? What will we leave them of the Far South that has still been largely untouched, even if the consequences of climate change can already be felt?
You're bothering me. Go and fly somewhere else, leave me with my sorrows. Leave me alone!"
HE: "Hey, what's with the anger? Calm down, okay? If you used your common sense for a moment, you'd be rejoicing instead of whining like a wimp."
HE: "I saw you fighting in the raging sea and the roaring wind, but you were at ease, in osmosis with your grey sailboat, never giving up, neither weak nor overconfident. And now you're leaving her beaten?
I'm going to show you a way other than resignation, I'm going to give you an important role that will bind you forever to the Far South, I'm going to entrust you with a decisive task for the future of my people."
HE: "First, I hereby name you Ambassador for life of the Far South in the name of my people, the living beings of the sea and the air. The Far South is now your home country; you will represent it until the end of your days. Be proud of it, do it honour."
ME: "Okay, thank you, and...?"
HE: "Now, as our official representative, I hereby entrust you with a task that has a beginning and will never end. Remember it always.
The beginning is you must carry a message to the only person on this planet in whom my people have confidence.
What will never end is that I hereby entrust you with raising an immense army of goodwill worldwide, dedicated to serving the work of that man with respect for his destiny and his deep convictions."
ME: "Why not... Who is he?"
HE: "What a sap you are! Think for a second. You don't want me to draw you a sheep, as well do you?"
ME: "It could be His Serene Highness the Prince Sovereign Albert II of Monaco. That makes sense to me."
HE: "Of course it's him, the Prince of the Oceans. Like Albert 1, his ancestor was the Prince Navigator, the Prince Savant. "
ME: "Okay, but raising an immense army of goodwill on such a small territory doesn't make sense."
HE: "Is it the air of the open sea that's chilling your neurons? Rather than say anything, look at Pope Francis. With the Vatican, does he not have a smaller territory than the Principality of Monaco? And he doesn't even have a seafront open to the wide world. But He is the supreme guide of the greatest army of goodwill in your world of earthlings. The Christian faith has brought them together. The Pope is strengthened by the trust we all have in him to defend some basic values.
Why should the Prince of the Oceans not have the same supreme power? We must help him, by placing ourselves at his disposal with humility so that he can intensify his efforts so that my people not only survive but peacefully develop for centuries to come.
That is what you must say to him, that is what you have to work for with all your heart, with as much willpower as you used to sail single-handed to my home, in the Far South."
ME: "I understand, but the Prince of Monaco already has his own foundation, which has already been working well for many years. He has carried out and is carrying out decisive actions for the protection of the ocean and biodiversity. He takes part in many international conferences where his voice is heard. He also supports many actions undertaken by various associations and foundations whose work all helps to safeguard the Ocean. What more can we ask of him? It's not that easy..."
HE: "I know it isn't easy, and I know his true value, since the Prince of the Oceans is precisely the person in whom we have the greatest confidence. But at the current rate, those who look at the Far South whether to rape and pillage its flora, its fauna, or the seabed, have an open road in front of them, what am I saying, an open highway!
The power of money, that of the oil and fishing industry lobbies, especially when we are going to have to feed and nurture not just seven or eight billion earthlings but ten or more, will sweep away all your highly respectable but slow-moving work in one fell swoop. Profit will prevail, as always, over respect for Nature, despite the honesty and goodwill of its ardent defenders.
Has that not been so ever since the fifteenth century? Ever since you earthlings started plundering the resources of the planet, using sailing ships to conquer new lands only to ransom them, new peoples only to enslave them, often on the pretext of "evangelization". In fact, your only purpose was to trade their natural wealth for your profit, without any regard for the origins of that wealth.
So if the Prince of the Oceans does not succeed in achieving what my people in the Far South calls for and what I call the Monaco Protocol, we shall not survive and all your past efforts will be swept away as a cold front scatters the foam of breakers."
ME: "I acknowledge that it is legitimate for the Prince Sovereign Albert II to be at the head of this immense army of goodwill, as you say, if indeed he wants to be. But why him rather than someone else? Leonardo Di Caprio, for example? "
HE: "For three good reasons, for heaven's sake!
First he is a Head of State. He is respected and his status as Head of State will not be called into question in five years when some election or other redistributes the cards, or rather interferes with the game and ends up leading people to their loss in the name of democracy - a word that fills people's mouths until they choke on it.
As Head of State, he has access to other Heads of State. He speaks to the head of China who is making enormous efforts to reduce his country's pollution output, for example. He can also tap the shoulder of the man who shouts and points at people and wears red ties waving his straw-coloured hair that's never out of place, the man who does not laugh and now dominates the World with his incomprehensible tweets. He can talk to him in person about the necessary sanctuarization of that region of the seas where absolute freedom must not result in the possibility to do anything and everything, but in doing nothing at all, to respect its authenticity and safeguard it forever. His power of conviction is strong enough to decide the President of the United States to ratify the Monaco Protocol. Trust me.
Then, unlike other Heads of State, the Prince of the Oceans is fortunate in not having to undergo any pressure from his counterparts. He is not embroiled in a form of diplomacy where every act must be compensated for, where everything is negotiated, where nothing is free. Furthermore, in his country he does not have an oil industry, atomic power plants or obsolete factories which require compromises that mortgage the future to maintain the precariousness of a present condemned to doom. It is an invaluable force. It is one of his major assets.
Finally, he is in a position of strength in relation to any other personality, especially those in the arts or the media, stars of cinema or song. The latter can express themselves and give the impression that they are advancing the world. Although I do not at all question the honesty or the sincerity of their commitment. But their foundations are fragile.
Imagine, and this is pure fiction of course, that a film actor known internationally and far from being at the end of his career, is a little too active in defending a cause that harms the interests of a lobby as powerful as that of energy (oil) or weapons (satellites). I bet they would soon find themselves accused of tax evasion, or a sex scandal, or consuming and trafficking in narcotics. No matter whether it is true or false. A star is so fragile! Unlike a head of state whom no vote can overthrow and who does not lend the flank to any pressure capable of turning the favourable opinion of the widest international public against him.
That is why we consider the Prince of the Oceans to be our Messiah, why we believe in Him.
This is what you have to talk with him and why he has to be convinced he must step up speed in his action in favour of the ocean. Not by working twice as much as he already does with passion, but by gathering around him millions and millions of wishers of goodwill throughout the world.
The Prince of the Oceans has the charisma to successfully take on this role. Don't wait!
ME: "Millions and millions, isn't that a little over the top...?"
HE: "Man of little faith, what are you saying? How in 1988 did Jacques-Yves Cousteau - for a long time Director of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, Foundation Albert 1, Prince of Monaco - collect 2.5 million signatures in no time, without the support of social networks we have today? In so doing, he succeeded in preventing the draft Wellington Protocol providing for the opening of Antarctica to mining from being adopted."
ME: "Which resulted in the adoption of the Madrid Protocol three years later, in 1991. An agreement that strengthened the Antarctic Treaty (concerning everything south of the 60th Parallel, including the Southern Ocean) of 1 December 1959, which came into force on 23 June 1961. It protects the environment and has made Antarctica a nature reserve dedicated to Peace and Science. The protocol was extended to further protect nature in 2002.
We can also welcome the 2016 agreements in favour of the sanctuarization of the Ross Sea, for which HSH Prince Albert II effectively used all his influence and incredible energy. It was a great success, everyone knows that.
We are also very much looking forward to the discussions scheduled for 8 June in New York as part of World Oceans Day, which the Ocean and Climate Plateform - of which OceanoScientific has been a member since its inception - will be attending in strength in the coming weeks.
Couldn't we be satisfied with that and not try to do otherwise?"
HE: "You think you're on vacation? Or in early retirement, maybe? You're not going to give up and let others do all the work for the Ocean?
You have to understand that everything that has been done up to today is commendable. All the actions of the associations, foundations and personalities committed to the Ocean have resulted in tangible progress that is to be welcomed. That is an acknowledged fact. They are to be congratulated!
But we must do more. What I call the Monaco Protocol is precisely that: to sanctuarize the space between the fortieth and the sixtieth parallel south outside territorial waters, by enacting rigorous rules of use and virtuous behaviour in the region.
We must act with due diligence, because as long as that area of the seas is not yet too coveted by pressure from population growth and the scarcity of natural resources, accelerated by climate change, there is a real chance the Monaco Protocol can succeed.
Your task therefore is to serve the Prince of the Oceans to help him with all your will and energy to accomplish this work, His work."
ME: "But it's going to take years, it's a huge job!"
HE: "Think five years and it will take ten. Maybe more. But what is ten years to build the work of a lifetime? To guarantee for future generations that the Far South will forever remain the sea of freedom, of authenticity that will be their greatest wealth?
HE: "From now on you know with what your days and nights will be occupied from the moment you reach land. Until you come back to me to report on the progress in your task. Until the Protocol of Monacois widely ratified.
For now, you may round the Horn with ease and I will make your sailing back up the Atlantic towards Monaco easier for you.
For the Mediterranean, I do not know. There are many seas which, although forming part of the Ocean, have versatile moods. I cannot foresee the fate which our cousin of those beautiful beaches has reserved for you. But you're used to her and you'll do the best you can...
What do you say?"
ME: "I promise you: I will come back."
* I finished writing this text on Wednesday May 17; it was translated into English and prepared on Thursday, then published on the association's website () and transmitted to subscribers on Friday morning, 19 May.
Vendredi 12 May 2017
27°88' North - 22°88' West
A successful gamble! By dint of patience and skillfully playing in the gentle breezes encountered since crossing the Equator, and then while crossing the Doldrums, I have managed to take OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" to the eastern side and soon even to the north-eastern side of the Azores High. Less than 1,500 nautical miles from Gibraltar and less than 2,400 nautical miles from Monaco, we have enjoyed a breeze since this morning* which gives me an opportunity to put a little slack in the sheets, although we are sailing slightly north of the direct route in order to penetrate a stronger, more favourable North-West wind. The objective is to enter the Strait of Gibraltar on 20-22 May. My Super Boogaloo is sailing, sliding and gliding with grace, at 80° of a true wind of 8 to 10 knots. Our speed is two to five tenths of a knot faster than the wind, despite our North Sails France sails, which have given us about 60,000 nautical miles of good and loyal service. Awesome! At such blissfully happy times, ascending and descending the long swell, the sails just turn-buckled tight, out of the wind in the port watch seat, an eye on the screens, I can make an initial assessment of my circumnavigation.
The sun rises to starboard, OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" is heading northward. Each passing day brings us closer to the end of this single-handed tour around the world, with the immense happiness of soon seeing those I love again, and the infinite sadness of having to count the few days that remain for me to sail with my soul at rest, in peace and harmony with the Ocean. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
There is no question, however, of carrying out a technical and nautical assessment of my boat. It is too soon for that. For I am not immune to an accident or another peril of the sea, especially in this region where so many containers are lost by cargo ships. Nevertheless, after 136 days of single-handed sailing already over, when I only have 23 left before arriving on Friday 2 June at precisely 10:00 on the pontoon of honour of the Yacht Club de Monaco, no significant damage has occurred to Boogaloo, my Kiddo, since 17 November. That is really satisfying. And what a great boat, this Finot-Conq 2006-2007!
As regards the purely scientific assessment of the OceanoScientific Expedition carried out successfully under the fortieth parallel South lasting sixty days (see the press release of 2 April), we'll have to wait a few months before having the results. The time will be used by the researchers to minutely analyze, compare and cross-check with other information, which they will be officially given on Monday, July 3, at the Maison des Océans (Paris), by Robert Calcagno, Director of the Institut océanographique de Monaco, Fondation Albert 1, Prince de Monaco and myself. It will consist of all the data collected by the OSC System for 60 days; the samples (about 110) of surface seawater that I collected for Ifremer Brest and for the Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentations et Approches Numériques (LOCEAN) of the Pierre et Marie Curie University (UPMC - CNRS) in Paris; as well as the two keel sensors, which have permanently recorded the temperature of the seawater about one meter below the surface, also for the Ifremer laboratories in Brest. The aerial data contained in the files of the OSC System will be sent to the engineers of Météo-France.
Without wishing to encroach on the work of the scientists, especially since I have no competence in the field, I nevertheless feel that there are some differences or even some significant differences between the data available to scientists using the models mainly based on information derived from satellite-based calculations and the in situ reality of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
One example of this is the discussions with scientists who carefully monitored the information automatically transmitted to land by the OSC System and their astonishment when they saw the discrepancy between what we transmitted to them and the models they had in their hands. Specifically during a period when the cloud cover was so dense that I did not seen the sky for nearly a week. A period, consequently, during which the satellites did not see the surface of the ocean either. I remember that the levels of fluorescence transmitted to them at that time seemed abnormally high. At the same time, I was in an area where Boogaloo's transom, deck and bottom of the cockpit were covered with algae at an incredible speed. This highlighted a powerful plankton bloom - see the image at the bottom of the page. Which leads me to believe that it may not have been our fluorescence sensor which was defective. This finding deserves to be clarified by the researchers themselves. Let us not draw any hasty conclusions in this respect, but it seems clear that collecting scientific data in situ in a region that has seldom been explored if at all at the air-sea interface can effectively produce quality information that the international scientific community is still lacking to date.
As for food, there is nothing special to note other than what I have already reported in the Kids Newsletter no. 24. The advice given by Ariane Pehrson (Lyophilisé.com in Lorient) is invaluable and her recommendations have been 100% effective. Ariane is well known in international ocean racing circles. She has a monopoly of the provisioning market for ocean-going racing yachts, whether for sailing single-handed, crewed sailing, for races or records. Thank you and bravo Ariane!
As for my health, suffice to note that once at sea I reduced my consumption of Doliprane by about 90% compared with what I use on land, to illustrate my good state of health. Even my right knee, which sometimes gives way and is painful night and day without interruption on land, works as well as the left, that is to say perfectly, without even using the knee pad, now stowed away.
Where I had to be vigilant was concerning my hands and face.
Never forget that two hands are the most important tool of a single-handed sailor. It is therefore prudent to anticipate any potential handicap. Thanks to Christian Courtin-Clarins who offered me an eclectic choice of Clarins and Clarins Men's products before I left port, I have kept my hands in good shape with Clarins Men's Ideal Hand Care. I spent a long time massaging my hands with it at least once every 24 hours before starting my first long sequence of sleep (2 hours...), or even a second time in the South, when the cold was getting sharper - since I never wear gloves on deck.
I was not sufficiently vigilant in the South Indian Ocean with my face. By making a selfie to illustrate an article in the Paris-Normandie daily newspaper, I realized that the skin of my face was all parched, white in places. I used a magical product: Clarins Blue Orchid Oil. In two massages a dozen hours apart, my skin was soft and supple again. The oil is incredibly effective and its scent reminds of springtime in the sunny valleys of Burma or Thailand!
Loneliness has never been a handicap or a weight to bear. On the contrary. I have noted once again that I am better suited to the life of a hermit on the ocean than on land. I will have another opportunity to discuss this aspect of ocean sailing in greater detail before setting foot on the pontoon of the Yacht Club de Monaco ...
* I am writing this newsletter in the morning of Wednesday 10 May. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning 12 May.
I had never seen such a phenomenon! Crossing a region of the South Pacific where the fluorescence rate was very high with a bloom of plankton, the transom was covered with algae that grew at an incredible speed, despite air and water temperatures that were only about ten degrees Celsius. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday5 May 2017
8°35' North - 29°76 West
Return to the North Atlantic
On Monday 1 May, at a time when young sellers of Lily of the valley at city street corners are giving away their last wilting sprigs of white bells, OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" and I were slowly crossing the Equator on our way home, after crossing the line outbound to the Far South last December 18. Needless to say, it is a pleasure to be back in the North Atlantic, after rounding the three Capes single-handed and finishing our oceanographic work (3 April). The last three days in the Southern Hemisphere, and the following three were punctuated by dead calms, winds rotating through 180° and, above all, squalls of a power that is always impressive in these warm waters. I am now in the depths of the Doldrums, and life on board is a permanent struggle against the stifling heat, even at night.
Far from the coasts, the Ocean sky is a festival of incredible colours and unimaginable clouds. And there is one place where the clouds can create fear, or terror for the uninitiated: the Doldrums. Before reaching the eye of the mini-depression that is arriving at high speed, no-one knows if it is only going to be a tropical shower or if extremely violent gusts of wind are going to make the task of a single-handed sailor even more complicated.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
By day I avoid the interior. Most of the time I am sitting naked on the deck-house in the shadow of the mainsail in the current of warm air between the solent jib and the main sail. I spend my time watching a juvenile Red-Footed Booby with its bright grey-bronze plumage that has been accompanying us for several days now. It hunts the flying fish frightened from the waves by Boogaloo's bow. And it's having a difficult time, poor thing. The flying fish are astonishing agile in the air, giving it a hard time! But it doesn't give up. It must be really hungry. I encourage it with a "come on!", and for the moment all I've received as a mark of gratitude for my support as a well-meaning observer are a few droppings on the deck of Boogaloo.
At night, I sleep a total of four to five hours in several short periods, lying on the floor of the cockpit where I've laid out the mattress of the chart table seat, falling asleep while contemplating the starry sky. There's no doubt about it, people born in Normandy are not designed for tropical temperatures! So I'm writing this little note in the relative freshness of the sunset, installed in the pilot house of the cockpit. I'll be more talkative next week, I promise.
In particular I'll tell you, after consulting our router Christian Dumard, whether we have opted to bypass the Azores High by the east and tack towards Morocco leaving the Canaries to port; or if we're going to skirt right round the islands to the West to seek the southernmost Springtime lows and reach the sea lanes with the trade winds en route for Gibraltar. For the moment I am tacking, trying to make the most of the masses of clouds, like an attentive racer in a regatta on Quiberon Bay one Easter weekend.
We have to choose the best options, make the right decision as to the route taken, because we have an appointment for Friday, June 2 at 10:00 at the Yacht Club de Monaco with HSH Prince Albert II; with those whom I love, including Cecile my wife, who keeps permanent watch over this adventure, as well as our equally impatient triplets; with my closest friends and the loyal partners of this OceanoScientific Expedition, so it is out of the question for me to miss the tide... even in the Mediterranean!
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
Friday 28 April 2017
20°62' South - 38°55 West
Enraptured by Rio
On the road again. Next stop: Monaco. Terminus. Everyone get off. It will be Friday 2 June, at 10:00: Good morning, Monsignor, thank you for your welcome. After successfully completing the 60-day OceanoScientific Expedition under the 40th Southern Parallel (see the Press release dated 3 April) followed by nine thrilling days sailing with no automatic pilot no less than 990 nautical miles (1,800 km on the map - about 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) in actual fact - and 120 hours at the helm mainly into the wind, I made an unexpected ten-day stopover in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). I left on Saturday 22 April in the middle of the afternoon Carioca time, 18:00 UT. Since then, I have been on a virtually direct heading to the equator, with irregular, rather light winds, often disturbed by violent squalls, which are more of a promise of a freshwater shower. Because it's hot, very hot. Writing this text at the chart table is not a huge physical effort, but I am dripping with sweat from every pore of my skin. After 71 days of solitude between Cape Town (South Africa) and Rio, mainly in the Far South, including rounding the three capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn, the arrival in the Brazilian megalopolis was a shock. A brutal one! Fortunately, Maxime Dreno, my faithful chief mate and preparer, an accomplice of all my trips on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" for the last three years, and a very dear friend were waiting for me on the water before I even entered the harbor. Several other Brazilian, Argentine and French friends made the short return to the city even easier; a noisy, hectic, highly contrasting city which leaves no one indifferent: everyone is enraptured by Rio.
Thanks to the close ties between the Yacht Club de Monaco, whose flag is flown by Yvan Griboval and the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", and the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian welcome was particularly warm. Vicente Arruda Filho, vice-Commodore of the three-star club (Sailing - Motor-boating - Aviation) gave the traditional presents to the single-handed sailor: the pennant and tie of the ICRJ and a superb signed book on the history of the prestigious club (and its 3,000 members) located at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Photo Maxime Dréno - OceanoScientific
Being forced to make a port call for technical reasons is an affront to any seafarer, and even worse for a single-handed sailor. My first two port calls, at Cartagena in Spain and Cape Town in South Africa, were motivated by the need to solve errors made by service providers of the OSC System (scientific equipment designed to collect data at the ocean-atmosphere interface) despite all my efforts to avoid this type of hassle. My single-handed sailor's honor was intact, for nothing on board Boogaloo would have otherwise forced me into port. I would have continued my journey without approaching land from the day of my departure from Monaco last November 17.
On Monday, April 3, at the end of the day, there I was, overwhelmed by doubt and a sense of guilt more than rational thought, alone with my reproaches at the helm of my boat with no automatic pilot. The main autopilot and the auxiliary system were both out of order. Forcing me to make a port call. Montevideo was abeam on the port side. Rio de Janeiro was further away, but straight ahead. On the advice of Christian Dumard, our router, I headed for Rio, where one of my best friends lives. I had not seen him in about seven years. To see him again was a pleasure for the man in me, a meager consolation for the sailor. My pride was pricked by not being able to solve a problem when I couldn't even find the cause.
So I redoubled my efforts to sail Boogaloo to port safe and sound. I wanted the nine-day haul to be exemplary in every respect. I organized myself, I defined a schedule and made a point of honour of doing better than sticking to it every day. It was no longer a question of objectives, but pure obstinacy. I would helm up to 16 hours in a row, reminding myself that at the age of 25 I was capable of helming during a race for nearly 24 hours without letting up, concentrated from the first to the last minute, driven by such a will to win it was more animal than human, success taunting me at the tip of the bow. It was up to me to do the same, so that my behumbling by the Ocean would turn into triumph and leave no bitter taste. Wrath would be my watchword! There would always be time to analyze the reasons for the breakdowns... and draw conclusions.
Those nine days turned out to be even more intense than I expected. The communion with my boat was total, even stronger than in the Far South. At least different. It was awesome, often enjoyable. It was difficult, especially at first, to tack in an anticyclone that looked like the cold front of a depression - another thing I didn't understand, by the way - into a wind of 25 to 30 knots and a choppy, breaking sea with a powerful opposing current.
Then it seemed more like the ultimate ride, by day and by night under the stars bright, as the moon rose fuller and fuller. In the middle of the night I stopped Boogaloo, with no foresail, the mainsail tucked flat at the end of the track, the helm slightly off-centre ready to tack. My boat stopped between 20 and 40 degrees facing the wind, gently riding the two to three meter-high slopes of waves driven by the trade winds, leaving me to sleep like a dormouse, proud of my sailor's work accomplished. Then I set off again three or four hours before dawn. During the day, on the good advice of Christian Courtin-Clarins and thanks to his "skincare kit for adult adventurers" (I'll get back to that, thank you Christian!) I protected myself from the sun with oilskins, boots and sunglasses, with only the tip of my nose and the top of my cheeks covered with Clarins cream (Sun Wrinkle Control Cream for Face SPF 50+, Very High Protection). Which prevented sunburn and dry skin, two real problems in ocean sailing. I kept several layers of polar fleece under the oilskins and the heavy socks for the Far South despite the high temperatures, because a slight error in my diet made me exceptionally chilly. As for the packets of seawater hitting me in the face, I accumulated about as many waves as Boogaloo exploded into them with her all-conquering bows. Nine days of sailing sport in "Performance" mode: at top speed, again at top speed and more if possible. A hundred and twenty magical hours at the helm. It was g-r-e-a-t!
The best was the Tuesday before my arrival in Rio de Janeiro. Having decided to stop at a specific spot, I spent the night in the middle of cargo ships adrift, as if there was a car park in the middle of the ocean. We were drifting together, all driven towards the coast, lying about 180 nautical miles away, by 1.5 to 2 knots of favorable current, in a driving trade wind blowing at around 25 knots, on a chaotic, disorderly sea.
At daybreak I passed through an area where strange-looking cargo ships had been converted into what I suspect are wreck oil rigs, like the one at the bottom of the page. It was the best-looking of those I observed for several hours, some of which looked more like garbage bins than oil platforms compliant with every safety standard. As a former journalist who scrupulously measures the weight of each word, reporting only facts that are proven and checked, I do not wish to go too far today. But my instinct prompts me to believe that a genuine scandal is developing off the coast of Brazil. As soon as I get back to land, I will carry out an investigation about it, because if what I think is happening turns out to be true, the threat to the marine environment is appalling! But the slump in oil prices and the consequences for Brazil, as well as the causes of the tsunami of corruption at the highest level of the state under Lula's presidency, incite me give credit to what I imagine to be oil rig wrecks to be discarded after use, in Brazilian territorial waters or just outside, where the pirates risk little or nothing.
It was April 11, a breezy Tuesday, under a torrid sun, without the slightest shadow of a cloud on 360° of the horizon.
The wind gradually strengthened at daybreak. I was sailing with one reef on the mainsail and the solent (jib) out, the largest sail flat in front of the mast. In the middle of the morning, the wind was stronger than fifteen knots and slowly growing stronger as the sun rose in the sky. The trade wind was sharp. Normally, that is to say with the automatic pilot on, I would replace the solent jib by the staysail, the flying jib used for any kind of wind. The objective was to ensure a surface speed of between twelve and fourteen knots, without pushing it. I was driven by a simple thought: "Now that I'm at the helm, if I were in a crewed race, what would I do?". "I'd put my foot down, wouldn't I!" So I left the solent jib where it was and kept the staysail wisely rolled. Full speed ahead!
At 85 degrees of the actual wind, Boogaloo was completely keeled (the hydraulic steering keel is tilted to the maximum in the wind to compensate for the effect of the wind in the sails which makes the sailboat sway or tilt) to gain power. I completely lowered the centreboard trunk so that the boat rested on it and stabilized its longitudinal course. I used one of my favorite settings at this speed, spiraling the sails for maximum power at their base, so that the air escapes without straining at the top, to avoid pitching and too much listing. Boogaloowas bewitched. She handled perfectly. I only moved the helm a few centimeters. I didn't even need to face the waves to start surfing. We were planing non-stop. Listing as much as possible, stanchions deep in the water, naturally weighted by the bilge, my sixteen-meter Kiddo was skimming along as if on parade. The wind stabilized between 19.5 and 20 knots at the most. For more than four hours the speedometer never displayed less than sixteen knots. We topped the fun at 22 knots, two knots higher than the actual wind speed. I had never succeeded that in a wind strength of that kind. The only downside is that we were being pushed by close to three knots of current. Boogaloo's historic performance left no trace on the map, where we were only credited with a meager average speed of 13-14 knots over the nine days. But what fun we both had!
The links between the yacht clubs of Monaco and Rio de Janeiro made my port call even nicer thanks to the friendly attentions of Aloysio M. Teixeira, the owner of the superb Copacabana Praia Hotel, ideally located in the Francisco Otaviano street that connects Copacabana to Ipanema, where Maxime and I stayed. I shall also be meeting Aloysio early in July at the Yacht Club de Monaco, where he will be staying at the invitation of his friend Pierre Dhainaut and of Bernard d'Alessandri, Secretary General of the fine Monegasque club.
We were also warmly welcomed in the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro by Vice-Commodore Vicente Arruda Filho (pictured above). On the advice of my old friend of nearly forty years, Didier Kelly, whom I unfortunately was unable to see in Rio, we were given technical assistance by Carlos Raposo, the partner of the famous Olympic champion Eduardo "Edu" Penido and by Alison, his assistant - who should not be challenged in using the "coffee grinder" (the double-handled crank that is used to operate the two main winches on board), because the chap has muscles and energy to spare. Impressive!
Thanks to Philippe Roger (SkySat) and Cécile d'Estais-Griboval, my wife and the lookout for our expedition, everything had been taken care of before I reached Rio to find someone who could solve our automatic pilot problems. Which is how Igor F. Stelli, a native Argentinian, Brazilian by marriage, and his assistant both arrived. In short: EXACTLY the people we needed. In a hard day's work, followed by a half day of tests and adjustments at sea, Igor identified the problems, and then solved them using the equipment entrusted to Maxime by Philippe Roger. Even some long-standing problems were repaired on the weathervanes which were then re-calibrated to perfection. In short, in addition to Philippe Roger in France, I can no longer imagine managing the electronics on-board a sailing boat without the assistance of Igor and his troop, wherever I am on the planet!
It turned out the problem was caused from the motor on the main pilot, even though it had been changed before I left Monaco by one of the best specialists in Brittany in on-board electronics. The brushes "stuck" and the motor suddenly stopped for no particular reason other than its own failure, and then did not restart. Or restarted without any explanation, only to block a few minutes later. The other problem, on the backup pilot, was a slightly damaged wire at the inlet to the rudder angle sensor. These two totally random failures were absolutely impossible to detect at sea, and even less so by a single-handed sailor.
My sailor's honor was intact and in the end I gained a multi-brand specialist who doesn't arrive on board and start by denigrating the work carried out by his predecessors and then obviously want to leave as quickly as possible. My thanks go to you too, Igor, for coming back between a plane at 2:00 am and another at 10:00 am to reconnect the weather vanes and check one last time that the pilots were in working order. I promise, the next I time I make a port call in Salvador de Bahia where you live, we'll go and listen to the Bossa Nova together and taste the different types of caipirinha ...
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
After close-shaving the foils of this strange ship, I leave it, wondering. I noted it does not move; it has no anchor either at the bow or stern; and no eddy indicates the movement of a propeller. So it must be kept moored to the seabed some other way. The sight makes me wonder and I look forward to finding out more about these end-of-life cargo ships recycled into what I imagine to be wreck oil rigs. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Monday 24 April 2017
20°62' South - 38°55 West
Swerves in the Finishing Straight
OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" early in the afternoon (18:00 UT) of Saturday 22 April, and set course for Monaco, with his arrival at the pontoon of the Yacht Club scheduled for some time in the morning of Friday 2 June.After a technical stop for ten days, Yvan Griboval left Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) on board the
On Saturday 22 April in the early afternoon in the bay of Rio de Janeiro, Yvan Griboval set to sea again in a light wind under a leaden sky. A fair wind was waiting in the middle of the following night as he set course for the Equator and his return to the Northern Hemisphere, en route for Monaco, his final destination.
Photo Maxime Dreno - OceanoScientific
Four difficulties lie ahead of him before he ends his single-handed journey. First, he must cross the Doldrums, that inhospitable tropical zone of the Atlantic Ocean frequently interspersed with dead calms and violent squalls. The biggest hurdle then involves bypassing the high-pressure area around St. Helena by making a large loop westwards, with strong winds, but also risks of dead calm. Unless a hypothetical passage opens up to the east. The third difficulty is the approach to Europe before entering the Straits of Gibraltar. The end of his navigation in the Atlantic is likely to be heading into the wind, and may even require tacking, and breaking seas. Finally, before enjoying a chilled glass of Moët et Chandon champagne on the pontoon of honour of the YCM, he will have to cope with the changing moods of the Mediterranean, with the dead calms and high winds of late spring.
In short, another forty days of work as a seafarer. Not necessarily the simplest part of this round-the-world trip. Fortunately, Christian Dumard, the attentive router, scrutinizes the weather and helps Yvan find the best course for the final straight... which is not straight at all!
Thursday 13 April 2017
22°54' South - 43°10 West
Port call in Rio de Janeiro
Yvan Griboval aboard the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" arrived in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) on Wednesday, 12 April mid-morning local time, at the end of his 118th day of sailing single-handed since leaving Monaco on 17 November, and above all 71 days after leaving Cape Town (South Africa) on Thursday, 26 January (Newsletter No. 11), 60 days of which were devoted to the success of the oceanographic campaign under the 40th Southern Parallel (News Release 3 April), including rounding Cape Horn on Sunday, 26 March (Newsletter No. 20). This means he will have sailed for nine days without any autopilot - the reason for his port call in Brazil - aligning more than 120 hours at the helm in all, often in a steady breeze with several sequences of more than twelve hours non-stop, the longest lasting 16.30 hours to cover the 990 nautical miles (1800 km) of direct route that separated him from the port call when his autopilots were found not to be working. In all, Yvan has therefore travelled exactly 28,596 nautical miles (53,000 km) from Monaco.
Yvan Griboval has just rolled up the solent (jib) of the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" and will enter the channel of Rio, at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer, located on the summit of the mountain just above the end of the boom (spar which keeps the mainsail down). Seventy-one days separate this image from the day he left Cape Town on 26 January. Photo Maxime Dréno - OceanoScientific
Welcomed at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain by his faithful chief mate and technical assistant, Maxime Dréno; by his friend Christian Chatenet, a well-known sports marketing specialist, former deputy managing director of the Stade de France sports stadium for ten years and now established in Brazil for the past six years as a consultant; and by Carlos Raposo, an associate of the celebrated Brazilian sailor and offshore racer Eduardo "Edu" Penido, Gold Medalist in the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 on the double-handed dinghy 470 Class.
Boogaloo is moored in the Marina da Glória. Thanks to the Yacht Club de Monaco, the small French team has been given valuable local assistance by the well-known Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro. Yvan Griboval is scheduled to set sail from Monaco to Rio after a port call lasting eight to ten days. The single-handed sailor and explorer is expected to arrive on Thursday 1 June at the VIP pontoon of the Yacht Club de Monaco, whose flag he proudly flies.
Wednesday 5 April 2017
37°37' South- 39°97' West
Port call in Rio
Only a few hours after successfully completing the 60-day oceanographic expedition in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (see Press release) and rounding the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn), Yvan Griboval found himself faced with a serious problem on Monday, April 3 on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo".
His two autopilots are out of order. Despite six hours of tinkering under the guidance of our partner Philippe Roger (SkySat), Yvan has not succeeded in getting either of the autopilots to work correctly. He will therefore be making a small detour to Rio on route to Monaco. This means he has 1,000 nautical miles to sail in a straight line, in reality about 1,300 to 1,500 nautical miles as he will partly be sailing into a headwind, forcing him to tack.
An exercise that is particularly difficult for a single-handed sailor on this type of high-performance sailboat. Life on-board quickly becomes impossible and if no one is at the helm, be it a human being or an autopilot, the boat is left to itself, and changes in course are sudden and sometimes harsh. At the end of the marathon slog with little sleep Yvan should reach Rio sometime between 10 and 12 April. Given the close links between the Yacht Club de Monaco, whose flag is flown by Yvan and Boogaloo, and the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, everything has been done to make the port call quick and efficient.
Without no autopilot in working order, Yvan Griboval has to stay at the helm more than fifteen hours a day, in a marathon slog of around 1,300-1,500 nautical miles, or a little more than seven days and nights of single-handed sailing before reaching Rio. In a week-long fight against exhaustion and loss of lucidity.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Monday 3 April 2017
40° South - 40° West
Success of the 2016-2017 OceanoScientific Expedition
On Sunday, 2 April 2017, sailing single-handed the 16-meter OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", Yvan Griboval successfully completed the first campaign ever conducted to collect oceanographic data at the Air-Sea interface in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, rounding all three capes of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia), and the Horn (Chile), without creating any CO2 emissions or waste. The resulting new information is intended for the international scientific community in charge of studying the causes and consequences of climate change with Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, Météo-France, the French national meteorological service, and the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research.
On Sunday, April 2 at 21:20 UT (11:20 p.m. in Paris), in crossing the 40th Southern Parallel on his route from and to Monaco, Yvan Griboval completed the oceanographic mission he began on 1 February at 7:26 UT when he entered the Roaring Forties, after sixty days of sailing single-handed between 40° South and 56° South, including rounding Cape Horn on Sunday, March 26.
Yvan Griboval, who is expected to reach Monaco in mid-May, said: "I am extremely proud to have achieved this oceanographic campaign under sail, without causing any pollution, in order to observe a region of the seas that has been seldom explored if at all. This expedition is the result of ten years of work, in particular to develop the OSC System, a unique set of equipment for the collection and automatic transmission of scientific data."
"Over and above the oceanographic mission itself and the sporting challenge of sailing around the world single-handed, I consider it essential to observe and then report on the Ocean, so that a much wider public can realize the vital need to preserve it."
"I am returning to land driven by my absolute determination to make every effort to ensure the deep-sea desert lying between the 40th and 60th Southern parallels is preserved from overfishing, or any other form of exploitation of the ocean floor. It is imperative that this wonderful part of the Planet, where life is still developing – as should be the case everywhere on Earth – as it was hundreds if not thousands of years ago, be finally sanctified."
"We have a duty to our children and the future generations to leave them at least this part of the Globe totally preserved from the looting and pillage that Humankind has carried out everywhere else. The 21st Century must be one of respect for Nature, to prevent the worst from happening and begin the Renaissance of our natural environment, starting with the Ocean, which represents 70.8% of planet Earth."
This expedition, organized by the OceanoScientific philanthropic association of general interest for the benefit of the international scientific community, is supported and supervised by Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, Météo-France, the French national meteorological service, and the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research. It is sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) with the support of the WMO-IOC Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology in-situ Observing Programmes Support Centre (JCOMMOPS), and Mercator Océan. It is supported by the Institut Océanographique, Foundation Albert I, Prince of Monaco; by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and by the Yacht Club de Monaco, with the encouragement of the Scientific Center of Monaco (CSM).
Friday 31 March 2017
46°85' South -43°81' West
An appointment with the Horn
Having rounded Cape Horn on Sunday, March 26 at 16h18 GMT (18h18 French summertime), I am now* sailing in the South Atlantic, heading northeast. It is striking how much the atmosphere has changed compared with the Pacific. I'm also flirting with the iceberg zone in seawater at around five degrees, sailing in a haze where everything is grey, cold and overcast. It's a strange world, sometimes propelled by currents running at more than two knots that push the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo"through a choppy sea in which we are manhandled in a deafening din of breakers. We were even stranded at night with 2500 meters of water below... in a packet of seaweed 80 to 100 meters square and several meters thick, our speed dropping instantly from 10 knots to zero. It took me half an hour of reverse sailing to extricate the boat from the Atlantic mishmash that surrounded us. Although I still have a little less than week's sailing below the 40th South, if only to complete the purely oceanographic part of my expedition, I can already single out four key words to describe the Far South, the sea of extremes: Liberty, Life, Power and Beauty.
We've done it; the Horn is back there in our wake. The Cape has always had the power of life – and too often death – over those who have approached it, but it greeted me with some of the finest weather conditions you can imagine in these seas. A wonderful reward after more than 59 days in the Far South from Cape Town. I am highly honoured, and genuinely grateful. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
While preparing this expedition over the years, I imagined I would sail between the capes of Good Hope and the Horn at an average speed of ten knots, without attempting to break any sports record. In addition, in the 59 days since I left Cape Town, I have never checked what the situation was in that respect. I even feared that my senatorial speed in the Far South in the Indian Ocean had put paid to that desire. In fact, I have travelled 15,110 nautical miles (28,000 km) from Cape Town to Cape Horn in exactly 59 days 4 hours and 50 minutes, at an average speed of 10.63 knots. This illustrates the fact that Boogaloo, even with only four sails used (the mainsail, solent (jib), staysail (small jib) and ORC jib (storm jib), is a fine boat capable of superb, swift tracks. Hats off Kiddo!
Freedom - The strongest permanent feeling when sailing in the Far South is one of total, infinite freedom. So much stronger than sailing the Atlantic where the landmarks are close by. Where the choice of sea route is dictated by the land. To be avoided or reached. In the combined deep-sea desert of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, there are no constraints other than those I freely impose upon myself. Free to go, free to do, free to think, free to believe. FREE.
Obviously, you have to contend with the sea and wind at all times, and adapt the boat to its environment. But those constraints never affect that freedom. Only my acts to remain in harmony with this world, which can be welcoming or humiliating. Those acts are a personal choice, not one imposed by the sea or wind or a third party. Because the elements are not what decide how I feel. In agreement or disagreement with the ocean. I decide myself, by adopting the appropriate attitude or not. We are only strangers in these strange seas. You have to act with great humility to taste true Liberty. Freedom is a state of mind, one neither acquired nor ensured. It is not enough to sail South below the 40th parallel. Freedom is won by dint of respect for this fantastic environment. Out of want as well. And willpower, without a doubt.
In this region of the seas in the Far South, more than anywhere else, you are responsible for yourself, and yourself alone. The Others can do nothing for you or to you: neither good nor bad; neither help nor hinder you. That is true Liberty.
Now I understand better and differently what Bernard Moitessier said in "La longue route" (Editions Arthaud - 1971): "A boat is freedom, not only the means to an end". Of course, it is the boat that lets me enjoy this seaborne freedom. But you do not cross the Far South like any other sea. I have always been struck by the stories of ocean racers who were in these seas or returned from them, and described them as hell. It is because they had a purpose other than sailing to be one with the Ocean. The Far South for them was only a requisite stretch of the course. They missed the main thing. Too bad for them. As for me, to paraphrase Sartre, if "Hell is other people", I'm not in the Ocean, I'm at home!
Life - When passing the Kerguelen Islands, and seeing the huge algae that had risen from the ocean deep, I realized that I was in a world that was probably identical in every respect to the one which preceded us hundreds, thousands, millions of years ago. A world that has never changed at these latitudes.
Life is teeming in every direction. The birds first of all. In 59 days, there has not been a single day in which I have not been accompanied by all kinds of birds. Albatrosses of course, but many other species that fly and fish so far from land near Boogaloo, naturally considering us to be part of the landscape as if we had always been there. I have been impressed by the amount of krill, the tiny shrimp that swim on the surface and are washed up on deck with every breaker. Even the squid get stuck on board in the ropes, thrown up by the passing sea.
The Ocean makes algae grow everywhere on board, despite the low temperature. Boogaloo's transom, rudder-heads and hydro-generator pedestals have become abstract works of art with the dominant greens and browns of the all-pervasive algae. Life goes on at full speed, all-conquering, unconstrained.
I set out on this expedition as an oceanographic first, with the desire to return to the Indian Ocean, discover the Pacific Ocean, live free for a few months in a world where I can dare to be me.
Now, I am returning with a different feeling, a deep rage burning inside, moving me beyond reason: we cannot deliver the Far South into the hands of the powers of money; we cannot allow this world to be plundered like the rest of our planet has increasingly been since the sixteenth century. That must not be!
I am returning to land to bring this simple message with all the energy drawn from more than sixty days of communion with the Southern Ocean. I am returning to Monaco to convey to those concerned what the Great Albatross told me in the name of the People of the Far South. He appointed Ambassador of the deep-sea desert, and I swore to him that I would return, because that is my native land.
Power- In the Far South, the only gentleness lies in the flight of the albatross making arabesques in the breeze, playing with the draughts of air like a pianist with her right hand to illustrate the chords that shake your very soul. I think of Hélène Grimaud and her moving performance of a concerto by Sergueï Vassilievitch Rachmaninoff. Without any music on board - I, who love music so much, do not want to be disturbed in any way in the attention I pay to my boat - I can still hear the impassioned, soaring play of my favourite pianist while watching the birds gracefully swing to the swell. What magic ... Hélène has her wolves, I have my albatrosses. It’s the same fight for life.
Everything else is merely power. Violence sometimes. Often. The force of the wind, the energy of the waves, the brutality of the breakers, the sudden weather that accompanies the cold fronts at the height of a depression ... All of it. Everything is unlimited power. Many times I and the boat have been shaken beyond reason, laid low. Just to show who's the boss in these troubled waters. Just to remind us that we must never forget the deep humility befitting these regions of the seas. At all times, we must remember that we are merely tolerated in this environment that has remained unchanged for centuries on end. No sense of conquering, no small-time triumph, and even less a sense of victory. We are Nothing faced with the Ocean. And that is the one and only Truth.
Beauty- It is impossible for me to find the words to describe everything I have seen. Like the colours of the sky at sunset, with no Pantone equivalent. In the Far South, everything is unique all day, every day. It is a pure, fascinating beauty, without the presence of any human beings to disturb the light and colours. I accept the selfishness with which I tell myself that I can keep all these millions of amazing reflections deep in my brain, deep in my heart, and will only be able to share a handful of photographs on arrival. It's a luxury I offer myself, and myself alone, I must admit.
The great advantage of sailing single-handed in the Far South is the ability to continuously pay attention the environment: 100% attentive. And what an environment! I am fully aware of the fabulous opportunity I have been given to sail for 59 days and more (I still have another week of navigating below the 40th southern parallel), and thank the Ocean for allowing me to mark her dark surface with the impassioned, admirative wake in white of my boat.
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday morning. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
In thick fog, with seawater at 5° and knowing from satellite images over the last few months that the procession of icebergs floating north-east is not far removed from my present course in the South Atlantic, I keep an eye out in the surrounding grey, just in case, but without any real conviction. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 24 March 2017
53°56' South -77°77' West
An appointment with the Horn
Since Tuesday 21 March it is autumn in the Southern Ocean. On that day we passed the 90th meridian west, thus completing three-quarters of our round-the-world tour. The cold is biting under the 50th parallel south and I'm going beyond the 56th. It's time to leave the Pacific, round the Horn, avoid the procession of icebergs floating up towards the 38th parallel south and then sail for the Northern Hemisphere to find the mild spring weather. As I write this* the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" is surfing towards the southern tip of the American continent. We are sailing along the Chilean coast in a diagonal to round the mythical Cape on Sunday 26 March, or perhaps Monday. At the same time I am crossing* the wake of Joshua Slocum on leaving the Strait of Magellan, while my own follows that of Bernard Moitessier, who had such an influence on my adolescent years. I am sailing in these waters with humility, always fearful that my boat may be damaged, little realizing that my teenage dream is being fulfilled as the miles speed by; my challenge to be the first to carry out an oceanographic expedition at the air-sea interface in these regions seldom explored if at all by sail and without burning a single litre of diesel fuel, is about to be crowned with success.
The freedom to come and go with the wind on the deep-sea desert is now over. As I approach Cape Horn, I have to return to the chart table to handle this difficult phase of navigation where danger is waiting in every wave. Especially since I want to see the mythical rock up close. If I can... Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
It is reassuring, at a time when our everyday lives are invaded by easy, unorganized images, when exchanges between people can be summed up in clusters of 140 signs that evaporate into nothing as they fuel the busy buzz of rumour, to see that it is by reading books, adventure stories, good old heavy tomes that smell of paper, hard or paperbacks you can enjoy for several days on end and happily reread, that dreams are born and passions enflamed.
If I’m to believe what my parents told me, I was attracted by the ocean the very first time I saw it. It was on the pier of Dieppe. Aged only a few months old, I wriggled in my mother's arms, holding out my hands to the horizon, grousing because I was unable to escape the bosom of motherly protection. Ever since I've been able to think, I have always had one goal and one alone: to sail the sea. But it was reading "La Longue Route" by Bernard Moitessier in 1972 which marked me to the point where I determined with an unshakeable will that I would also sail single-handed around the world via the three Capes, brave every tempest without knowing if I'd survive, I too would round Cape Horn!
Joshua Slocum (1844 - 1909) sailed single-handed around the world after more than 30 years of service in the merchant navy, first as a sixteen-year old cabin boy, later to become a captain of schooners. He was bored by retirement and set sail at the age of 51 for his fantastic journey from East to West from 1895 to 1898. On his return, he told of his tales, and wrote about them. After reading his book "Sailing Alone Around the World" and captivated by the account, Jack London contacted him, and then decided in turn to embark on a world tour by sail, weighing anchor in 1907 on the Snark. After 18 months and for various reasons, Jack London stopped his round-the-world expedition. But he told of his tales, and wrote about them. Bernard Moitessier (1925 - 1994), marked by his readings of London's books gave his first boat, a junk, the name of the Snarkin reference and tribute to the writer who paved the way for his own adventures. Just as in 1960 Jean Knocker named the ketch he designed and had built at the Méta shipyards in Saône-et-Loire Joshua. For he too had read "Sailing Alone Around the World" and from it drew the energy needed to head out for the horizon.
Another book behind the long way taken by Bernard Moitessier. After sailing double-handed with his wife Françoise aboard Joshua from Polynesia to Spain via Cape Horn, in so doing establishing the record for the longest nonstop passage by a yacht in history in 126 days (1965-1966), he recounted his adventures in the book entitled "Cap Horn à la voile". But harried, under stress by his publisher who wanted at all costs to have the book printed for the Paris Boat Show, Bernard Moitessier botched his work as a writer to meet the deadline. The publisher was delighted, and sales of the book were good. But Bernard Moitessier was upset and cursed himself for acting that way, for not writing well. He even became deeply depressed. In order to redeem himself in his own eyes, he decided to undertake a "gigantic crossing". To tell of his tales, and write about them.
This time, no doubt about it, Bernard Moitessier was going to take his time! Having completed his long way, in 1969 he sent his manuscript to Jacques Arthaud (the father of Florence), whose primary characteristic was not patience, one year behind the publishing schedule set by Arthaud Editions. "La Longue route" was printed in 1971, just in time for the 1972 Paris Boat Show. The success was immediate. Over a hundred thousand copies were sold, including the one that was given me by Pierre Landau, my godfather.
Part Two, after rounding The Horn: Friday, 31 March.
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday morning. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
It is impossible to show in a picture what you see, what you sense on the ocean. Here we are in the midst of a squall of incredible violence, the wind has stabilized at 43-45 knots, and I estimate the wave around two hundred meters behind Boogaloo to be more than six meters high. You wouldn't think so, would you?
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 17 March 2017
41°53' South- 110°22' West
And the Forties Roar On...
When you read this newsletter* I shall be less than 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) from Cape Horn - a dozen days of sailing - making it already more than 90 days of sailing single-handed from Monaco, including over 45 in the Far South after rounding the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa). The Oceanoscientific Explorer "Boogaloo" and I are now in Performance mode. Our current aim: to negotiate as best we can a small lull in the anticyclone just before the beginning of the weekend, then squeeze between two depressions as we drive due South-East to round the "Hard Cape" as it was known with fear and above all with respect by the sailors of the seas and winds on the three-, four- and five-masted tall ships on the New York - San Francisco line at the time of the Gold Rush, in an age when the list of missing around the Horn was longer than that of the Cape Horners who made it to California. Considering the ten-day weather forecast, the really bad weather should be in our wake. That was early in the week. And the Forties roar on...
While I install a lifeline in the cockpit bottom, Boogaloo continues to surf at over twenty knots, revelling in the freshening wind ahead of the depression. The stampede in the Far South continues at a growing pace as we approach Cape Horn. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
"The depression on March 14 will probably be the deepest you meet in the Southern Hemisphere", said our router Christian Dumard in his daily weather analysis on March 11. Dumard is not Proust. A minimal text void of any superlatives is provided, with the wind strengths and directions and the recommended Way Points. Simple and efficient. In a word, information. But when he adds and repeats during three different analyses: "Warning: seas 6-7 meters.", I understand that the fun is going to be serious.
As I watch and wait for the elements to build up power, I get ready: technically, by checking even more carefully the main components of my mount; psychologically, by trying to avoid any increase in stress. Bit where I am now, I can expect no hope of assistance. So I have to be even more vigilant. I make sure I eat enough, increase the daily dose of calories, and rest more than usual. The race against time with the cold front ahead of the depression will prevent me from having any real sleep, or will only allow me to snatch a few minutes rest now and then. So I have to be ready, fine-tuned even.
Well ahead of the depression, we sail as if in a postcard. The sky is bright blue without any sheen of pollution, just dotted with small white clouds, elegant as hell. The breeze of 18-22 knots is manageable and Boogaloo is at a trot more than a gallop. The sea is a deep blue with a few white crests. Just for decoration. Like a bottle of Badoit water on the lunch table with two friends feasting on Duck Confit served with perfectly fried, parsley and garlic potatoes. How would I like to taste that after three months of freeze-dried food!...
As it inexorably approaches, the depression that is hunting in our wake, gradually cloaks us in the most menacing way. The light or dark blue sky quickly becomes grey. Increasingly dark. And then black. The wind picks up and I respond by decreasing the sail area. From one reef in the mainsail, I switch to two as soon as the wind reaches 25 knots with stronger gusts. Up front, the staysail is out, tirelessly working well. The birds that have faithfully accompanied me have now disappeared. My albatross friends Coco and Gros Pépère, even the petrels and puffins forming the “Pataplock” family (so called by my daughter Léa), have migrated to more peaceful skies. I sorely miss them. I feel really alone. Since I can no longer talk to my Southern companions, I talk to my boat. One way of stemming the building stress.
As mistress of the elements, the depression has decided to make nightfall earlier today. Like a curfew. But it's only the middle of the afternoon. The scenery is dramatic, the wind is whistling in the rigging. In the Far South, with 32-34 knots of wind, the growing breakers are tipped with spumes of foam. Boogaloo's bow searches hard for an opening in the waves, then slides into them whitening the sea around us, in a crash of bangs and shocks. The fun and games have started. I do not know which is greater, the adrenaline or the stress, but the nervous tension is high.
In addition to the information provided by Christian Dumard and the Way Points he recommends, I work on board with the excellent Navimail2 files sent by our partner Météo-France. I can use their precision thanks to the many features of Adrena software. I can forecast various scenarios, calculate, reckon. Ultimately, I observe the sky and, as usual, let my instinct guide me as a seasoned seafarer. I decide on a strategy, a route. Without hesitating, sure of my choice.
In the present case, I deduce that if I quickly turn back northwards rather than let myself slide to the East, I could position myself two to three hours before the arrival of the front with a better angle in relation to the wind - more downwind (quartering tail wind) - and also with a better axis in relation to the waves. Because the arrival of the cold front is accompanied by squalls, Christian tells me, potentially of up to 45-50 knots. Now, if I plot with the speed polar diagrams used since leaving Cape Town, I won't make it. With Boogaloo's best speed polars since her launch it would be just possible. The decision is clear: we're going to have to put coal in the boiler. My Finot-Conq design has amazing capabilities. I just need to use them.
Instead of taking a route that would mean we would just have to grin and bear it, I choose to attack full out. Anticipating the impending hostilities, although I never wear a harness except to film and photograph without having to hold onto something, I check all the lifelines on the deck and even add one to the back of the cockpit so that I can manoeuvre with my hands free whatever the circumstances. As a preventive measure, I put on the harness in the cabin to adjust the straps as best I can. Inside everything is properly secured. But I check again. I'm definitely a stickler for checking things. With the humility of seafarers who know that faced with the ocean and the wind we are nothing at all, I feel ready. My adrenaline level is now higher than the stress.
The airspeed indicator displays 33 and 35 knots, jumps to 40, then to 43. Then it stabilizes. With gusts, nonetheless. But never more than 47.6 knots. Without hesitating I've moved to the third reef in the mainsail. Tensioned flat, neat. Efficient. Ahead, the ORC jib (storm jib) has replaced the staysail, neatly rolled up. I adjust the sail area as if I had a pack of competitors racing after me as we approach the finish line. With determination and a good dose of wrath, I must admit. Like the days when I practised this sport professionally, living life to the full. Outside, the weather hits us hard.
In the crosswind at 100° to the true wind, we attack the corridors of waves. It reminds me of when I was 17 in Saint-Valéry-en-Caux. I was in charge of the safety of the dinghy regattas at my sailing club, watching over the small sailboats that capsized by crossing the water that way. Never upwind or downwind, always in the corridors and zigzagging, always at top speed. To the point where I could no longer find a crew-mate, boy or girl, to accompany me. But it was great, with long jumps crosswind over the waves. And efficient as a high-speed safety measure!
Now it's not the breakers that lash over the sixteen little meters of my sailboat, it's Boogaloo's bow that smashes into the waves and breaks them. As if driven by the nerves and mind-set of a true warrior. Puncher, the one I call "Kiddo" in the intimacy of our single-handed sailing together, has taken over. I'm just a passenger on a racing machine that vibrates with all of her carbon soul. The sea continues to swell. With her sails adjusted to give Boogaloo a competitive edge, the autopilot set, I'm virtually useless on the watch seat. All I can do is watch. I make a foray inside to feed on maxi-calorie cereal bars, closing the half-open companionway door to prevent any seawater from intruding into my home sweet home, because the cockpit is almost permanently filled with water. Boogaloo is sailing at such a pace that I am forced to attach the harness onto the big reinforcement tube that runs from the hull bottom to the bridge, in front of my raised bunk. I don't want to visit the cabin like a hang glider, although I already have (Newsletter no. 17).
And it goes on like this all night. Boogaloo's performance is the best yet since her launch, with over 65,000 nautical miles on the clock. As planned at the start of operations, we begin the final sequence before the passage of the cold front at 145° from the wind. Hurtling away. With the proper angle in relation to the waves, some of which are pyramidal in shape, and are really impressive. You can only see the huge white patches and high peaks of the fluorescent breakers in the rare glimpses of the full moon. Confronted with such a spectacle that I have sought with so much passion, even though my faith stops where my religion begins, I recognize that I am in the hand of God. I'm a small nothing, a solitary sailor of little importance in a world where death is not the opposite of life but is just a phase, like birth, but at the other end. What a fantastic feeling!
At the end of a manoeuvre like this, there's always the icing on the cake. And what a cherry! Once past the front there is a big gust of wind, then a little bit of slack and the dance starts all over again. It was at that point that I have to gybe, tack downwind to start over again on the other tack (the side of the boat where the wind arrives). An exercise in style in conditions such as these is a test of the ability of a single-handed sailor to carry out a quality manoeuvre in the worst possible conditions without ending up by capsizing. Out of consideration, Christian Dumard wrote me: "Don't take risks with the gybe. The weather will ease off after the front and the rain. It doesn't matter if you sail north for two or three hours before gybing." Nice, but I'm so focused on our performance, with adrenaline to spare, I'm not going to wait all night to gybe. I don't want to lose any of the new wind.
Before climbing onto the bridge, I repeat inside and in chronological order the tasks, the gestures, and my position in the cockpit for each manoeuvre. Just to make things even more fun, with three reefs in the mainsail I have to gybe without the runners, the backstays attached to the rear corners of the sailboat and which maintain the mast. The sequence must be perfect. I prepare everything: I watch the airspeed indicator to have only 30-32 knots during a short lull in the wind, so that Boogaloo is on top of a mountainous wave and not in a dangerous valley. Now! I hit YES on the GYBE function of the autopilot and quickly carry out the exact manoeuvres. And then I shout out loud, loud enough to make the rigging vibrate: Yeeeeessss!!!!! Boogaloo starts surfing again, runners taut, mainsail and ORC jib perfectly set under the new tack. Gybing successful.
A few hours later I receive an email from Christian outside our daily exchanges: "You didn't slow down. 14.6 knots average speed with 39 knots average wind-speed, not bad." Well then, Boogaloo, we didn't slow down, did we? You sixteen-meter kiddo, you.... Meanwhile, the OSC System was tirelessly collecting every six seconds the oceanographic data that we have come to find in the Roaring Forties, before transmitting a package every hour by satellite to the international scientific community. The OceanoScientific Expedition routine, I suppose.
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday morning. It is translated and prepared on Thursday, and then published on the association's website and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
Friday 10March 2017
44°93' South - 141°61' West
Playtime in the Pacific...
On my way to Cape Horn, which I should round in just over two weeks, I'm plotting a series of flattened M’s (see the map): port tacking downwind (with the wind out of my left), jibbing (changing tack downwind) then starboard tacking (with the wind from my right), gybing, port tacking again, gybing and starboard tacking... The OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" slides her sixteen little meters over the long swell at good speed, surfing as soon as possible, but exposed to the huge cross-waves that sometimes break over and onto us. Thanks to the quality of routing by Christian Dumard, we are sailing in a corridor avoiding the worst of the depressions further south and the calmer anticyclones farther north. That does not prevent Boogaloo and me from having a lively time in a rougher Pacific Ocean than that of Ferdinand Magellan, who called it the "peaceful sea" in 1521, although one of his ships was wrecked by an enormous anticyclone and its lulls west of South America, en route to Asia. Whatever the case, thankfully for Fernand, his old-fashioned ships didn’t venture into the seas we have just crossed....
This what the deck looks like in a 40-knot gale and stronger! The picture was taken in the cockpit, to windward, at breast height. The orange spot is the ORC jib (storm sail). The blue line is a part of the OceanoScientific logo on the mainsail with three reefs. The rest is the Pacific, seen close up! Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
The airspeed indicator has already been indicating a minimum of 35-37 knots of wind for several hours. The squalls have been following one after another without intermittent winds of up to 45-47 knots. Properly canvassed with three reefs in the mainsail and her handkerchief-sized equivalent in the bow: with the ORC jib, also named the storm jib, Boogaloo can deal with the wind. Less with the sea. For the last fifteen hours we have been starboard tacking to the Southeast, into the depression. We are waiting for the passage of the cold front and its gusts of wind. They cause the wind to jump direction. We gybe and port tack again, heading northeast. Under these conditions, our little hull is continually battered, half the time sliding straight along the never-ending swell and capped peaks formed by the strong wind and the troughs in the huge, anarchic cross-waves that hit our apparent harmony at angles ranging from 45 to 90 degrees. How the autopilot manages to navigate the ongoing chaos and never leave the route will always remain a mystery to me. Magic!
Gybing in the strong wind, in the dark of a moonless, starless night due to the low cloud ceiling is something of a relief. A deliverance. It should be the end of a complicated and uncomfortable spell of navigation. In fact it is just the beginning of a hectic period.
Happy to be out of this inhospitable area, I feel Boogaloo become swift and sweet. She follows the long surf with water hissing along the carbon hull like the noise of a brush roll on a snare drum. Without further ado I slip into the duvet, once my famous "SamSam" alarm clock (see Newsletter 04) has been set for an hour's sleep shift.
Barely asleep, I am woken by Boogaloo's disorderly movements. Surprising ... At first, I detect nothing particularly abnormal, apart from the yawing of the autopilot. At night, the door to the "veranda" being closed I cannot see the cockpit because of the reflections. What I call the veranda is the transparent bubble protecting the outside helm, an excellent design by François Lamiot (AP Sellerie) which significantly expands my sheltered living space.
Into my oilskins and outside in less time than it takes to write, I find the leeward rudder blade raised. It's the one which guides the boat. As had already happened on February 10 to the east of the Kerguelen Islands (photo below), when the windward rudder blade (inactive in helming the boat) had been lifted after a collision with a packet of algae that had risen from the ocean deep. We have just hit God knows what. The fuse has worked as a fuse. We've saved the rudder blade. That's a positive point.
Simple in theory and in port, replacing the fuse and reinstalling the rudder blade are complicated at sea. Especially with a wind force 7-8, and troughs four to six meters deep. At night, just to make things even more complicated.
First of all I have to stop Boogaloo. It's not the same as turning the indicator to the right, parking a truck in the lot and going for a quick pee first. It's stopping a racing yacht in which you cannot disengage the engine, because with its spanker at the top, the mainsail cannot be completely brought on deck. Anyway, I have to avoid making too many traffic jams in the waves. I therefore have to roll up the foresail while Boogaloolurches forty degrees left and right with its rudder out of action; completely sheet out the mainsail and turn the bow to 70-80° into the wind to calm things down. But in those conditions, Boogaloo can no longer escape the waves. She can no longer dodge the breakers like a bullfighter his bull. Olé! But it is not Olé at all: we are highly vulnerable. So I get a move on...
To give you an idea... While the rudder wriggles to the rhythm of the boat battered by waves, I have to drive the parts of the fuse into three different holes with a screwdriver and a hammer, flat on my stomach and bent in two on the aft deck; then lower the rudder blade with the aid of a winch; find the right position so that the three holes are aligned (what fun!!!); engage the new fuse; engage the clip in a 1.5 mm-wide hole of the fuse and close it with one hand in the water; moor the small strings holding the fuse either side of the rudder with my fingers numb; breathe deeply and drink a big gulp of water saying: YES! I've done it. A small step when you read this by the fireplace, a giant leap on board.
The most difficult thing is the fuse housing. In port, it is on the waterline. Which means, under the conditions I now have to face, one arm in the water - the other, clinging to the rudder head so that I stay on board - and my head often soaked by waves hitting the transom. I bless my height (1.93 meters) and my very long arms - thank you Mum, thank you Dad - because I don't know how a small-sized sailor would manage. Don't ask me if I did all this with the harness attached. It will stop me from being scolded by herself, because an exercise like that means your body has to be highly mobile outside the boat and a harness would hinder me during the difficult phase. Already the oilskin jacket gets stuck, so forget the harness. And I have to move fast.
So there you have it. Done. I intend to get back into my duvet after a well-earned cup of tea, toasting the health of Boogaloo.
Just as I am contemplating the sunrise at sea, cup in hand, at the end of a surf, while we are still sailing at 12-14 knots, Boogaloois caught behind by a big, a really big wave that shoves us out of our route at right angles. We start to bore away. That is to say, an unwanted downwind change in tack: the mainsail is blocked against the runners (backstays); the keel is inclined as far as possible and is therefore on the wrong side and lays Boogaloo across the waves, aided by the windward ballast and the ton of water which is now to leeward. On the wrong side. With the keel reset, the autopilot disconnected and secured, I take the helm and quickly gybe in the other direction. That's not the method recommended in the sailor’s manual, but with three reefs in a sea like this, we're not going to compete for the title of "Manoeuvre of the Year". And no one is looking; my two albatross friends Coco and Gros Pépère have the decency to turn their heads just then. I moved fast!
So there you have it. Sleep shift. At last.
Little than two hours later, as the squalls hit us and the airspeed indicator can't find a figure under 40 and the state of the sea continues to deteriorate, I carefully move inside. There's no way I can do that without holding onto something. One hand tightly gripping the tools, the other grabbing a handrail, my body leaning on the central cabinet or the bulkhead. Progress is slow and uneven. Boogaloochops and changes erratically at 17-23 knots under three reefs and a storm sail and does not spare the sailor. I am to windward between the bulkhead and my bunk when a huge bang hits us, also to windward, echoing from bow to cockpit.
We've been hit by a huge breaker that sends us reeling. Boogaloo has almost capsized with the impact. I am sent sailing to finish like a wet cloth on the hull downwind, partially cushioning my fall with my left hand and head. You do whatever you can. But I'm no stuntman! My first reaction is satisfaction. Nothing has budged inside, thanks to my installation where everything is secured and protected. Apart from your servant and single-handed sailor, thrown like a pair of dirty socks to the bottom of a laundry bag, the only injuries are due to the diving flight of a tea bag, a dose of sugar, a tube of mayonnaise (to eat with tuna), a bottle of water, the last slice of a packet of gingerbread (on which I take my revenge) and the kettle. In short, nothing of importance. Even the South African pink grapefruit, blocked by the fishing net that keeps them in the bin, didn't enter the cabin.
Using Arnigel for the bruised hand, nothing for my head which is solid, Embrocation Siamoise- the magic on-board ointment (1) - to treat my sore muscles and a couple of Tylenol tablets to complete the cure, in a few days I'll be back in great shape.
Let me assure you, however, my everyday life is not filled with fun and games like these, fortunately for me! These are exceptions. The rest of the time, even in a strong wind and big seas, life on board is less complicated. More peaceful. As long as your definition of the word "peaceful" is lax.
None of these antics prevent the OSC System from automatically collecting oceanographic data at the Air-Sea interface every six seconds, and transmitting them just as automatically every hour by satellite to the international scientific community. Because that's what we're here for, aren't we? Ho hum, life goes on...
(1) Embrocation Siamoise is one of those home-made remedies which dates back to 1872. It is a cocktail of seven natural active ingredients created by the VICTA LAB laboratory in Fontaine-sur-Ay (51160 - France)
A hoist made of black shock cords, visible in the foreground behind the mainsail track, lifts the rudder blade up out of the water when the fuse blows. In this way it prevents it from being damaged when it collides with a hard body. All that remains to be done is lower it back down, replace a fuse, and Bob's your uncle. But that's easier said than done...
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
The rudder fuse is a carbon rod ten millimetres in diameter. The missing part in the picture is the one that remained in the rudder when it hit something and broke. I have a stock on board - fortunately for me!
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 3 March 2017
45°29' South- 176°48' West
The Serenity of Sailing Single-Handed
New Zealand is now behind me. I've checked "Done" in the job-list. When you read this on Friday the 3rd* of March, I'll be moving to the other side of the anti-meridian, that is to say that I'll be changing from longitudes East to longitudes West. My one day ahead of French local time will become one day behind. I really am in the Pacific. I don't yet know how I'm going to round Cape Horn, but that's the next goal nevertheless. And it's still a long way off. I am about halfway through the scientific part of the expedition to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The volume of data collected and the number of oceanographic samples taken suggest that this first-ever science-based expedition by a sailboat of this kind is on track to completion. But there are still thirty days of navigation left in a vast ocean desert, the largest of all. I'm taking nothing for granted until I'm out of the Forties. I have no intention of forgetting that the primary quality of a seafarer who wants to sail far from land is humility.
Sailing fast downwind, Boogaloo surfs away, with the Far South looking its finest. I have to make a general inspection every day, just to check there's no risk of damage, because the boat and its equipment are subject to harsh, non-stop stress and strain. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
I don't know if being an only son predisposes a person to sailing single-handed; if the long, very long afternoons playing alone in your room as a boy help you acquire the serenity that befits a seafarer alone on a boat. Whatever the case, as the days go, by I feel more in harmony with my environment: comfortable on board, serene at sea. Every day that flows with the tide helps me better understand what Bernard Moitessier meant in "The Long Road". The best-seller made me dream of what I am doing now, when I was only twelve or thirteen years old. I regret having left the book on my bedside table in Cabourg; I would so like to read it again for the umpteenth time here, the perfect place to do so.
I now understand better how strong a sailor's ties with land must be in order to return to port when you are out at sea. Far out. For a long time. I now understand better why, when he had theoretically won the 1968-1969 Globe Challenge- won in fact by Robin Knox-Johnston, a magnificent sailor for whom I have the greatest admiration - Moitessier preferred not to sail back up the Atlantic, but continued on to the Indian Ocean and then the Pacific instead, far from the madding crowd of consumer civilization, from a world ruled by the pace of marketing and advertising.
In the same way, when mothers with their children, their eyes filled with esteem and often shyness, approached Florence Arthaud to show her their respect and praise for her courage as a seafarer, as winner of the 1990 Route du Rhum, Florence always answered them: "It is you, Madam, who are courageous enough to have children, and raise them. I just have fun sailing, and there's no comparison. What you do is much harder!" And her approach did not change once she became the mother of Marie; on the contrary. Without boasting or being falsely modest, Florence expressed what life is like when you're sailing a boat single-handed, whether you're racing or not, because that doesn't change anything in particular. The common denominator is loneliness.
As surprising as it may seem for a landlubber, the most important and the most complicated phase in sailing single-handed is the long and sometimes very long period of preparation prior to setting sail. On land and not at sea. Or so little, just to confirm the work done on land. A labour of love fit for a hard-working slave that seems to be endless, in which you finish seven days a week exhausted by the ten to twelve hours of daily effort with the feeling that the job-list only gets longer as the days go by and that tomorrow will be even busier than today. It is at that precise moment, all alone, with your hands in the dirt and your head filled with the financial worries that unfortunately go hand in hand with every individualistic undertaking, still far from the concerted encouragement and congratulations, but just at the time when the snide remarks and questions encourage your pernicious common sense to give it all up, that you have to brace yourself, not let go, and above all not let the dream die, at all costs prevent the flame of passion from flickering out.
In those moments when a great effort of will is needed, moments that last longer than the pleasure of sailing the sea, a family circle united in adversity and a few true friends, Jean-Marie, Olivier, Yann, Bernard... make all the difference. So that you finally cast off with a boat ready to sail through any storm. So that you want to return to port. Otherwise, like Bernard Moitessier, you'll forget to turn left after the Horn and continue the long road, extend the endless horizon to the endless horizon of the day after. Simply because life at sea is easier than on land.
On board, each manoeuvre is the promise of a brighter future. Let me explain. For instance, when the wind picks up, the autopilot increases its efforts and yet your wake is less straight. The sounds of the boat hitting the waves grow louder. You're roughed up and rattled. Your feeling of harmony slowly crumbles away. So you decide to trim your sails. Either take in a reef, or replace the head-sail. The choice is simple. But you know that once the manoeuvre has been completed you'll quickly retrieve the serenity of a balanced sailboat, in harmony with the elements, and you'll feel good again on board, it will become great again to be at sea.
It is very difficult and even impossible to have that feeling as intensely and as simply on land. There are too many factors involved, too many circumstances beyond our control, too many parameters we cannot manage, parameters we often do not even know exist, such that when you take a decision all you can do is hope it will turn out alright. Inshallah. On land, the result is that you tend to stress. Then, little by little, especially if the current atmosphere is not very enthusiastic, your stress can turn into anxiety. What courage a landlubber needs compared with a seafarer, alone and serene on board, far away from everything, and above all far away from the heavy, everyday responsibilities of life on land.
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday morning. It is translated and prepared on Thursday and published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
Friday 25 February2017
48°15' South - 147°22' East
Back to Beginnings
Today, Wednesday, February 22* was my 70th day at sea since leaving Monaco. And I figure about 70 days is the time needed to return and moor the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo"to the pontoon of the Yacht Club de Monaco. I shall pass the longitude of Hobart this weekend, heading for the islands south of New Zealand: the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. I personally never went further south of the longitude of Auckland (New Zealand) on board L’Esprit d’Equipe. Boogaloo has never gone further than Wellington, New Zealand's administrative capital. So we are both preparing for a major first: the Pacific. Or a good month of sailing further and further South, since we shall round Cape Horn, located at 55° 58 south and then push on a little eastward, still in the Forties, to complete the scientific expedition and then point Boogaloo’s bow northwards. Since I am in the Far South, the passage through the Kerguelen Archipelago remains a high point that I was not expecting.
The sunset in the Indian Ocean combines the blue of the enchanting islands of the tropics, far, far away to the north of my position in the Forties, and the blazing sun of the Far South, surrounded by a sky of grey left by the previous depression and lining the next. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
First, allow me to rectify an error made in previous newsletters. The Tasman Sea - and not the Tasmanian sea as I incorrectly wrote, as discovered by Abel Tasman (1603-1659), the Dutch navigator, and the first European to sail there in 1642 - is not located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, but lies at the opening into the Pacific, from the longitude of the southern tip of Tasmania, when arriving from the west. It bathes the west coast of New Zealand, where on all the beaches slammed by huge breakers the residents have seen fit to plant signs indicating "Swimming is hazardous." If I actually pass near the Auckland Islands, I leave the Tasman Sea. But I shall enter the Pacific at the level of longitude 146°55 east, so it should be this Friday 24th February.
Entering the Pacific, the largest ocean on our planet, of which it covers about one-third (170 million km2), I approach a highlight in the history of the discovery of oceans and continents, for it was Ferdinand Magellan who named this region of the seas Pacific in the 16th century as he left the strait he had just discovered south of America, a little north of Cape Horn and that now bears his name. As Stefan Zweig recalls in his excellent book "Magellan" which backs onto "The Career of a Navigator" by Albert I, Prince of Monaco, in the tiny magazine pouch which I use as an on-board library. The other works are in the iPad.
"Magellan discovers his kingdom (28 November 1520 - 7 April 1521). The first crossing of the unknown ocean - "A sea so vast that the human mind can hardly represent it," we read in the account by Maximilianus Transylvanus - is one of the most heroic feats ever known to humanity. The crossing of the Atlantic by Columbus was already considered in his time as a feat of incredible courage and yet it cannot compare with the victory Magellan snatched from the elements, for the price of privation without name. " (1) "... The mysterious ocean that because of the total absence of wind he calls the Pacific." (2)
While crossing the northern tip of the Kerguelen Archipelago (Kids Newsletter No. 14), which is a sea of about 150 square kilometres, I was first struck by the multitude and diversity of the birds. Then, for about three days to the East, I was impressed by the volume of seaweed floating on the surface and by its size (see photo below), while I was sailing with 2,500 to 4,500 meters of water under the keel of Boogaloo. The seaweed caused us some problems. The algae were so numerous and compact - more like trees - that they constantly caught in the rudder blades, in the hydro-generator and the keel. Fortunately the hydro-generator was not damaged. On the other hand I broke the carbon fuse of the wind rudder (the one that is only partially immersed and does not direct the boat). The rudder was suddenly raised by the safety system designed by the Finot-Conq firm of naval architects with Michel Desjoyeaux for Boogaloo, preventing it from breaking. In less than an hour and without stopping Boogaloo, I had put the rudder back with a new fuse. I was even forced several times to stop the boat and reverse to get rid of the huge swarms of seaweed that had enclosed the keel and rudders, costing us almost 30% of our speed. A delicate exercise in style with wind blowing at 25-30 knots in rough seas, an operation best renewed as infrequently as possible. Of course, pieces of seaweed entered the seawater circuit that supplies the OSC System, requiring regular maintenance to extract the seaweed upstream of the main filter, piece by little piece. I'm pretty sure I haven't finished doing that.
Another strange phenomenon, ever since the Kerguelen Islands, is that every wave that runs on deck leaves hundreds of tiny shrimp, which I call krill, but I may be wrong there as well. Even when I collect a bucket of water to take a sample for scientific purposes, I have to be careful not to trap these tiny living beings in the bottles.
And as I watch the albatrosses trace their beautiful arabesques in our wake, I suppose this region of the seas in which I am now sailing must resemble what the planet was like hundreds, thousands of years ago. A place in which life was blooming at every level and in every way. A place where humankind had not yet become the fearsome predator we are today. And I'd love to return for longer to the Kerguelen Archipelago where life is teeming without limit. I now understand better the interest and even the passion of Hervé Claustre of the Oceanography Laboratory of Villefranche-sur-Mer for this unspoiled part of the Indian Ocean. I promise, Hervé, we'll go and study together the surface plankton on board NOE, the Naval OceanoScientific Exploration vessel (Newsletter No. 14). Because it's a magical feeling to come back to our beginnings, and sail in these pristine parts of the Ocean. But the damage caused by the climate change created by human beings can also be seen in these unexplored regions of the seas, as the data we collect every six seconds aboard Boogaloo will probably attest after being analysed by the researchers from IFREMER and the LOCEAN (CNRS - UPMC).
During this monastic sequence where I am "alone in God's hand" on board Boogaloo, a tiny dot amidst the vast ocean, my mind turns to my friend, my brother, Jacques Morelli, who died on 11 February, whose body now rests in the tiny cemetery of Brétous (St. Arailles - Gers), but whose soul is no doubt very close to me. A friend for over 35 years, Jacques was a member of the epic team at Voiles & Voiliers magazine in the late 70s and early 80s. As the boss of Compo Gallieni, the photoengraving and layout workshop located at 34 rue des Montiboeufs in the twentieth arrondissement of Paris, Jacques with his wife Nicole and their team produced some of the films that were used to print the fast-rising magazine. Unsung press professions that have disappeared today. But I remember them now as an employee, producing texts and pictures for the magazine at the time of its expansion.
Jacques was courage, generosity, a zest for life incarnate. A huge smile, a firm handshake, eye to eye. Never a problem, only solutions. He accompanied me faithfully throughout my career in the print media and afterwards. He produced in particular the photoengraving layout for "Yachting à la Voile", the journal of the French Sailing Federation that I directed in the early 80s, and with Jacques and our collaborator Jean-Claude Brugeron, who was also the chief technical editor for the Le Figaro daily, we transformed the journal into "Voile Magazine". Together we created free dailies for special events, an innovation long before the free advertising press swept the world. What adventures we had! Nothing was impossible with Jacques. But we faced difficulties from time to time as well, which we happily shared and solved. And everything always ended with a good meal.
Which may be why Jacques was so cowardly abandoned by his liver, the traitor. I remember all the laughs and good meals we had together, which, I admit did not make Evian, Vittel, or Badoit any wealthier. But try to drink water with a meal of fried herrings and apples, a rare prime rib and a trio of Camembert, Pont-L’Évêque and Pavé d’Auge cheese. I can't. And nor could Jacques. "Waiter, the same again, please ..." Jacques, you know I love you. Whether you are here or there. Or nowhere anymore. Never fear, you're forever in my heart. On returning I'll tell you all about the Pacific and we'll drink a bottle of Brouilly or Chinon. Because it will be time to celebrate. Let's not change our old habits ...
* I am writing this newsletter on Wednesday morning. It is translated and prepared on Thursday and published on the association's website () and sent to subscribers on Friday morning.
(1) in "Magellan" - Stefan Zweig - Les Cahiers Rouges / Grasset - Page 199
(2) in "Magellan" – Stefan Zweig - Page 200
Having escaped from the bottom of the Ocean, more than two thousand meters down, here is a small piece of seaweed, coiled like a rope after drifting on the surface and becoming entangled in Boogaloo's rudder. Note the small shells which live as parasites in the algae. The stem measures between eight and twelve millimetres long. Unfortunately, the huge leaves at the end were torn away by the speed of the sailboat.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 17 February 2017
42°94' South - 111°65' West
In crossing the longitude of Cape Leeuwin at the southwestern tip of Australia on Saturday February 18, I now leave the Indian Ocean and enter the Tasman Sea, known for its brutality, with a deep depression lying ahead. A priori, I won't be sailing in conditions any tougher than those I have met since leaving Cape Town on 26 January. Then, a few days before the end of February, I'll enter the Pacific, the main course in this expedition's menu, which will take me to more than latitude 57° South to sail around Cape Horn. The Indian Ocean was relatively mild and I only had to fight truly hostile conditions during an incursion under the 50th Southern Parallel to deploy an Argo scientific float (Kids Newsletter No. 14). I am proceeding at a steady pace, breaking no particular speed records but surfing on the long swell, sailing at senatorial speed to the Far South. Ideal conditions to think ahead and refine the development strategy for the OceanoScientific Programme and the renewal of our scientific expeditions in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, on the route from Cape Town to Cape Town. And as always with the Yacht Club de Monaco as our home port. And as always in the same initiatory spirit instilled by Albert Honoré Charles Grimaldi, Albert 1, Prince of Monaco.
Specially designed by the Finot-Conq firm of naval architects for circumnavigation between the three continents of the Southern Hemisphere and the Antarctic, the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" relishes the big, endless waves that swell up after each depression. Times when this science-based expedition seems more akin to surfing the ultimate ride. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Some people at some time in their lives take a path first opened by an Elder whose values serve both as a reference and a starting point, whose experience can be used as a road-book, like the one given to participants in desert rallies so they can find the camp at night and a welcome rest after the gruelling efforts of the day. The usual result of such a choice is a philosophical, political or societal commitment. Or a religious engagement if the Elder in question is no other than God. To take as a guide someone whose legacy has become a lighthouse, and then plot the same course, is not to repeat something that has been done before, but to make the best possible use of past experience, respecting its original values in order to extend them to the present and into the future.
In my case, for ten years, my lighthouse has been a prince, a Seafarer Prince, a Scientist Prince: Albert I, Prince of Monaco. And I strive every day to faithfully observe the words of Jacques-Yves Cousteau about Him: "All those who pursue his work strive to keep his impetus alive." (1)
Why Him, you might ask? First, for His humility, on which His humanity was based: "They raised me with the simple habits that form the judgement of a man, and make him consider the hardships or struggles of life a likely consequence." (2)
Secondly, He was the pioneer of oceanography: a "Veteran of Oceanography workers", was how He defined Himself. Albert Grimaldi came to the sea through passion. When He bought the yacht the Pleiadin 1873 in England to turn it into L'Hirondelle, the first of His four expedition vessels, it was not to practice yachting as an ostentatious sign of His future status as a Prince - which He became on 10 September 1889 - but simply because He loved sailing on the sea, moved by and drawn to the ocean as if by an overpowering magnet. But a passion cannot be explained, it can only be experienced. To the uncompromising full. At that time, and in particular from 1885 onwards, when He converted L'Hirondelle to include a laboratory, gear for surveys, collecting marine animals and other equipment that have nothing to do on a yacht, I can imagine that a number of observers had fun mocking the rich yachtsman infatuated with science. I had to put up with similarly acerbic remarks when, as the organizer of the Trophée Clairefontaine des Champions de voile for nearly 25 years, I explained that I was leaving for the Far South to collect oceanographic data with a small, 16-meter racing sailboat! And omitted to mention I was going single-handed in fear of another round of painful mockery.
Once He had taken a decision, the Prince never looked back. His exploration of the ocean was tireless. "I expose here the emotions of a seafarer experienced in the culture of truth; the fruit of impassive resolution: a work guided by scientific thought and law that unites people in the legitimate conquest of well-being and morality." He wrote those lines in March 1901 in the Foreword of His book "A seafarer's career", republished in 1966 by the Editions des Archives du Palais Princier. Later in the book, He explained His position (3): "But I was not the kind of man to suffer the effects of failure for long, and, overcoming my disappointment, I soon resumed my struggle with the difficulties of life with greater ardour than ever before." Words that describe my determination to develop the OSC System so well I could have written them myself.
With a fortune equal in size to his passion, Albert I, Prince of Monaco was no less anxious to do more with less: "... if the constant attention of my mind on the goal I was pursuing, and if so much devotion around me were to be rewarded with success, when some predecessors had only succeeded with greatly superior means." (4)
Financially poor compared with Him, but thanks the support of our sponsors and partners, I have nevertheless succeeded in demonstrating that it is possible to explore unknown regions of the seas at the Air-Sea interface, and even deploy an Argo scientific float - which made its first dive down to 2000 meters and its first data transfer via satellite on February 14 - without expensive means, over-staffing or using dozens of tons of fossil fuel every day. But this is only the beginning of our work ...
Over and above the philosophy of a life exploring the Ocean, the same humility and healthy curiosity backed by total commitment, an indomitable will and uncompromising rigour - exhausting for the seafarer's family, as I well know - I also see myself as a disciple of Prince Albert I for two fundamental reasons.
The first is what made me so quickly start designing and developing the OceanoScientific Programme. On 14 November 2006, when the eminent glaciologist Jean-Claude Gascard took me to the fifth floor of tower 45-46 of Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), and the meeting room of the Oceanography and Climate Laboratory: Experimentation and Digital Approaches (LOCEAN), where for the first time in my life I met a group of researchers, some of whom still enthusiastically accompany me, such as Nicolas Metzl, Gilles Reverdin (LOCEAN) or Fabienne Gaillard (IFREMER), I discovered a world without borders. Researchers around the world communicate with each other at the speed of the Internet, exchanging, questioning, discussing, sharing information. Regardless of their nationality. Scientific research on the Climate and therefore oceanography and meteorology make progress by overcoming the sense of membership to any specific country. It is a wonderful way of bringing people together, of making progress on the same path for the good of all humankind. As one who has often dreamt that all the religions in the world could converge towards a single God loved by one and all, I was delighted to join a genuinely global community, in the best sense of the term. "I have cultivated science because it spreads light and light creates justice, without which any nation is on the road to anarchy and decadence" (5), wrote Prince Albert I, who was also the Founder of the International Peace Institute, which prefigured the United Nations (UN).
The second fundamental reason that intellectually binds me to the Prince is this constant desire to tell and to explain, in a word to share. Throughout His career as a navigator-explorer, Albert I, Prince of Monaco gave a large number of lectures, speeches and presentations of His work, before heads of state and scientists, especially during His long "Discourse on the Ocean" delivered in Washington at the National Academy of Sciences on 25 April 1921, fourteen months before His death, as if He were handing down a legacy. Backed by the same wish to share, He created the Institut Océanographique and its Museum in Monaco, and the Maison des Océans in Paris. The logo of the Institut Océanographique adorns the hull of the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", as part our partnership with that institution for the current expedition and those that follow it. How proud I am to sport it so far from home, and show it to all albatrosses who come to visit me in the Far South!
Perpetuating the immense work of Prince Albert I, even at our modest level because of the considerably smaller financial resources at our disposal and the difficulty in obtaining them, means living the present in order to look to the future, setting a new course in the wake of an exceptional man whose willpower opened the path in 1885. This first expedition of the OceanoScientific Campaign, which I have the honour of leading, highlights the fact - which is one of its purposes - that a fast sailboat can explore unknown regions of the seas at lower cost, but can also deploy increasingly sophisticated observation instruments in those seas, left to float with the tide today, but which will need to be recovered and recycled tomorrow.
In an age when we should consume less, be it euros, dollars or fossil fuels, it is essential to implement suitable and sustainable solutions to explore the Ocean in the unknown regions of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Southern Ocean, solutions that meet the requirement of plain common sense: doing more and better with less. For exploring, understanding and reporting on the Ocean help us foresee and preserve it. But not at any price, or in any old way. Prince Albert I would oppose such an approach with all his authority, surely with the same tone and the same words as those He used alongside Emile Zola and Georges Clemenceau to defend Captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1899.
A fast sailboat, of reasonable size: 24/26 meters (80-85 feet); led by a short-handed crew of four people with complementary skills; equipped with powerful scientific equipment used by a courageous scientist-engineer; with the capacity to on-load, deploy, recover thirty scientific floats; with an impartial observer on board; a sailboat used outside expeditions, whether in Monaco or Cape Town to take children aged seven to ten to see the sea, as well as teenagers who have lost their bearings ... such is the brief definition of the Naval OceanoScientific Exploration vessel (NOE to use the acronym), whose draft design will be entrusted to Pascal Conq, Erwan Gourdon and Pierre Forgia of the Finot-Conq firm of naval architects, who have already designed the blueprint for Boogaloo, when I return to land with a full sketchbook and a highly precise specification.
Leading a project whose code name is NOE, named after the patriarch of three religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the ancestor of all humankind after the Flood, the man who saved Humanity, as Science helps to save the Ocean, a common good of humanity, I am convinced that Albert Honoré Charles Grimaldi, Albert I, Prince of Monaco, would be the first to encourage me, especially if the sailboat also becomes a "diplomatic tool for raising awareness", as was the Princesse-Alice, the second to bear the name and the support for His fourth expedition, the most advanced research ship of its time: "The Princesse-Alice was the subject of consideration that enlightened men of all peoples reserve for the efforts of Science". (6)
(1) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Albert I, Prince of Monaco - 1966 Edition - Editions des Archives du Palais Princier - Introduction - Page IX
(2) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Page 29
(3) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Page 124
(3) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Page 123
(2) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Page 29
(3) In "A Seafarer's Career" - Page 190
Friday 10 February 2017
48°23' South - 76°28' West
All at Sea with the OSC System
As I write these lines I am approaching the Kerguelen Islands, 48° South and 67° East. The sky is a perfect blue, the light is pure and the horizon is far, far away, where sea and sky blend together. A beautiful day! Tonight the almost full moon will cover my field of white-crested waves with bronze, and the humidity inside and outside the boat will be ice-cold. When you read these lines, the French archipelago, home to the black-browed albatross, will be in my wake. Such is life on the great swell of the Indian Ocean, which has been benevolent so far. I am sailing on the Antarctic Circumpolar Current at a slow pace. I feel so good in this world. Like any single-handed yachtsman engaged in ocean racing, I discuss issues with land several times a day by email. Not about sailing performance, but about scientific research. I receive advice and recommendations. I discuss a great deal about professional issues with my wife, Cécile, General Delegate of the OceanoScientific association, my boss in fact. Cécile manages a thousand and one things and more besides. In particular, she serves as a link between the scientific community, our suppliers and Boogaloo. That task is more complex than it seems when problems arise with the OSC System, our prototype tool for automatically collecting and transmitting oceanographic data. There have been quite a few adventures with the OSC System.
We've found the black-browed albatross of the logo of the OceanoScientific association! He was flying between two waves on the long swell of the Indian Ocean on which the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" is sailing, heading east. One size smaller than the wandering albatross, its wingspan is no more than 2.50 meters. Even so. For me, it is the finest, most elegant albatross of all. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
The OSC System (Newsletter No. 1) was designed from scratch by my company, SailingOne. I imagined it in 2005-2006 and then designed it from 2007 to 2009 thanks to the enthusiastic contribution of a group of scientists specializing in the study of the major oceanographic and meteorological parameters that are crucial to understanding climate change. Then, from 2009 to 2013, we developed prototypes, tested them in hostile conditions on a route equal to about one and a half times the circumference of the world via the three capes on different sailboats, including a one-hundred-year old, three-masted sailing ship in the Antarctic. The result was the OSC System we have on board Boogaloo at the moment. Technically, we entrusted the construction of the components of this one-of-a-kind hardware to specialists, given that all sensors it uses, except for the SubCtech pCO2 (carbon) sensor, have been chosen by the scientists accompanying us, and they carefully ensure we use them properly.
An advantage of this patchwork of providers is that we have access to the exact skills we need at the right time, but it also creates a few hassles. It is difficult over time to maintain the motivation and enthusiasm needed to solve the problems that occur with any new hardware. And there is no vast commercial market waiting, such that greed will overcome the potential technical malfunctions of any prototype. We did think, however, that our technical problems were behind us when we took the OSC System on board Boogalooin Caen last October, after ten years of effort and investment. All we did, in fact, was open the door to a wide range of hassles. Very wide. I mention this with all the more ease in that THE problem we have had to face was partially solved on Tuesday 7 February. Everything now works properly except for the SubCtech pCO2 sensor which no longer responds. After more than three agonizing months, the solution was found thanks to the obstinacy of three scientists and an engineer: Thierry Reynaud (IFREMER), Gilles Reverdin and Nicolas Metzl (LOCEAN - UMPC-CNRS), and the enlightened pragmatism of the whizz-kid of Plouzané campus (Brest): Denis Diverrès (IRD).
It all began with the negligence of the German supplier who manufactured the OSC-Coreand the OSC-Water, and the pCO2 sensor we imposed on the scientists involved in the OceanoScientific Programme - i.e. all the parts involving parameters on the surface of the sea. And we needed the German supplier's skills on the eve of our departure from Monaco for a complete check of the system, critical to the expedition's success. We warned the company about this vital need two months before the deadline. But they did not fulfil our order, even though it was sent to them in due form. We took note. And did without. At least, we tried to do without.
So when the SeaBird SBE 45 TSG sensor (temperature / salinity) came back from a calibration and maintenance check in the United States and arrived in Monaco, I installed it myself, as I had dismounted it from the OSC System in September. Water inlet pipe at the bottom. Water outlet pipe at the top. A single plug in the centre and bob’s your uncle. I could have given the job to Quentin and Malo, my identical twins who are not quite ten years old, it's so simple. Except they would have quickly turned my SBE 45 into an intergalactic spaceship: "Look Dad, it launches guided missiles by satellite". Of course it does...
In addition, on the recommendations of Dr. Dimitri Voisin, the computer wizard who worked with Michel Desjoyeaux to produce the OSC-Software, the real secret weapon behind the OSC System, we asked a provider to install a very special socket (VGA) on the front of the OSC-Box, the beautiful carbon housing containing the special computers for the OSC System. Are you still with me? There's more to come.
The date is 17 November. Off we go for the world tour. I plug in the OSC System off Monaco. First alert from our scientific friends: there's no transmission of temperature / salinity data. A pain... Port call in Cartagena. Emergency intervention by Miguel Moll (EMS Sistemas), to reprogram the SeaBird SBE 45 sensor that had been deprogrammed during maintenance. But not reprogrammed. The OSC-Coreno longer recognizes it. And I set off again.
Panic on land, the seawater Temperature / Salinity data arrive alright, but the information makes no sense. Great. So what now? I'm sailing along the northwestern coast of Morocco in a raging sea (Newsletter 4). Boogaloo is hitting the waves so hard that the fluorescence sensor integrated with the OSC-Water bubble trap leaves its housing. Boogaloo's afterpeak is quickly filled with sea water, threatening to drown the whole of the OSC System. In troughs at least three meters deep and breakers covering the deck, I run from the stern to the cabin, shut off the seawater inlet, cut the power supply, empty and dry it all out. And I set off again. And I restart the OSC System. Except it does not restart. The OSC-Software didn't like the sudden shutdown. The Windows-based software has crashed. No problem, thanks to the plug I installed and mentioned earlier, I have access to the OSC-PC and I can restart it. Except that our service provider, instead of the socket we ordered, has installed another (HDMI). Which prevents me from accessing the OSC-PC and restarting it. End of game one. The bottom line is that because of a stupid socket, and an order that was not correctly fulfilled, we were unable to use the thirty days sailing down the Atlantic to test all our scientific equipment. No big deal in theory. We keep on smiling. A forced smile, nonetheless.
We have a port call in Cape Town, especially for the OSC System, which, I might remind you, would not have posed so many problems if our German supplier had deigned to fulfil our order and check the hardware of their design. A priori, in South Africa, the excellent Sea Technology Services team led by Derek Needham can solve all our little problems. Fred Fourie and Jean-Pierre "JP" Smit are quick and efficient. The tests are okay. Everything's fine!
I leave Cape Town, have a few scares in the Agulhas Current (Kids Newsletter No 12), the OSC System collects data every six seconds, transmits them every hour. I repeat to myself: everything's fine! But no, not exactly. No more. Cécile sends me peeved e-mails: Gilles Reverdin and Nicolas Metzl find the seawater Temperature / Salinity data incoherent. Thierry Reynaud confirms. For several days I am bombarded with mails: you have to turn this, close that, photograph this part, then that part, check the flow of water, make sure it is not blocked ... I give up. Cécile stoically keeps the flame burning, redoubles her care of the three scientists, finds the words to motivate me and put on my oilskin, face the raging sea, slip astern via the deck hatch and do what Gilles, Nicolas and Thierry have asked me to do.
The representative in France of the German company finally agrees to help, apparently under pressure from the scientists. And I get a page of instructions from him, via Cécile. Which I put immediately into practice. Of course. Problem: probably due to inattention, the page says just the opposite of what I should do. Which I do not know, before I comply with the German's instructions ... and break a piece of the OSC-Water which explodes in my face. Warning, warning! The water circuit, pumps, etc., shut down. I do the repairs. And I'm fed up!!! But Cécile is there, finds the words to motivate me again, circulates the information between the scientists and myself, learns on the fly terms and expressions she has never heard before about hardware she has never seen. Cécile becomes an expert in SeaBird SBE 45 TSG Chambers!
While I curse on my own and I take it out on the winches - sending two reefs at once of a 100-kilo mainsail that is rubbing against the rigging under 20 knots of wind would calm anyone down! - Thierry Reynaud talks about the problem to Denis Diverrès, a few offices away on the IFREMER campus in Plouzané (Brest). Denis is just below the office of Fabienne Gaillard, the real mastermind behind the OceanoScientific Programme. Denis specializes in the installation, monitoring and maintenance of scientific equipment on board ships of opportunity (freighters) on behalf of the French Development Research Institute (IRD). His experience is incredible. As is his common sense. He has installed temperature, salinity and pCO2 sensors in all kinds of conditions, including the worst. Denis and Thierry therefore share a whole batch of pictures of the OSC System. They wonder. They ponder. Then I receive an email from Cécile early in the afternoon, Tuesday, 7 February: "I think we've found the solution, Denis and Thierry have an idea." She reassures me and ignores the recriminations of your humble servant, one angry explorer: "They seem sure about it. Denis has made a diagram and I'll send it to you. You'll see, it'll work..."
In the end it turns out the SeaBird technician in the United States who worked on our SBE 45 has simply reassembled it upside down. The seawater entered the chamber where the sensor is located (TSG Chamber), but could not leave it. The water had stagnated. After the final repair operation, now that the seawater Temperature / Salinity data are correct, confirmed by Gilles, Nicolas and Thierry, I know I'm sailing in seawater at 6.25°. Which is why I'm cold. Which is why Christian Dumard, my precious router, advises me: "Watch out for ice"...
When all the lights are green, everything is okay: the OSC System is collecting and transmitting data properly. This is the screen of the OSC-PC which is accessible via the on-board computer. I regularly check the proper operation of certain parameters: Voltage and Water Flow, the most important. I also read the water temperature: 8.78°C in this case. Just to see whether I am in iceberg water... Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 3 February 2017
41°63' South - 44°15' West
Highways and Byways
Now below the 40th parallel south, I am sailing over the vastness of the ocean in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, driven by my dreams and the willpower, generosity and kindness of our backers and supporters. My present life can be summed up in three figures: the strength of the wind, where it comes from, and where I'm headed as a result. To the East. My only horizon is infinite and my only rule to respect the natural elements that tolerate my presence in these regions of the seas that have been seldom explored if at all. Like the albatross following in my wake, I am free to go wherever I want. As the days tick by, I humbly alternate the basic tasks of any seafarer and the work of the OceanoScientific Expedition, which involves collecting the scientific data I have come to glean in these hostile seas, and writing the articles I send to land. I have time to observe, think and reflect. Without limit, without end. Time to remember: sixty years to go back over. And imagine the years to come. Time to read as well. With a library as eclectic as its reader. In it, Albert 1 Prince of Monaco rubs shoulders with Stefan Zweig, Gérard de Villiers, Philippe Djian and Harlan Coben. Frédéric Beigbeder, as well; Beigbeder is important. I have just finished "A thousand lives are better than one" by Jean-Paul Belmondo. The whole book and more specifically the chapter entitled "Byways" made me think about my own journey.
A special DIY bucket, with a little colour as a gag, of ten litres with which to collect surface seawater without fear of falling overboard when Boogaloo races on; small bottles to carefully fill according to the specific instructions given me by Thierry Reynaud and Gilles Reverdin: I'm at work in the Roaring Forties.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
An only son, I spent all my youth up to the age of nineteen in the same house on the edge of the great North road, in Bois-Guillaume, a suburb of Rouen, after the second bend on the hill where the heavy trucks had to change gears, the vibrations resonating on our cobblestones and rattling the window-panes of my bedroom on the first floor.
A rebel at heart, from my birthday till now and probably until my last breath, a trait I inherited from my father, Roger, born in 1908, almost fifty years before I arrived on this planet. My Dad left his own home at the age of eight, more or less abandoned by his parents - I never knew exactly why - during the First World War. He never went to school and never had a Christmas present before the age of five - an orange. An orange apple, as they said in 1913. He found his vocation as a painter very early on, aged six or seven, when he persisted in spreading dandelion petals on pieces of wrapping paper to get the colour of the sun and only got a dirty brown green instead of the pretty yellow he hoped for.
A dad who knew privation ever since his birth, followed by two World Wars and the years of hardship as an artist on the roads of France and Spain, but happy because he was free. Without ever abandoning his paint brushes he was a trumpeter and drummer in a dance band, a ladies' hairdresser, prisoner-of-war in 1939-40 and then an escapee, chief minesweeper on the landing beaches of Normandy, creator and compere of the Army Review, and in France once freed, a house painter, a poet capable of making large audiences laugh with his antics, a severely uncompromising father with his son, but also very tolerant, taking me with him whenever he went off to paint on the banks of the Seine or the sea in the Pays de Caux region, leaving me completely free to roam the countryside without any constraint other than being back by the time he closed his paint box. I still miss Dad, and never said how much I loved him. But neither did he. Because love between a son and his father is difficult. Who would be proud at this moment to read his son’s fortnightly article in Paris-Normandie, the newspaper he read every morning after breakfast. A dad who still watches over me, I'm sure.
I would surely have been a conqueror at the time of Ferdinand Magellan, an inventor in the late 19th Century, a pirate at one time or another, at the head of a group of resistance fighters during the Second World War, and a trombone-player and leader of a jazz quintet in the cellars in Saint-Germain-des-Prés afterwards. But I am a seafarer, journalist, a creator of sporting events, project coordinator and commando leader, a self-taught entrepreneur. An innovator and explorer, as you can see. Equally gifted for causing chaos, methodically organizing fun, creating and carrying out jokes non-stop, a powerhouse of imagination. Which I hide well, you have to admit it. A hardliner in everything. In my work, effort, commitment and feelings. A weirdo, you say? It's simply that I feel akin to Belmondo's career, because I have the same qualifications, those of a truant. School really was not made for us. Nor we for it, mind.
During those formative years, I posed a puzzle for more than one class council. Around the table could be found the teachers who had to assess pupil Griboval, either classifying me as an incorrigible dunce, with marks consistently below average and who was totally absent during classes, although daydreaming next to the window; or as their best element, even a little tiresome given his level of participation in class, monopolizing the highest marks in French or History; or as the worst of the hoodlums, an imaginative organizer of chaotic gags, inciting his classmates to insubordination and eccentricities of all kinds. Fortunately the compassion of the faithful is no fable, otherwise I would never have spent so much time at Join Lambert, that Catholic school in Rouen which is dear to me and which did my soul so much good.
From one windowsill to another in the various classes where I eked out my schooling, I alternated between profound boredom, occasional passion and the heartfelt wish to be somewhere else. I spent so many hours watching the clouds, flying with them off to sea, attracted it would seem by a magnet of incredible power ... Only the personalities and educational gifts of the school's outstanding teachers as "communicators of knowledge" made me interested in certain subjects. History of course. Some aspects of Geography, apart from learning by heart the quantities of coal or grain produced in the world. I couldn't have cared less about that, and my number of zero marks rose accordingly. I loved French, a language I have always cherished. And Philosophy, of course. I have overlooked a number of other subjects, including the Spanish class which I only attended the first day, just to greet the teacher respectfully. Spanish was on Saturday mornings, the eve of sailing regattas and Saint-Valéry-en-Caux attracted me too much to waste wind in Rouen.
I met some exceptional teachers. And others who were more academic. Such as the one who intended to explain to us what Paul Verlaine, my favourite poet, meant in one of his major poems. I could not tolerate such a thing, with all the pent-up fire of my sixteen or seventeen years of age. "The emotion of a poet or artist is passed on to each of us differently, sir; what we each feel depends on our personalities, our past lives, at a given time in a given context. You have no right to impose the way we should interpret a poem. And who are you to say what Verlaine thought when writing "Mon rêve famillier "? Silence. "Griboval, take your things, you're in detention".
But there were other teachers, who woke us up and let us find out things for ourselves, how to appreciate a text, form a personal opinion, construct our lives. It is exceptional teachers such as those that I want my children to meet on their way through school, because they pass on much more than knowledge. They are quite simply essential.
I now close this chapter of my life. I have avoided telling you the lengthy story of the other antics I got up to, which did not stop at high school but grew even longer when later I became a professional offshore racer and journalist. And lessened when I became an entrepreneur. Avatars of all my life beforehand, which now finds me on a sailboat in these astonishing regions of the seas. A new step in my life before others.
Today, the first of February, 2017, as I write these lines, having just crossed the threshold of the 40th parallel South and I continue to sail further southwards, I begin the actual work of this scientific expedition, so I shall temporarily abandon the Mac in favour of a bucket and sample vials. The reason is that they are counting on me somewhere near Brest, on the campus of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) at Plouzané and in a few rooms on the fifth floor of Tower 45-46 of Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris (LOCEAN - UMPC / CNRS) to bring back evidence of climate change. That's what I'm here for, a regular rebel, forever and always on the highways and byways of life.
Friday 27 January 2017
34°55' South - 19°22' West
For those who missed the first ten episodes - which are still available on the website of OceanoScientific, the general-interest philanthropic association, as are the eleven Kids Newsletters already issued - having set sail single-handed from Cape Town (South Africa) on Thursday, January 26th, here are the highlights of my expedition. On 17 November, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco cast off the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" from the Yacht Club de Monaco and I set course southwest. I waited twelve days in Cartagena (Spain) for a weather window to open in Gibraltar. Then I sailed non-stop to Cape Town, meaning a total of 42 days at sea, without the slightest damage or problem. The fortnight spent in South Africa allowed us to check the entire sailboat and thoroughly prepare the oceanographic equipment we had on-board. The campaign to collect scientific data at the Air-Sea interface in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, in regions of the seas seldom explored if at all, is about to begin. From Cape Town, I'm heading for Monaco, but by going around Antarctica from west to east. Still single-handed on my 16-meter all-carbon sailboat. My estimated date of arrival in Monaco is mid-April.
The summer in Cape Town will soon give way to the cold and grey of the Roaring Forties. The transition is always brutal and often surprises even the better-informed. I am about to enter a world of pain.
Photo Manuel Mendes - OceanoScientific
The further we go in the expedition, and even more so now that the expedition proper has started, and the OSC System is automatically collecting data every six seconds on ten different parameters, the more relevant I find the future of oceanographic research by sailboat in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Southern Ocean. At present I have diverted a sailboat built for off-shore racing competition and instead I am using it in hostile regions of the seas where the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties reign, for the benefit of the international scientific community in charge of the study of the causes and consequences of climate change. Ultimately, however, taking advantage of the fact that between the five continents and the Antarctic the winds never runs out of steam, it would genuinely relevant to think about designing oceanographic vessels, like those at sea today, that would be capable of carrying a sophisticated, bulky equipment used by a battalion of scientists and engineers. Achieving an average of ten to twelve knots only using wind power seems a reasonable goal for a large sailing vessel. Rather than burn 50 to 70 tons of diesel fuel per day to sail at the same speed!
But let us not put the cart before the horse. Or sail after steam. Before moving on to the next stage of OceanoScientific Programme, the purpose of which is a series of expeditions around Antarctica by sail during the austral summer, as I am now doing and thereafter each austral winter (June to September) as I hope to quickly do, resulting in a valid expedition with Boogaloo from the scientific point of view. In addition to the fact that this is a first. Never before has a sailboat gone off to collect oceanographic data at the Air-Sea interface in regions of the seas so important for understanding the climate, but about which we have so little information, and even none at all in some the regions where I shall be running the OSC System, and in parallel collecting samples of surface seawater for the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
My route will cross that of two research vessels also on expeditions. The French ship Marion Dufresne is currently sailing in the Southern Ocean, with many scientists on board. Another is the international shipping ACE - for Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition- which is coordinated by the Swiss Polar Institute and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) on the initiative and with the subsidies of the "Gentleman Explorer" Frederik Paulsen, who has leased the Russian ship Akademik Treshnikovin order to do so. No less than twenty-two projects are being conducted within this framework, by 55 scientists from thirty countries. In both cases, our router Christian Dumard is supervising the crossing of our routes, so that the data collected on three different vessels, the two mentioned above and the one I am currently helming, can be subsequently compared. The more scientists have reliable data, i.e. which have been cross-checked and confirmed, the more they will be able to tell us and those who govern us about the causes and above all the consequences of climate change.
During my circumnavigation, I shall obviously use the routes taken by off-shore races. Starting by that from Cape Town to New Zealand, which I sailed as a crew member aboard L’Esprit d’Équipe during the austral summer from 1985 to 1986 at the invitation of Lionel Péan, winner of the Whitbread crewed round-the-world race, which has since become the Volvo Ocean Race. My wake will also follow those of Thomas Coville and Francis Joyon, both extraordinary record-holders in round-the-world sailing. I will also cross and recross the wakes virtually left by the competitors in the Vendée Globe. The difference being that I am not racing against the clock or against other seafarers. I am here to retrieve scientific information of the highest quality possible. Which does not prevent me from occasionally letting my Finot-Conq sailboat clock up the nautical miles. Or from achieving good averages because the sea and wind conditions are such that Boogaloo does not ask my opinion about surfing the endless waves. The long swell that no land ever stops is a great playground.
Friday 20 January 2017
33°55' South - 18°25' West
Waiting for the Wind
Moored at the pontoon of the Victoria & Albert Marina in Cape Town, the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" is ready to resume her expedition, now heading for Monaco by circumventing Antarctica via the three capes: Good Hope, 35 nautical miles (65 km) from Cape Town, Leeuwin (Australia) and The Horn (Chile). The purpose of the port call (the recalibration of some of the sensors in the OCS System and a complete overhaul before the commencement of the scientific expedition in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current) was carried out on time by Fred Fourie and Jean-Pierre "JP" Smit of Sea Technology Services, in conjunction with Stefan Raimund (SubCtech) and Dr Dimitri Voisin (Mer Agitée) in accordance with the recommendations of the Météo-France team. Now all that remains for me is to watch for a favourable wind to leave Cape Town and join the sea lane used by the depressions in the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties.
The port call in Cape Town provided an occasion for a nice contact with the French high school, especially with the second and final year students, supervised by Anny Ridon, their natural science teacher, whose son, William, wants to be an oceanographic biologist. Photo Cape Town French High School / Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
The OSC System is the material that I designed in 2006 to automatically collect scientific-quality data on several parameters at the Air-Sea interface on a small sailboat fifteen meters long or more. The system collects the data every six seconds covering ten parameters: five at the sea surface: temperature, salinity, acidity (pH), partial carbon pressure (pCO2) and Fluorescence. In the atmosphere, it measures the strength and direction of the wind, the temperature and humidity of the air, and the atmospheric pressure. Every hour, a median is calculated over ten minutes from H-10 to H, and automatically transmitted by satellite at H+02 to Météo-France, which decodes the data packet received, checks its relevance, and then sends it to international oceanographic and meteorological databases.
It took ten years to develop the OCS System, including five years of intensive work by a consortium of two private companies: SailingOne (the Norman company acting as consortium leader) and SubCtech, based in Kiel (Germany); and two French institutions: IFREMER, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, and Météo-France, the French national meteorological service. The OSC System was awarded the Franco-German Economy prize in the "Environment" category in December 2013.
After numerous tests already organized by SailingOne on a course representing almost two times around the world, including voyages to Antarctica on the three-masted Bark Europa and the Arctic aboard La Louise and over 15,000 nautical miles on board the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo", the OSC System is ready to collect data in sea regions seldom explored if at all at the air-sea interface that I am preparing to enter in the coming days.
In addition to these data collected and transmitted automatically, I have taken on board a number of flasks entrusted to me by IFREMER and LOCEAN (Oceanography and Climate Laboratory: Experimentation and Digital Approaches) of Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC - CNRS) in order to gather samples of sea water once a day. Some are for IFREMER for salinity analyses. The others will go to LOCEAN for seawater isotopes analysis (Oxygen-18). We have also equipped the keel with two independent temperature sensors, the data of which will be compared by IFREMER with those collected by the OSC System.
Recently, the barometer entrusted to us by Météo-France became slightly whimsical, displaying a few random atmospheric pressures worthy of an anticyclone some people dream about. It should noted in its defense that the shocks it has had to put up with would put the pressure on any barometer! Jean-Baptiste Cohuet (Météo-France Toulouse), who has been providing support for the development of the OSC System for a long time, found a solution the next minute. Since the cable ship Leon Thevenin of the Orange Marine Fleet (formerly France Telecom) which was on a port call in Cape Town (Don't miss the Kids Newsletter on Monday, January 23) was equipped with a Météo-France "Batos" station, Jean-Baptiste immediately contacted Commander Hugo Plantet ... and we set sail with their barometer, tested and validated. All of the parameters switched to green.
Finally, Martin Kramp of JCOMMOPS, the operational unit of JCOMM (Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology), whose mission is to serve as a gateway between the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) - which is sponsoring our expedition - and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), has entrusted us with an Argo float sponsored by the Roz AvenSchool at Plougonvelin (Brest). My task is to launch it to sea where Martin Kramp tells me to, depending on route taken by Boogaloo. This autonomous float carries out dives nearly 2000 meters deep to collect data in the water column and then transmit them for several years by satellite to scientists.
Everything is perfectly organized. All that remains now is for Eole to give me the green light to leave Cape Town, because I want to avoid being caught off guard by a wind of over thirty knots to windward along a hostile coast with a large number of reefs. So I have a few more hours or a few more days to wait in the gentle summer atmosphere of Cape Town. There are worse waiting conditions. Even for someone who is chronically impatient!
Martin Kramp (JCOMMOPS), surrounded by the children of the middle classes and CE2 / CM2 classes of the Roz Avel School in Plougoumelin (Brest) who have decorated the Argo float they have sponsored. One way of raising children’s awareness about the importance of preserving the Ocean. Photo Michèle Cessou - Le Télégramme
Vendredi 13 january 2017
33°55' South - 18°25' West
Tempest in Cape Town
On Monday, January 9, at 17:30 I arrived with the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" less than an hour from Cape Town (South Africa), after sailing single-handed for 41 days at sea and 10,500 nautical miles (19,500 km) since leaving Monaco. The last two days and the last night of sailing were in "competition" mode in a steady breeze, with good averages, completed twice by my new personal record: 26.2 knots in 30-32 knots of real wind – not bad for a small 16-meter sailboat used for scientific purposes! About thirty minutes later, the airspeed indicator stabilizes at 45 knots. The spray is flying horizontally. An hour later, the harbourmaster is recording gusts of 70 knots as I arrive in the roadstead. The sea is smoking white. At the helm, I run to the northwest with just three reefs on the mainsail, never slower than 18 knots in powerful surf all the time. Night falls just as brutally and seems bleaker than it should. The dream of a rare steak, a pint of cold beer and a good night's rest in a bed that does not jump or shudder, are all swept away by the raging storm. A tempest in Cape Town is quite an adventure!
The top of Table Mountain capped by fluffy clouds, under a perfect blue sky. In the bright clean air, the peak of Lion's Head stands out clearly. It is about 5:30 p.m. local time. With about 25 to 28 knots of real wind, on board it's time to take a few souvenir pictures of Cape Town after 41 days at sea. I might as well enjoy myself: it won’t last....
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Yet everything had started out well. As it always does in horror films. Emerging from a series of grey waves that lengthen the surf, in a sort of equally dismal fog, driven by 25 to 35 true knots of Southern breeze, in a crosswind I entered an ideal world consisting of blue sky, a superb sea spotted with pristine white wave-tops and a bright summer sun. Clouds of birds fly overhead, playing a few meters above the waves, or in compact squadrons skimming the waves to unknown destinations, as if they were late for an extremely urgent meeting. A few seals are sunbathing on the surface even before I see the coastline. The garbage floating on a deep-blue sea heralds the nearby presence of mankind. In short, I can smell land. What a satisfaction it is to have completed this first part of the route without an incident... for the time being!
I know, of course, the extent to which great South African city is capable of some fearsome squalls rolling down the steep slopes of Table Mountain, which to Cape Town is what Notre-Dame de la Garde cathedral is to Marseille. Perhaps a little more manly. I had prepared for bad weather, ending the route under-sailed with three reefs in the mainsail and the staysail (a small storm jib). The rigging was supposed to facilitate manoeuvring when I met up with Manuel Mendes, who was to greet me with a semi-rigid inflatable dinghy to help me get into the harbour, because Boogaloo's engine, which had been perfectly overhauled during the port call in Cartagena (Spain), would not start. And my mechanical skills stop at turning the ignition key in the right direction. Since I do not need the engine to produce power – provided by two highly efficient Watt & Sea hydro-generators – I rely on the goodwill of the friendly owner of R & M Boatbuilders, the shipyard located in the heart of the largest marina of Cape Town, who are used to picking up the pieces of the lame and wounded from the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race.
While I enquire by phone about his absence on the water, Manuel tells me that there is so much wind in town he cannot leave the harbour. Either one of the initiators of Team Shosholoza, the legendary and friendly South African challenge from the Royal Cape Yacht Club to the America's Cup 2007 in Valencia (Spain), is telling me a tall story, or I'm going to have a problem. The second option turns out to be the right one. Okay, so here we go...
The sea is shaded by a first burst of wind, with a second immediately behind it, then the wind stabilizes without further ado at 43-45 knots, clipping the waves with long streaks of foam. I have to roll up the flying jib as fast as I can, reel in the mainsail to ease the pressure on Boogaloo and thank the autopilot for its good and loyal service, because the navigation is getting a little too complicated for it to cope. It is not designed to "play the squalls," in the terminology of sailing ships. Clear the decks! At the helm in a world of horizontal spray, I see a spout of water shoot up vertically just ahead, a little to the right of the bow. It is a whale blowing for air. I pass a ten-meter long killer whale with its white chin and languid movements. One or two degrees different in heading and I'd have to take out the accident report. If he has any multi-ton friends around, this may end up by becoming somewhat complicated...
Very quickly, which is normal since I am racing along at nearly twenty knots, I find myself in front of the harbour entrance. No dinghy, no Manuel. And I understand why when I see a wall of spray several meters thick coming from the shore in a rumbling torrent of wind and rain. I change tack, from crosswind to wind from full astern. Boogaloo is given a huge kick in the behind. I find myself in the unknown, somewhere between Robben Island and land in a hazardous form of navigation in which, roped to the helm, I have little time to go to the chart table and the computer screen to see if there is a shoal in front of the bow. Viewed from the cockpit, the sea on the map is clear, without any visible obstacle. Ever since man first set to sea, a form of navigation called by the unequivocal expression “on the run”!
Firstly, nothing's broken, there's no damage. Which also means 41 days without having to take out the toolbox. Secondly, with or without an engine, Cape Town the tempestuous has refused to let us in. Because the wheezing little 35-horsepower engine that propels us along at five knots in a calm sea without a breath of air, is incapable of countering a raging storm. So I have to escape from this hell at sea and find refuge offshore where I can spend the night on the lanes plied by the giant container ships arriving from Asia and sailing up along the African coast. Without going too far offshore, because I have to come back. Back to Cape Town.
It gives me an opportunity to test the fourth reef in the mainsail, which leaves me only 17 square meters of fabric in the mast, prepared for the really bad weather of the Far South. Done! Thus equipped, I place Boogaloo90 degrees from the wind, the V-shaped bow facing into the waves, to stabilize my speed of about four knots and slowly progress in the trough of the swell, with the breakers crossing too quickly for my liking. Having foreseen for my Antarctic Circumpolar journey a cockpit door in two parts, the larger at the base to prevent the sea from breaking into in my home sweet home, I barricade myself in for the night. I did well, because I was bowled over three times in the night by breakers submerging my tiny skiff, abundantly filling the cockpit. I fall asleep in spates, finding it difficult to keep dry in a quilt sticky with the salt and sweat accumulated in tropical seas. I imagined something better for the evening. But what ho! The life of a mariner often consists of contingencies.
Cape Town the beautiful has turned us away tonight. The city would welcome us with open arms 24 hours later. After a night keeping away from land, I have to return to windward, facing the current, with a wind oscillating between nothing and 25 knots. I have never had to tack so much as in the last 36 hours. Manuel is waiting with his brother José. They greet me with the benevolent smiles of those who know what I have had to suffer facing their beloved city of adoption. I well deserve the rare steak and cold beer!
Saturday 7 January 2017
37°40' South - 07°24' West
Sixty at Sea
When my late Mum was asked about her best memory, the greatest joy of her life, she always replied with a broad smile: "7 January 1957, the birth of my only son, Yvan". 7 January 2017 will now figure among my own best memories. It marks my 60th birthday on the Sea, a few hours before arriving in Cape Town (South Africa) after forty days sailing the Ocean single-handed and a twelve-day port call in Cartagena (Spain) since 17 November, the day on which HSH the Sovereign Prince Albert II cast off the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" at the foot of the Monaco Yacht Club. And a foretaste of the Far South after a week of sailing in the Roaring Forties. So I shall be calling at Cape Town for about a week, before starting a scientific expedition in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and getting down to business.
The tension can be seen on my face. With my head in the bulls-eye of the deck-house and some apprehension in my eye, I watch the wind strengthen and the swell dent with the waves of this new breeze. The behaviour of the boat is simply an extension of your body. Each shock with the sea is a shock on yourself. From two we are now one. This is not just another gale, another depression to get through. It's my first depression sailing single-handed in the Roaring Forties. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Entering the Roaring Forties, which actually begin around the 36e-37e Southern Parallel, below the latitude of Cape Town (33°50S), in an area of the seas where the swell is never-ending, with no continent to break its roundabout journey around Antarctica and the Globe, without any signpost or border crossing. You enter them the same way you move from France to Belgium without noticing it. The sun is still there, maybe shining a little less brightly. And a fleece over your T-shirt would be useful. Nothing more to it, in the beginning. Except there was no doubt about it: there wasn't a bird in the sky, until dozens of petrels arrived. And following the wake of Boogaloo, hovering like a slow bomber inexorably approaching its target, the first albatross appeared out of nowhere. You cannot imagine the emotion. With tears in my eyes, I watched the superb bird come closer, rise above the cockpit, you can't see if its gaze is a welcome message or simply a search for prey, before turning into the full crosswind and sailing away, without moving a wing. Yeeesss! So-here-I-am-in-the-Forties. For over thirty years I have been dreaming of this moment, and now here I am. Confirmed by the albatross. Hence the emotion. On another beautiful sunny day. The last. Because afterwards things become more brutal. These really are the Roaring Forties.
The first layer of fleece is supplemented by a second. You pull out the boots, knee socks and a warm jacket to wear under the oilskins to go and maneuver. Your neck is warmed by a choker, or a soft cashmere scarf that reminds you of your family with its friendly touch. And as if washed by so much sea spray, weary to the point where it has abandoned its colours, the sun shines a pale yellow. The sea, which was still blue a few hours ago, has become tinged with so much grey it seems black, and bronzed when the sun is low in the sky. And the swell is constant, compelling, sometimes chaotic under the effect of the crosswinds. But so regular in its endless rhythm, beating time with each depression linked together without limit in a symphony of extremes. Welcome to a different world. Not for the faint-hearted.
With the wind coming in, heavy, weighing on the sails like no other, the visibility decreases, grey becomes standard and the Ocean becomes lost in the sky. And sometimes the other way around. Grey also - in reply to those who asked me why this sailboat is grey - Boogaloo blends into the desolate seascape for which she is intended, almost out of respect. But in a high-performance Finot-Conq sort of way. At 110-125° from the true wind, Boogaloo is one hell of a machine. And she's in her element here. Flat out. The first depression was not very pleasant. Too much tacking, a sea too chaotic and, too much stress to enjoy it. The second, on the contrary, was consistent with what we know about the Far South. You catch the front of the depression and you start racing. The goal is to hang on as long as possible, sails as high as possible, i.e. without bringing them down to avoid the punishment of over-violent winds. So you're flat out. There's no other solution.
Remember the old French trains of 70s and 80s, as there still are on some lines, such as the Paris - Cherbourg run. You remember the noise you hear when you cross the sort of accordion bellows that connect two wagons? On board, it's exactly the same. The sailboat snores, whines, whistles and vibrates as she rears her bow, then bangs down with each wave that catches us. She speeds up and then gives the impression of slowing down and then starts off again with the growing hiss caused by the keel and its well as it empties and resonates, while the water hissing on the hull climbs up into treble notes as we speed along at 20, 21, 22, 23 or 24 knots. Our current record is 25.8 knots. With 35 knots of real wind. Which is already high in these latitudes. A speed one tenth from my personal record and six-tenths from Boogaloo's absolute record established when it flew the flag of Bostikin January or February 2008, somewhere in the Indian Ocean between Cape Town and Wellington (New Zealand) by Charles Caudrelier and Liz Wardley. Which reminds me, we'll soon be in the Indian Ocean as well.
As my friend Tony in Beirut said: "Cool it, Gribo, you're not in a competition". Cool is not a suitable term for the Roaring Forties. There's nothing cool about it here. Either I sail at the right pace, the one dictated by Boogaloo with all its power, in a fury of spray, sheltering in the cabin like a hare in its burrow on the day the hunting season opens, the seawater running amok on the deck. And so I hang on. You can get used to everything, I suppose. Or I play it safe, and reef in the racing machine, which means putting myself in danger. Serious danger. Because if we play 95% of the breakers by racing crosswind in the troughs of the swell, we are terribly exposed when we slow down. And when one of the breakers hits, a KO is possible. So we avoid them. As if instead of being the hunter, you suddenly became the prey. A bad feeling. So I let the counters run wild and manage every moment of the day in this hectic life as best I can. This is what I came back here to find. And I'm not disappointed. In another newsletter I shall discuss the feelings created by sailing on the go like this, with punishment always imminent. An atmosphere of do or die which makes these hostile seas so exciting. For now, the good news is that it's just like it was thirty years ago. I'm glad to be back. And proud to celebrate my sixtieth birthday here!
Personal message: Pierre, when you arrived at noon on November 17 alongside Boogaloo in a rigid inflatable boat a mile off Monaco, dressed in a suit and tie beneath your oilskin, to wish me luck from one mariner to another with the liquid form of encouragement needed to navigate well, I told you it would be a great birthday present. The problem was I had no wine glass. And drinking a vintage wine in the mug for coffee-soup-herbal tea-vitamins, never! So when I called at Cartagena, I made sure I purchased the wherewithal to taste your present. Without moderation. So here I am today, far offshore, toasting to my mariner's health with a glass (several in fact) of this excellent Château Léoville-Poyferré, a Saint-Julien, my favourite wine to boot. Thinking of you, of course. The two of you. Three? And I cannot help, in the various toasts I have proposed - it's a great bottle for a sailor who's been drinking desalinated water for the last forty days! - to propose one to the health of your mum, who's been with me in the calendar and who you'll also be celebrating when her number changes from five to six as well, in ... (after three drinks, I need to count on my fingers) ... fourteen, fifteen, sixteen? In sixteen days, on the 23rd. Because ever since I've been able to understand and appreciate pretty girls and then beautiful women (I don't know which came first, understanding or appreciation... but what matter), each birthday month for me is an opportunity to gaze again at the person the newspapers regularly put on their front page in January. Your mum. So let's drink to her birthday as well. And long live 1957 (hic!). Hi-ho, I've got to get back en route. No, officer, I'm not at the wheel, you can see I'm on autopilot! The constabulary are a pain in the Roaring Forties as well...
Friday 30 December 2016
34°52' South - 25°12' West
Port call in Cape Town
My late maternal grandmother, who died when I was five, told me that I had "eyes bigger than my stomach" as she watched me at the foot of her cherry tree devouring with my eyes all the big red cherries I longed to greedily swallow. I also had eyes bigger than my stomach in wanting to include this first expedition of the OceanoScientific Campaignin the Antarctic Circumpolar Current as part of a non-stop round-the-world circumnavigation. Because at the origin of the concept, the purpose was and still is to carry out expeditions in the future from Cape Town to Cape Town, which is a perfect tour of Antarctica. Even though the Yacht Club of Monaco will always be our point of departure / arrival. Now I am forced to use common sense: after 40 days at sea, the OSC System that collects air - sea oceanographic data every six seconds needs a complete maintenance overhaul before getting down to real business, if only because the warm tropical waters have allowed large numbers of bacteria and bits of seaweed (Sargassum) to get into the water circuit. The resulting broth would harm the quality of the scientific data collected. So much for my ideas about navigating around the world non-stop. And so while neither the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" nor the sailor have any need or wish to make a port call, we should reach Cape Town during the weekend of January 7-8 and stay there for a short week. Which brings back a few souvenirs...
Her wake increasingly marked, the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo"ends the tacking avoidance route by the West around the anticyclone of St. Helena. The sails fill out with wind while the all-carbon Finot - Conq hull drives on. The sun will soon give way to a greyer and a fresher atmosphere. I can smell the South ...
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
For one, if Lionel Péan had not invited me to crew on board L’Esprit d’Equipe for the Whitbread 1985-1986, the legendary crewed round-the-world race founded in 1973, and was thereafter renamed the Volvo Ocean Race I would certainly never have seen the southern Indian Ocean. And the unquenchable desire to return to it would never have occupied my mind so much for the last thirty years. The fact that, in turn, I was associated with that first French victory in the benchmark international ocean-going race - a competition coveted so much by Eric Tabarly, and which was refused him again in 85-86 while leading with the maxi-yacht Côte d’Or- is ancillary to that of sailing where few seafarers go and in conditions such that we were seen to be pioneers. I'll come back to that subject when I get there. That racing event was a summit of my life. One of the best moments I have experienced to date. I shall never be able to thank Lionel enough for the happiness he gave me in inviting me to crew.
It was in October 1985, and the fleet of Whitbreadracing yachts was in the middle of the Atlantic, battling between an anticyclone in the Azores and St. Helena, facing the doldrums and other traditional obstacles in the first leg from Portsmouth (England) to Cape Town (South Africa). At the time, all of the French media were watching Eric Tabarly and his maxi-yacht, Côte d’Or, flying the Belgian flag, and still smelling of fresh polyester on the starting line. Few observers were interested in L’Esprit d’Equipe. For two reasons. The first is that Bull, the French computer company and our sponsor, had not launched an external communication operation, only an in-house campaign, the purpose being to unite the 26,000 employees of the group then formed by the tricolour Tom Thumb and the giant Honeywell, which had just been absorbed by the state-owned French company. Cock-a-doodle-do, it was Year 5 of Mitterrand's reign. The other reason is that Côte d’Or and the other maxi-yachts, including Switzerland's Merit on which Dominique Wavre was watch leader, played the leading roles at the head of the fleet because of their length of nearly 25 meters. But L’Esprit d’Equipe, a small aluminium boat designed by Philippe Briand, was only 17.60 meters long. So she danced away on the waves, far behind the giants. But what journalists and therefore the public had difficulty in understanding is that winning the Whitbread depended on corrected time. An abstruse Anglo-Saxon racing rule if ever there was one. But it was the rule. Each boat has a mathematical coefficient calculated by the English, using a range of incomprehensible formulas jointly called the "rating". The longer the yacht, the larger and more powerful its sails, the higher its rating. The smaller the yacht, the lower its rating. Everybody starts at the same time, everyone does their race, and the actual race time (Real Time) is multiplied by the yacht's rating. This gives the official race time (corrected time) and the yacht's final ranking. Part of our victory is to be credited to the tremendous amount of work done by Philippe Briand and Lionel Péan, upstream of the seaborne part of the project, to achieve the best ratio between the rating and the intrinsic qualities of the yacht. But the fact remained that Eric Tabarly was far ahead, behind the leaders perhaps, but far ahead of Lionel Péan. And it was Eric Tabarly. Although he had won La Solitaire du Figaro 1983 two years prior to taking the start of the Whitbread, Lionel was a young, little-known skipper, surrounded by teammates none of whom were particularly noteworthy for their track record, except for Stéphane Poughon, who had already won the Mini Transat and was also a world champion, and Daniel Gilard, who was to replace me for the Horn leg of the race. Bull wanted Tabarly as well. But Patrick Dubourg, whom I'll introduce later, said: "No, it's Péan or no-one!" Dubourg has always been a diplomat...
In October 1985, Apartheid was in full swing. Things were heating up between South Africa and the international community. The country at the southern tip of Africa was being pointed out by the major nations in Europe, and especially France, homeland for human rights. While a series of bloody riots had been suppressed with extreme violence in the suburbs of Johannesburg, the country's business capital, and that outbreaks of racial clashes were spreading throughout the country, reaching even the quiet port of Cape Town, I started to highlight the fact in the columns of L'Équipe, the sports newspaper for which I had been writing for the previous six years, that Lionel and his band were committing a hold-up. After simulating the arrival dates and calculating the corrected time with the race's famous rating system, everything indicated that was going to win the first leg hands down, thanks to the brilliant navigational decisions taken by Lionel in the South Atlantic. It was stupendous!
It so happened that Jean Glavany, Chief of Staff for the President of the French Republic, was a rugby fan. L'Equipe sports newspaper was on top of the stack of documents on his desk every morning. He also closely followed sailing events in the "Car - Bike - Boat" section edited by Patrick Chapuis, in particular in October 1985, because he was fascinated by the sports adventures of two French crews. Jean Glavany had also occasionally experienced the joys of sailing with his friend Jean-François Fountaine and [former French prime minister] Lionel Jospin in La Rochelle. He liked the sport and its players.
Recognition was a little belated in France's Camelot of the time: a sailboat flying the French flag, representing the flagship of the country's IT industry, was about to win in Cape Town the first leg of the most publicized offshore race in the world. A simpler fact was that in the middle of Apartheid and a virtually worldwide embargo, France was going to be urbi et orbi in the spotlight in South Africa - where, of course, the country’s Prime Minister was about to have a field day in the ongoing wrangle with the rest of the world. Hard times for L’Esprit d’Equipe, although no-one on board knew what was going on in Paris... Rope in hand, the seven men were racing for the finish line.
Needless to say, at Bull head office on Avenue Malakoff between Trocadéro, Foch and Porte Maillot, from the second to the fourth floor where André de Marco, assisted by Sylvie de Jourdan and Patricia Bernard, headed the Communication department, and on the sixth floor where Francis Lorentz chaired the company, there was a wave of panic. In a nutshell, it was out of the question for L’Esprit d’Equipe to enter the territorial waters of South Africa. The order came from On High. Above the sixth floor. Full stop. Plain, clear and no questions! That was the message that our friend Bull quickly transmitted to the cell meeting at number 9 rue Goethe in the eighth arrondissement of Paris, near Agnès B's showroom and the Musée Galliera in a small office on the ground floor with a window. A plaque indicates that it was the head office of the ACPN. In fact, this was where the owner of L’Esprit d’Equipe worked, an ad-man cum designer of the yacht's name in which the sponsor's name did not appear (a first in marketing), to wit, Patrick Dubourg, then surrounded by the manager of the ACPN, Gérard Henry, his faithful handyman Olivier Durand, and myself. And a secretary who frequently wondered if she was not working in a madhouse and who could be seen hurriedly leaving her desk from time to time when a squall was imminent. And sometimes she was right in being so prudent.
Both as a crew member waiting to get back on board, as a working journalist and author of the in-house book L’Esprit d’Equipe for Bull, I took part in the general and strategic policy discussions, which were always euphoric, and sometimes dramatic. I told the owner whatever was useful or even essential for the crew and the yacht. Patrick was the boss. A boss who shouted, signalled, swore... and got things moving. With Patrick in command, you had to deal with a six-foot, 220-pound hurricane. When Bull's shifty-eyed emissary arrived, looking like a provincial chartered accountant close to retirement age, walking in on tiptoe a little unsteadily, to explain that L’Esprit d’Equipewas not to cross the finish line - where it was soon to triumph - Patrick the owner exploded with rage: "Are you kidding?...". He often said that, and repeated himself as well. Because Patrick Dubourg, with his unique style, his moments of genius and masterful dirty tricks, honesty of heart and contradictory head, was a major player in the victory of L’Esprit d’Equipe and Péan's band.
There then took place the incredible negotiations - secret of course - between the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the President of France, and ourselves, in direct line with Jean Glavany, who obviously defended the crew (thank you Jean!), thanks to the help of my friend Pierre Gardère, then managing director of the French Sailing Federation. He had to act quickly because Lionel and his six crew members were racing along, sensing the Cup was within their reach. In Paris, all kinds of solutions each more absurd than the next were considered, such as sending a ship of the French Navy to intercept the sailboat and hoist it onto her deck. We even talked of diverting the Jeanne d'Arcfrom its mission in the Indian Ocean. We were in No Limit land, where Reason of State has might of rule.
Thanks to our tenacity, an owner who refused to give up, the kindness of Jean Glavany and - as we learnt six months later, the will of François Mitterrand in the Élysée Palace - Lionel Péan crossed the finish line in Cape Town raising his fist to the sky. He'd won the first leg of the Whitbread. Champagne! That was Taittinger Champagne at that time!
All that remained for me to do was to join the merry band in Cape Town for the second leg, from Cape Town to Auckland. That's why I shall no doubt be deeply moved in a week, returning for the first time since November-December 1985 to the South African port where we also got up to few tricks in the wild, weird world of apartheid. But that's another story and there's no limitation period...
Friday 23 December 2016
16°60' South - 33°42' West
Down in the doldrums, and drifting...
Racing crosswind now off the Brazilian coast, still heading south as fast as the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" can go, which is very fast indeed for a small sixteen-meter sailboat, I crossed the Equator on Sunday, December 18 in the early evening, after laying idle for only twenty hours in the doldrums, of which only eight hours were with less than five knots of wind. I can thus add to the feedback from ocean racers and record-hunters that pass through this area by noting that the doldrums are less of an obstacle for sailboats, because they are less active and even not active at all. Many will at once shout out that it's due to climate change, without having a clue what they're talking about. Climate change has often been dished up in every shape and accused of every evil. Soon it will be held responsible for the traffic jams around Paris during long weekends. Believe me, you'll see ... People should be reasonable in this respect, and rather than repeat all the rubbish said about it, they'd do better to listen to the opinions of the scientists who have been accompanying the OceanoScientific Programme since its inception in 2006.
Grey or black with a dominant blue background, that's what the doldrums look like, with virtually not even a ripple on the ocean because there is not a breath of air. A bit claustrophobic in fact. And the squall, which is slowly but surely coming, does not warn the sailor whether it only contains water or violent gusts of wind as well. Surprise ...
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Which we did, by asking two of our expert advisers. Both have guided us in our philanthropic initiative to provide the international scientific community with quality data collected in regions of the sea that have seldom been explored if at all. Nicolas Metzl and Gilles Reverdin are members of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), attached to the Oceanographic & Climate Laboratory: experiments and digital approaches (LOCEAN) of University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC).
Nicolas Metzl: "My research focuses primarily on the study of CO2 in the Southern Ocean and therefore I am not a specialist on the doldrums. However, in recent weeks, the Tropical Atlantic seems a little warmer than usual. But to conclude that it is linked to climate change is hard to say. You need to consult the specialists in ocean-atmosphere coupling and dynamics in the region. But they will be unable to decide without a study of the changes over a long period. We can however note that the observations over the previous three decades or so indicate a warming of the Tropical Atlantic, probably due to anthropogenic forcing factors, with an impact on the Indian and West Pacific basins (warming) and on the East Pacific basins (cooling) through atmospheric teleconnections".
Gilles Reverdin: "The hot values north of the Equator in the western Atlantic at around 5-10° North are in line with the fairly marked rainfall in the far west of the ocean - and a fairly average hurricane season as well. On the other hand, the winds must have been more marked at around 20-30° West during the past week. This type of situation may last a few weeks, which is okay for sailing, but with variations from day to day, because there are westerly wind currents and other air systems running more from east to west. The situation therefore cannot be attributed to climate change. It would take decades of observations to decide on the question."
Our friend Peter Blouch, who recently retired from his duties at the French national meteorological service (Météo-France) and those he also held for Marine Meteorology in various international structures of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), as well as being instrumental in the start-up of the OceanoScientific Programme and in its subsequent development, but also in the preparation of the expedition underway, interviewed several of his colleagues in charge of the study of the doldrums at Météo-France. Here is the group's full view of the phenomenon:
"Ever since records have existed, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), called the "doldrums" by sailors in the Atlantic, has undergone variations from day to day. It is never active all the time, everywhere. Sailors may well cross this area at a time and place where the zone is not active, such as this year, for example. Neither can we conclude that it is disappearing, however. As for global warming, the study of long-term variations in the ITCZ requires analysis of data over several decades; the changes are not detectable in the short term because short-term variability is more marked. The variations exist but seem to oscillate. Therefore they are not necessarily linked to global warming. A study shows, for example, that the ITCZ moved significantly southward between 1945-1954 and 1971-1980. Perhaps it is currently moving back northward without us noticing it. "
As you can see, understanding the causes and consequences of climate change is long-term issue. Requiring deep-sea navigation to study the ocean-atmosphere interaction. While waiting to learn more, certainly not for several decades, we can nonetheless note that the anthropogenic causes of climate change, that is to say those relating to human activity on the planet, are an accelerating factor in the deterioration of the general climate situation. The best Christmas gift we could give Mother Nature would be to succeed in convincing all those around us to behave differently, to consume differently and to help our children have greater respect for the environment than we have had so far. For example, why not wait for spring to be well advanced before eating the first strawberries, rather than putting them in the fruit basket for Christmas dinner? Apples, oranges and bananas are so good in winter...
So while wishing you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS from off Brazil where I have just entered the summer while you are in winter - OK, I'm swaggering a little - I should like to take this opportunity to remind you that this Expedition of the OceanoScientific Campaign, whether in terms of the collection of data for the international scientific community, or the efforts in favour of six to ten-year old kids to convince them of the absolute necessity to preserve the ocean, is funded exclusively by donations from sponsors to the OceanoScientific association and by the subscriptions of its members: the annual membership fee is € 20.
I should like to warmly thank all those who are helping us, some from the start of the association on 7 January 2011, and invite everyone else to join us either by becoming a member (€ 20) or by making a donation, or both, given that any sum paid to our non-profit organisation qualifies for a tax allowance of 66% of the sum for individuals, and 60% for companies, according to the French tax rules governing sponsorship. In advance, thank you for your generosity this Christmas. Stay tuned next week for the rest of our adventures!
On the radar, the sailboat is represented by the central point. Ahead is at the top, astern, below. And since there's no wind, we're not making headway, but neither is the squall. So the fun can sometimes last quite a while! Fortunately, in this case the squall was only a very heavy downpour with a swirling breeze, but no serious gusts of wind.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
Friday 16 December 2016
06°20' North - 28°01' West
Lost on the ocean, alone in space
I have finished going round the Cape Verde archipelago, a series of volcanic islands lost in the middle of nowhere, with the seabed 4,500 to 5000 meters deep - how strange the world; why are they there? - following a right angle to a straight course due west over the first land that the Portuguese explorer-sailors discovered in the 15th century; and now due south, never less than 80 nautical miles from the birthplace of music that nurtured jazz with rhythms that made the blues dance. Like two pencil strokes on the map. Even for once. Thanks to the perfect weather. I have now reached the gateway to the doldrums, if they are still there, to sail towards the equator more gently than at present, the bow fuming with the spray of speed, and share a glass of Moët & Chandon with Neptune. Respectfully. My first drink of champagne as I cross The Line.
Like a pencil line on the ocean fading away behind us, the wake of Boogaloo illustrates the speed and joy of working in seemingly unlimited freedom, and relative solitude. Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
But first, I'm worried. Is there a problem? The second and then the third time, the worry remains, but turns into exasperation. Then I understand better. I understand why the radar alarm, or rather the navigation unit linked to it that I use exclusively as a radar, starts squealing like a stuck pig. With this window in the middle of the screen: "Communication lost / No AIS communication". And I click: "OK" so that the noise stops, realizing, this time, that I really am alone, lost on the ocean.
AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. Without doubt the most brilliant invention man made for seafarers at the start of the 21st century. The system instantly knows the identity, status, position and heading of ships lying in the navigation area around you, in a circle corresponding to the range of VHF radio waves, about 25 nautical miles (45 km). Updated every two to ten seconds, it is the best tool for avoiding collisions at sea. Normally, i.e. along the coast, and even more so in areas with a large amount of shipping, around capes and in straits, the AIS system is permanently active. Little green boats move over the digital map on your on-board computer; all you need to do is place the mouse over any one of them to learn all about the vessel it represents. Really magic. When there is no AIS signal, it simply means there are no more ships within 25 nautical miles. Outside traditional shipping routes. Alone.
I slowly begin to perceive the feeling of solitude as the wake of the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" streams behind me as we sail due south. Solitude is a state of mind in relation to others. A priori, not in relation to yourself. You can be alone on the subway at rush hour. Because you have no relationship with other people, your mind is busy, you're focusing on a goal. If only to get off at the right station. Here, things are different. Happy like a Boogaloo in the Atlantic when there are wind and waves, I am content to be alone on board, with the wind, the sun and the moon for companions. The things that are truly free in fact. But the loneliness that I am starting to feel, the solitude that interferes with my thoughts, my actions, my long inner discussions with an eye on the disappearing horizon, is because I miss others. I see the dates scroll down on the logbook. I see December move towards Christmas and I realize how far away I am from the ones I love. My wife and our pirate triplets. It's my first Christmas without them since they were born nine and a half years ago. My two elder daughters to whom I have still not been able to show how much I love them. My deceased parents, whom I shall always miss. Solitude of that kind stirs an inner form of navigation, awareness of myself, heightened by the immensity of the ocean, the pristine horizon and the never-ending rhythm of days and nights between sea and sky. A kind of solitude that is probably impossible on land. Except perhaps in a monastery. But that is another story...
So we make great progress my sailing boat and I, although I am often below - about 70-80% - of what my Boogaloo could do if the gennaker were out, control in hand and foot on the floor, such as now for example. Surfing along at 22-24 knots rather than 17-20. Because Boogaloo never misses even the smallest chance to switch to overspeed, her triumphant bow hitting each wave with a splash of stinging spray. But friends, I'm not in a race. The Vendée Globe by chance with my own schedule, is taking place very, very far away. I am not seeking performance for the sake of performance, but a rhythm that preserves my navigation equipment, avoids stress to the seafarer and make sure I return to Monaco before the 15th of August. But I am exagger ating! The purpose is to collect valuable scientific data before any other consideration. In short, the complete opposite of my previous seafaring life, whether racing around three buoys or offshore, obsessed with the "umpteenth" knot and the fastest route. So much so that I often feel guilty when I find that what is in the small window of the speedometer seems indecent slowly for a dashing steed such as mine. Then with the reef in, the the change of headsail prepared for the strengthening breeze, I realize that in fact I'm just sailing with the instinct of a sailor born and bred. For the time being, I have made no mistakes in my choices. So let's stop blaming trophy hunters!
This sailor's instinct is - very well! - served by two essential tools. The first is access to the weather forecasts provided by our partner Météo-France via the Navimail service. You select an area, you select the precision of the file and its validity, from one to five days and you click. An email query is sent by satellite and a few minutes later you have your Grib file. No relation with Griboval. You quickly load the file into the Adrena navigation software. The second essential tool. Then you define your routing criteria. Click again. A coloured course emerges on the map, recommending a route where there is none, with turns where there are no signposts. Already in 2013-2014, during the OceanoScientific Atlantic Campaign I had found that the Navimail - Adrena combination was an invaluable assistance to navigation. At any time, including right now, I can attest to the effectiveness of the duo. So much so that the day before yesterday Adrena recommended jibing twice, a short, insignificant step compared with the scale of the route ahead and the vastness of the oceans on which I sail. Obviously, I did not pay any attention. However I carefully observed what happened next... and encountered a large lifting wind lasting barely an hour that would have warranted the two maneuverings to save time. But I have so much of my time that I continued straight on, and heated up a little water for a cup of tea, accompanied by a Jeannette Madeleine biscuit - and La Biscuiterie Jeannette is another great story worth telling, I'm proud they're with me now.
Fridayi 9 December 2016
South-West of Canary Islands
Entering the Atlantic
As announced on 28 November on the home page of the OceanoScientific website, the expected weather window did open on Saturday, 3 December, allowing us to leave Cartagena (Spain). Not a bay window, just a small window overlooking the backyard. Large enough, however, to leave the Mediterranean. The sailing conditions were easy early in the night from Saturday to Sunday, and heavy going thereafter, passing the Strait of Gibraltar on the night of Sunday to Monday, running with only four to six knots of wind from full astern. Which in engine terms means less than four knots of speed over the ground. It was neither "Stagecoach" nor "Once upon a time in the West", but, at least Boogaloo and I were finally in the Atlantic. Under the pouring rain. The tiresome transition was an interlude along the Moroccan coast for 24 hours, before managing to reach the open sea from the early hours of Monday to the middle of the following night. Then the pace of sailing the Atlantic gradually took over, with the spinnaker out of its bag and the air temperature slowly rising.
First sunset in the Atlantic, broad reaching under the spinnaker to take advantage of the light breeze that will allow us to reach the trade winds, which are still very active at the moment – and that means due South.
Photo Yvan Griboval - OceanoScientific
I left Cartagena at the very end of the day, once night had completely fallen and as the wind rose over the water. The timing and the weather were perfect (thanks to Météo-France and their Navimail service!) for the first run due South, jibbing (turning before the wind) once or twice with a freshening wind and arriving in the Strait of Gibraltar via Morocco, in a breeze up to ten miles from the target. Not the best side in terms of wind, but one that finally allowed me to sail a little away from the sea-lane filled with freighters, container ships and tankers. Because I have still had to spend two thirds of my time flirting with large cargo ships. Each time only just making it. Just in front of them, or just behind them, or alongside for a long time but after a while, the closer we get the more we have to do something. Sometimes sailing slower than they are, sometimes faster. Once, about three in the morning, I kindly explained to the radio officer of a large tanker that I was sailing single-handed, there was a lot of wind and I wanted him to set another course. Which he immediately did, and wished me good luck and fare thee well. The Mediterranean makes people nicer!
Nonetheless it meant I had two sleepless nights in a row. And no rest during the day. The ballet of boats continued with the alarm sounding several times, announcing collision courses twenty minutes in advance. Then the alarm sounds anew for the same approaching vessel when it enters a circle of three nautical miles (5.5 km). And it doesn't stop screaming danger until you click OK on the radar console. At least there is no risk I'll fall asleep! But when it sometimes screams out every two minutes, it is so exhausting all want to do is disconnect everything. Which is exactly what I ended up doing just before entering the Strait. Because the alarm we have installed is not the one on the fire truck you give your young son for Christmas. It's more like the industrial "Evacuate this site immediately" type of alarm. So obviously after two nights and a full day of alarms, it becomes tiring.
To be honest, I had no clue what I was going to find on leaving the Strait. The information given in the various weather forecasts was contradictory, so I had to rely on my instincts to do the best, knowing that the forecasts would become reliable again ten miles or so after leaving the troubled region. In fact, the direct route due South was free, with a side wind, which quickly became a headwind. Light, to moderate and then strong. In short, enough to quickly find myself with two reefs in the mainsail and the stay-sail, pondering whether a third reef would be better. And of course all of this at around 10 to 11 pm on the third night, after two other sleepless nights. In theory, nothing extraordinary. Just a seafarer's job. Except that the effect of shoaling along the northern Moroccan coast is short and sharp. We quickly changed from a depth of 1,200 meters to 800, 300 and 60 meters, making the area suitable for a chaotic sea. Now, if I had not left Cartagena earlier, it was because a strong depression was forecast to sweep the northwest coast of Morocco, which it did. But when I pointed the bow of Boogaloo, the breeze was blowing somewhere else but the sea was still there: big, powerful waves, breaking on the shallows. Great for surfing on the beach, but not for sailing boats.
First the sea was stronger than the wind. So for lack of power we rose up each wave higher and higher still and then fell down the other side with a shuddering crash. In sailing terms, we call it driving stakes. We drove quite a few around Morocco! Then the wind got up, and Boogaloo was more at ease. Powerful, in a raging sea. From driving stakes, we switched to piercing waves. On board, the sensation is virtually identical, but stronger: after driving a stake you slow down; after exploding a wave you accelerate. So once this game of wave-smashing was well underway, with freighters still in sight and a fleet of Moroccan fishing boats sailing around, Boogaloo well balanced, well-set in "I'll beat 'em all" style, I decided that the joke had lasted long enough and it was finally time to get two hours of well-earned sleep.
Then I woke up - my alarm clock, offered by my children "so you wake up when you need to, Dad" - is a big red alarm clock with a picture of SamSam the masked comic hero on it, with two bells on top and a hammer that goes from one to the other at high speed in ear-splitting mode. And since I put it in the storage compartment at the head of my bunk, when it rings it's like SamSam is hitting me on the head. Which means I do wake up when needed. So when I woke up, as I said, the wind had dropped, the waves had disappeared and we were tossing about at low speed with two reefs in the mainsail and the small stay-sail barely moving. It was Tuesday morning; the Atlantic lay before us, with the spinnaker on the menu at midday. Since then, we've settled into this new atmosphere and zig-zag on the Atlantic with a downwind, trying to avoid a large calm area south of Morocco, around Agadir, to bring us as quickly as possible to the trade winds which will carry us at high speed toward the Doldrums and the Equator.
Friday 2 December 2016
37°35' North - 00°59' East
The relationship between a sailor and his ship are ambiguous. They are all the more so when the seafarer sails alone. It takes such a level of complicity to safely reach port, the two can only do so if the link between them is strong. Stronger than all the trials they have to overcome. Compared with the life of a landlubber, the feeling is similar to the love between two human beings. Yet my OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo" is only an object made of carbon. It is my passion that gives it life and makes it an actual extension of myself. This boat has a soul. And that's why I respect her. I prevent her from suffering when the sea is rough, and we laugh together when she clicks into overdrive and we surf on a never-ending wave. We talk to each other as well. Under these conditions, the ten days we just spent in Cartagena (Spain) - which we leave at midday Saturday, December 3, to catch a weather window - have been helpful in bringing us together before starting out on the long journey ahead of us. We understand each other better now. Because Boogaloo had a few grievances to air...
My relationship with Boogaloo is almost carnal. A ten-year-old love story that started with a dream in 1980-81. And we end up forming an old couple ... Photo Guilain Grenier - OceanoScientific
The 16-meter (52.5 feet) sailboat was first born a long time ago in the minds of two seafarers. It was during the winter of 1980-81. Daniel Gilard wanted to attempt a speed record for sailing around the world single-handed. I wanted a fast monohull to enter the transatlantic sailing races. The Route du Rhum had started two years earlier ('78) and the Transat en Double Le Point - Europe 1, eighteen months ('79) before. Neither Daniel nor I had any experience of multihulls. Which may explain why Daniel bowed out in 1987, in appalling conditions. Without concerting each other, we both had sought the advice of the same architect: Jean-Marie Finot. I knew Jean-Marie from 1975 to 1976, having started my offshore racing career on Révolte, an offspring of Révolution. Names that only mean something to people over fifty. At least. In the middle of the 1970s, Jean-Marie Finot had devised the concept of lightweight sailboats. Before everyone else. Although the New Zealand architect Bruce Farr went even further than him for the Quarter Ton Cup 75 in Deauville, revolutionizing naval architecture - until the arrival of foils on monohulls, two years ago! - with his 45° South, as fast and impressive as the mustard colour of her hull was - and still is - to the taste of pudding eaters. In the process, Jean-Marie gave birth in 1976 to the series of Mini Tonners "Clementine" and in 1979 the Half Tonner"Eglantine", a magical prototype with which Patrick Elies, yes the "father of..." won every round of the Course de l’Aurore, the forerunner of the Solitaire du Figaro, in a legendary series of rounds sailed in gale-force winds. My first "100%-my own" prototype was a 6.60-meter Clémentine. Mistywas her name and she was all green. The seven Clémentines to be built were the forerunners of the planing sailboats of the Mini Transat which was launched the following year ('77), the first edition of which was won by... Daniel Gilard.
Consulted by Daniel and I, as in all of his nascent projects, Jean-Marie Finot sketched freehand what he described as "a monohull which goes as fast as a multihull". Neither Daniel nor I then knew that this brilliant architect had just invented what would become the concept of the Open 60 nearly ten years later. Today the IMOCA Class of the Vendée Globe. Neither Daniel nor I brought our projects to fruition. We met five years later, each sailing in turn on board the same sailboat: Lionel Péan's L’Esprit d’Equipe, Philippe Briand's winning game plan but no planing yacht, to share his fabulous victory in the Whitbread 1985-1986,the first French crew to win the event before that of Franck Cammas in 2011-12. Lionel had offered to share the South with the two of us. Daniel preferred the Pacific and Horn legs, while I dearly wanted to race in the Indian Ocean, and so our roles were quickly distributed. It was also in December 1985, in the far south of the magical Indian Ocean, that my desire to return it was born... and now I'm on my way back!
In 2005, for reasons which I shall not go into here, I asked Jean-Marie Finot to design an ocean-going sailing yacht. Just as in 1980. The only instruction I gave him before providing a very detailed specification was to "design a 16-meter Open 7.50 to go round the Horn single-handed", in reference to the small 7.50-meter monotype fireball which has been racing in the Bay of Quiberon at a brisk pace since 1997. Jean-Marie Finot, Pascal Conq and their small team designed the series of One-design SolOceans, of which "Boogaloo" is the first in a series that never really saw the light of day, although three units were built of carbon by JMV Industries in Cherbourg. Two bridged hulls that have yet to be finished are for sale.
Originally, Boogaloo was MY boat. But officially, she was not. She was meant for others. For talented young racers wanting to have a step between La Solitaire du Figaro with polyester one-designs about ten meters long and the Vendée Globe with its pure 18.20-meter prototypes. Boogaloo, the fruit of my imagination, and I only tacked a few times together. Just enough to see that Jean-Marie and Pascal had done better than well. Exactly what I had in mind. And then we parted. Erwan Tabarly officially took charge of Boogaloo in autumn 2007. Before Charles Caudrelier raced her from Normandy to New Zealand, in tandem in the South with Liz Wardley between 2007-08. Alexia Barrier then took her to New York. And Charles brought her back to France. She's been to Holland, Germany, Sweden, and Malta. It was Liz Wardley who introduced her to single-handed racing in 2009, en route for a world tour from Caen to Caen. Which stopped near Madeira with a broken mast, for which neither Liz nor Boogaloo were responsible. During all that time, she was no longer my Boogaloo.She was not yet my Boogaloo.
In 2013, finally starting to assume that the boat was mine, with a clear objective to sail around the world single-handed, I put my oilskins back on in the autumn. That was three years ago. Oilskins that had lain waiting in the attic of my mind since the late 80s. Slowly, I got to know Boogaloo. I found my marks again. The feeling was perfect. We travelled almost 20,000 nautical miles together before we finally met up again face to face on 17 November on the starting line in Monaco. Today we are ready to live together. We can say we truly love each other. And in writing these lines, in saying that sailboats have a soul, I remember seeing Ellen McArthur when she arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne after finishing second in the Vendée Globe 2000-01as she kissed her Kingfisher with the flame that only burns in the eyes of those who love. With passion.
Friday 25 November 2016
37°35' North - 00°59' East
Proud of French scientists!
In four days at sea between Monaco and Cartagena (Spain) from where I am writing this text for you, I have just proven two self-evident facts. Without even knowing. Right under my nose. Without even trying. One: I have just demonstrated that in a sailing boat you do not go from point A to point B at will. Which proves know-alls know nothing at all. I had set out from Monaco for Gibraltar, sailing on my deepest convictions, shouting with excitement and sure of my long-distance sailing experience to cap it all. But without any wind, just as with too much wind, a sailor is in fact only a landlubber lost in a hostile world. Dependent, on the wind, its direction and strength. In short, on the good will of Mother Nature. Never forget it. I shall come back to that point. The other self-evident fact is that during these four days, supplied with weather bulletins of the highest quality, not even 10% of the situations at sea were consistent with the forecasts. That is to say that the most sophisticated calculations by the most competent scientists in a well-known playing field (the Mediterranean) can sometimes be no more than theories blown in - and by - the wind. But how brilliant our scientists are! Mother Nature is a fickle, unpredictable lover that I dearly love.
Proud to display the logos of the scientific partners of the OceanoScientific Programme,some of whom signed on right from the start, one afternoon on 14 November 2006 in a somewhat dismal room at Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris VI. Photo Guilain Grenier - OceanoScientific
The idea of writing on this subject came to me during the first day I docked in Cartagena, waiting for the raging storm inexorably approaching the Straits of Gibraltar to break somewhere else. I must admit, stopping to restock with diesel fuel for lack of wind, and then waiting for a coming storm to pass by, could make any sailor seem undecided. "These people don't know what they want", one might hear at the counter of the nearest bar in port. The way people reproach farmers for complaining when it rains too much. Or not enough. Whatever. Both are close to nature. So in less than two hours of my forced retirement in beautiful Cartagena, I heard the remarks by walkers of various nationalities, Cartagena being a nice tourist resort with a pleasant winter climate - except it has been raining for the past 36 hours! - about the multicoloured logos adorning the rear flanks of the OceanoScientific Explorer "Boogaloo". Those of our scientific partners (see the image above). There are two leaders in the hit parade of inspired commentaries by tourists: Météo-France, a short head in front of the Institut Océanographique de Monaco, created early last century by oceanographer Albert 1, Prince of Monaco. With considerable praise for both. And for the others as well.
How nice it is to hear such positive remarks on stakeholders in a sector about which people know so little! Especially when you remember the position French scientists hold in oceanography and meteorology, and their rank in the international circle of researchers involved in the vast global challenge: understanding the Climate Machine. After ten years working on a daily basis with truly extraordinary people, I am often sad to see how little recognition their work is given. Not enough limelight for the mainstream media. Consider the temperature / salinity pair, those sensitive lovers; the complex reactions of carbon playing hide and seek with researchers; the acidification of the Ocean which bleaches coral and moves whole populations, not just fish; the interaction of the air and ocean, spawning the earth's climate, and so on. Everywhere you will find French scientists among the signatories of benchmark studies. They fly the flag of the CNRS, Météo-France, Ifremer and their tricolor satellites.
I have also learnt about their passion. I thought the world of sport, a world I know well, stood out from others by the competitors' will to win. It turned out I knew nothing. When attending discussions between specialists about this or that parameter or Climate factor, I have never seen such commitment, self-sacrifice, and constant reconsideration. Always in search of a truth that moves further away the closer you get to it. Like a competitor trying to gain a hundredth of a second, or the tenth of a knot. With human value, in addition to trying to break records. Because the purpose of their discussions is the common good. Understanding better means helping to manage our planet's resources better. And save them better as well. To benefit one and all. Selflessly shut away in cramped offices, cluttered with incredible studies and valuable data. In labs where each euro (an endangered species for our researchers) is used sparingly.
All these men and women are united by the same love of Nature. In all of its forms. Even though physicists, chemists, biologists and other specialists still love to bicker about the importance of who compared to what. They incite you to be modest, always talking about what they do not know and passionately seek, rather than the obvious. Because that's what the Future is, in fact. A series of questions. That lead to more questions, and to more questions still. That is why I am proud to display these logos on the hull of my Ocean steed, and love the sweet song of praise heard in Cartagena. Just like those discrete scientists, teaching me more every day without necessarily knowing it, with humility I wait and watch the wind play its role. And when Eole and Neptune so wish, I shall set sail again. Hi Renaud!
Friday 18 November 2016
41°52' North - 05°21' East
I have set sail. Single-handed.
Marking his appreciation of the OceanoScientific initiative, HSH Prince Albert II presented Yvan Griboval with the pennant of the Yacht Club de Monaco for him to fly throughout the first expedition of the OceanoScientific Campaign, and was keen to encourage the navigator-explorer in person as he set sail in the wake of the Prince's great-grandfather, Prince Albert 1.
Photo Guilain Grenier - OceanoScientific
The OceanoScientific programme was conceived just ten years ago, based on a simple idea that I had already been mulling for several years, that the crews competing in round-the-world races under the three main continental capes, those of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and the Horn (South America), in seas seldom explored if at all apart from a few sailboats, should be able to collect information useful to scientists in charge of the study of climate change. The decision to do precisely that was taken during a meeting with a group of such scientists on 14 November 2006, including Jean-Claude Gascard, Nicolas Metzl, Fabienne Gaillard and Laurence Eymard. The only problem was that no such equipment then existed to fit out a small sailboat, not to mention the sixteen-meter all-carbon racing yacht that would become the OceanoScientific Explorer, nor was any budget available or even thinkable from scientific institutes for a development of that kind. Even if the data were transmitted free of charge to the institutions in question, which had already leveraged large-scale human and technical resources to study the facts and figures.
The initial years (2006-13) were devoted to the sailboat's design, with navigation tests a little everywhere around the globe, specifically in the Far North on board the La Louise owned by Thierry Dubois, or in Antarctica aboard the three-masted Bark EUROPA, and to the validation of the innovative OSC System the sailboat would use, developed by a consortium of companies, namely SailingOne, which I head and whose main activity at that time was the organization since 1990 of the Trophée Clairefontaine des Champions de Voile, SubCtech, a German company specialized in scientific equipment for large vessels, as well as Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, and Météo-France, the French national meteorological service. As a result, the OSC System automatically collects every six seconds the data on ten parameters at the air-sea interface: five on the surface of the sea with a water pumping system under the hull, and five in the air, thanks to sensors in the mast. The secret weapon of the OSC System is its intelligence, based on the OSC-Software designed in conjunction with the engineers from IBM Nice and formatted by Dimitri Voisin, the computer wizard from Michel Desjoyeaux' Team Mer Agitée. In short, the OSC System is the result of a cocktail of the skills of specialists in purely scientific equipment and those who know how to win ocean races on sailboats subjected to all the forms of aggression feared by computer hardware, including humidity, a saline atmosphere, and continuous shocks. As for the sensors, they are selected by the scientists in charge of studying the various parameters being analyzed, i.e. the temperature, salinity, and acidity of seawater, as well as the carbon and fluorescence partial pressures, for the oceanographic part; and the strength and true wind direction, air temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure for the rest.
Just as it automatically collects data every six seconds, i.e. without any intervention by the crew, the OSC System also automatically transmits by satellite the data it has collected every hour at H + 02' to the international data processing centres, thanks to the relays implemented by Météo-France.
In terms of navigation, one of the most complicated situations that I will have to manage single-handed is precisely what I am facing right now: leaving the Mediterranean, with its changing conditions, often totally different from the weather forecasts so much is this sea area affected by opposing systems, especially near the Balearic Islands: a flat calm, or violent headwinds; a high density of freighters, tankers and other ships, especially as I approach Gibraltar, but also close to all the main seaports around which I am going navigate; fleets of fishing boats with uncertain courses as they trawl... In short, enough to require a mode of navigation identical to that of all single-handed ocean racers: on the watch all the time, with only brief periods in which to rest. So I'm impatient to reach the immensity and freedom of the Atlantic Ocean, and the promise of a few good hours of sleep.