We got stuck in the traffic again today, when driving into Saint Malo. Signs suggest to park outside the city and to proceed by bus to the race village. Exited crowds everywhere, excited to see the spectacle, the huge boats, the stars. Me too. Of course my star is Bilou. I hope he wins this race for our team. Bilou is famous and the previous winner in the IMOCA class. But what about the stars unknown to the crowds on the street?
For example Conrad Colman, a young New Zealander, first in his nation to enter the Route du Rhum: He represents for me a lot of what this all is about. For whatever reason this whole offshore racing thing becomes an obsession and someone like him goes to the other end of the world to do it, to create a project, a career, raise the famous budget and move forward day by day. The risks you take are more than financial. You invest your life with everything.
I am not a huge fan of this you-can-achieve-everything-you-want-myth but it’s probably exactly this, what drove me and some others like Conrad beyond the boundaries of our national sailing horizons. Even having grown up with sailing and seen various racing and cruising wherever, building a project for the Rhum, the Vendee, the Artemis-Transat etc. really challenges this inherent dream of our capitalist society: “You can do it” – (if you work hard enough).
How great is this?, I must have asked myself maybe 15 years ago: If I just try hard enough and be strong etc. I would do the Vendee one day: this race that captured my fantasy long before I have even seen the Atlantic, been in Brittany or sailed on an Open60.
Pete Goss’s story really inspired me in this regard: Apparently he had started his Vendee project by riding his bike through the countryside somewhere in southern England to visit potential sponsors, dressing himself up in the car park each time. He then rescued Frenchmen Raphael Dinelli during the Vendee Globe. I forgot if he got entitled as Sir by the Queen or received the Legion d`Honneur or both but that’s not the point. I read his story as my you-can-do-it-parable in his excellent book “close to the wind”.
But what about failing? Pete Goss’ catamaran Teamphilips broke, failed. Skippers have been thrown into gale indebted, have lost their house, wife etc. or not even made it to a first try. For everyone who gets as far as Conrad there are thousands seriously obsessed dreaming and hundreds trying. Being at the start line with a well prepared boat and skipper is always a victory in itself.
So here we are now celebrating ´this huge number of projects and skippers who have made it thanks to their persistence, their sponsors, teams and friends.
Tonight I am excited even though I am not starting myself; excited and curious to see them start tomorrow; to see how they do, Bilou, Conrad and Pete and many others… if they can do it.