Friday, 22 February 2013

Vendee Globe and other explorers we have met.

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."
Beverly Sills
Arnaud Boissieres Vendee globe boat Arkena undergoing trails in August at Sables D'Olonne.

Today the final finisher of the Vendee globe came up the river at Sables D’Olonne surrounded by crowds of well wishers ( We saw Alessandro Di Benedettos team Plastique boat during its final preparations when we were in Sable back in August and got to walk along the very wide pontoon. With only 11 finishers from a field of 20 the real challenge that is experienced by the competitors can be seen. We have been following the race via the internet and the other boat we saw preparing came in 8th, as far as Britain is concerned sadly Samantha Davies was dismasted and had to withdraw but Alex Thompson came 3rd and Mike Golding also did well. Sables D’Olonne is the home of the ocean racing. Whilst we were there, there was also a mini transat race, a 2000 mile dash to the Azores and back in tiny boats not much bigger than our old trailer sailer. The winner came in at 1am in the morning, the first we knew was when the dog woke us up to let us know there was something going on. In the darkness we could see very little but could hear horns and cheering. The next few times (during the day!) we joined in with clapping and the ships horn as each boat came back into the marina, skippers undertaking that sort of challenge really deserve respect.


We have been privileged in our travels to meet various explorers undertaking adventures which are certainly not for the faint hearted and we have great admiration for those people. Having an idea is one thing, actually working out how to achieve that goal, preparing for it and embarking on the adventure is another altogether. Some have not completed the challenge they set themselves but having given it a go means they have succeeded in their plans, they made it a reality and tried to achieve something amazing. Others have attained the heights they set themselves and should feel a real sense of achievement

In Portland we saw Lady Shackleton and met the members of the Shackleton epic ( which has just completed the awesome undertaking of recreating Shackletons journey across both water and mountainous terrain in period clothing and equipment, they reached their goal and a fantastic achievement it is. Seeing the equipment and the boat was a great experience, they were very passionate about the challenge and spent ages showing us and talking about the equipment they were using, the boat builders were very good too and invited us t pop in if we were passing their way any time.


In Portsmouth we undertook an excellent survival training day. In the group were three lads who were planning a row across the Atlantic in a challenge called the Atlantic Odyssey. We enjoyed hearing their plans then following their preparations and progress via the internet. Unfortunately they were hit by a couple of large waves and capsized and sunk 27 days into it, they were eventually rescued from the life raft by a container ship after 14 hours. ( Their bitter disappointment can only be imagined, although to most of us to even get out there let alone to row as far as they did is no mean feat.


In Brest we met a very nice Russian gentleman who was circumnavigating the globe solo, he was stopped waiting for his self steering to be fixed and sat out several stormy nights with us on the pontoon adjusting ropes and fenders as we were all bounced around. We wonder how far he has got now.


We have also had the chance to read some incredible stories such as the story of the Essex, a Whale boat from Nantucket and their shocking journey after being sunk by a whale, the Mutiny on the Bounty and the astonishing journey following the mutiny, Robin Knox Johnson’s ‘A world of my own’ on his solo circumnavigation and Ellen McArthurs autobiography amongst many others. These are people who have achieved the most amazing things.


It’s been great for all of us – not just the children – meeting, finding out about and following the progress of these adventurers past and present and we have been very fortunate to have had the chance. We are filled with admiration for them and wish anyone undertaking any planned (or unplanned!) endurance challenge the best of luck.

The race pontoon with mini transat boats on right lined up in winning order.

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