THE OCEAN RIDER
En équilibre sur l’océan
One man – one boat – one wild trip around the world Around the world in 220 days. In a small catamaran without a cockpit and without protection from the elements, the Swiss sailor Yvan Bourgnon sets out to sail 55,000 kilometers around the world. Storms, shipwrecks, and real pirates await him.
“This is war!” Yvan yells, as he struggles to fight against the howling wind. At wind speeds of 50 knots, he is navigating his catamaran directly into an Atlantic storm. He hasn’t slept in over 24 hours. But if you’re venturing out to solo-circumnavigate the globe in a six-meterlong sports catamaran without a cockpit, you’ve signed up for a battle against the elements and a harrowing war with the weather.
What for mere mortals might sound like a lonely nightmare is in fact a grand dream for someone like Yvan Bourgnon, a sailing professional with a mind of his own. His goal? To sail around the world without a GPS, crew, cabin, or bunk. The Swiss talent was virtually born into the sport.
His parents were avid sailors, and when Yvan was eight years old, they took him and his brother Laurent on a sailing trip around the world. The ocean became a central element of the boys’ lives, even after the family voyage ended. In 1995, Yvan participated in his first yachting race—the Transat Jacques Vabre. In 1997, he won the race with his brother. He went on to break records in the Channel Strait Challenge, France’s Formula 18, and numerous 24hour sailing races. In 2013, however, Bourgnon took on a challenge that the international sailing community deems impossible—sailing around the world in a sports cat, a feat that no one before him ever dared undertake.
“A sports cat is very lightweight and really cuts through the water,” explains Phil Sharp, one of Britain’s best high-sea sailing professionals. “But sailing a boat like that, far from shore, is very risky because it is so unstable.”
A lesson that Yvan learns early on, while still on the Atlantic, in fact. During his 220-day voyage, his cat capsizes over 300 times. And even when the 43-year-old can cover long distances in good weather, he is still at the mercy of the elements. The trampoline of his sports cat does not give him any hold, and the “bed” he set up on the outriggers is makeshift at best. Not that he ever has much of a chance to sleep. He navigates with a sextant, uses the stars to guide him at night, and eats, weather permitting liquid astronaut food.
Every now and again, Bourgnon is rewarded with sunny days on which his lightweight boat is virtually surfing on the waves. But off the coast of Sri Lanka, his vessel reaches its figurative and literal breaking point. While Yvan is asleep, his boat ran aground on a reef. He survives, but his boat is a total loss. It seems his dream has come to an end. This is the moment for Yvan Bourgnon to show what he is made of. Even before he can reconstruct another catamaran, he makes one thing clear, “Quitting is not an option.”