Yesterday, Sunday, September 17th, marked the departure of Edouard De Keyser, the only Belgian skipper entered in the Global Solo Challenge. Originally scheduled for Saturday, the departure was postponed to allow the team to complete some last-minute work, more easily done with the boat moored at the dock. In addition, weather conditions were unfavorable, and fatigue had accumulated during last week’s preparations. The Solarwind team worked tirelessly throughout Saturday to allow Édouard to set off more relaxed on his long journey aboard his Solaire 34, Solarwind.
During a live social media broadcast, De Keyser stated, “I chose to delay my departure mainly due to technical issues on the boat that had not been fully resolved. I was very tired yesterday and had to make a decision; after examining the weather systems and my to-do list, I preferred to delay by 24 hours.”
Marco Nannini, the event organiser, clarified, “The organization sets a departure date for competitors based on boat performance. If a competitor feels that their personal conditions, such as pre-departure stress or fatigue, or boat conditions, such as the need for additional work to ensure safety and reliability, warrant a departure delay, this option is available. Moreover, no penalty is applied, as stipulated by the GSC Regulations. A few hours of rest and technical review can save competitors days as otherwise, in case of a boat pulling into port along the route due to damage, they would be subject to a four-day penalty. On a journey around the world that will last about six months for Édouard, a day’s delay is negligible. I, therefore, believe his decision was wise.”
Hours before the departure, the sky was cloudy, and an easterly wind was blowing at 20-25 knots, stronger than predicted. The weather situation was complicated by a cyclone just off the Iberian Peninsula. Édouard chose to wait for the worst of this depression to pass, selecting a more favorable weather window for his departure. Waiting too long would have forced him to face head winds from the west and the risk of being stuck in a calm zone in the coming days. Thanks to the postponed departure, the skipper avoided Saturday’s storms and will find himself west of the depression center just a few hours into his journey, off Finisterre, heading south with diminishing sea and wind, making his initial days of navigation more manageable.”
“The organization’s RIB, with another competitor from the Global Solo Challenge, Dave Linger, and a cameraman on board, accompanied Édouard in his first miles of navigation, which will see him away from land for about six months. Unfortunately, many of his supporters had already left to return to Belgium.
In the days leading up to the departure, in La Coruña, Princess Esmeralda of Belgium was also present, supporting the sailor. De Keyser’s project provided an opportunity for institutional meetings between Spanish and Belgian authorities. The Mayor of La Coruña welcomed the Princess in an informal meeting at the City Hall, where sports and the environment were discussed. The Global Solo Challenge thus becomes an occasion to build bridges at the institutional level between different countries and cultures, with the participation of skippers from eleven different nationalities.
Princess Esmeralda of Belgium wanted to dedicate a message to wish the skipper a good journey: “I share with Édouard De Keyser values such as solidarity, sobriety, and the protection of our planet, especially the oceans which are threatened by pollution, plastic, and overfishing. I also admire his determination in realizing his dreams.
I believe it is essential to discuss this sports project in Belgium and elsewhere to inspire young people and encourage them to care for the environment, realize their dreams and passions, and maintain hope.
I wish Édouard to set sail on Sunday for an incredible journey through the beauty of the oceans… and to realize his childhood dream. We will all follow him from afar with admiration!”
From Belgium, Édouard’s family follows and supports him from home. These days Édouard celebrated his 29th wedding anniversary, the so-called nickel anniversary, with his wife Evelyne, who has always supported him. It was she who prepared all the dried food Édouard has loaded for the circumnavigation. On their wedding ring is engraved the Latin motto “Carpe Diem”, and although they will not be physically together during this journey, her presence and that of their two children will accompany him at every moment.
These are the words that Jan De Keyser, his father, dedicated to him on this special day:
“As a father, I am naturally concerned but also immensely proud of him. Édouard is incredibly brave, and I deeply love him for this quality. I also sailed when I was young, and perhaps it is thanks to those experiences that he found a passion for the sea. He chose a sturdy and reliable boat, and for this, I am extremely proud of my son. I wish everyone could have such a wonderful son. I am proud of all the energy he invested in realizing his dream and glad that there is so much interest around his project. I’ve prepared a world map to follow his progress step by step. I hope that my support and affection, even from afar, can help him.
Fair winds, Édouard, we are all with you!”
Dafydd Hughes, now three weeks at sea, is working to reach the equator, passing the intertropical convergence zone, very tricky from a meteorological point of view. Amid various adventures and challenges, he wanted to send a good wind message to Édouard, the second skipper to leave for the Global Solo Challenge, after him.”
“Édouard, the time has finally come to reap the rewards of all your hard work. Let go of the mooring ropes, leave the port, and start sailing. If your experience is anything like mine, you will feel a surge of adrenaline. Be cautious: after the first 48 hours, exhaustion might take its toll. Try to catch some sleep. Enjoy these last moments with your family and friends; I assure you that you will have a lump in your throat when the dinghy heads back to A Coruña.
I wish you a good journey and safe sailing. May the winds be in your favor, and see you soon, on the other side of the world. Warm regards from Dafydd, and the entire Bendigedig Team.”
Before his departure, Édouard thanked all the partners, his team, his family, and the GSC organization for their support and stated: “I know there will be tough times because I’ve already sailed solo a lot, but I also know there will be moments when I will have fun. I have invested all my resources and energy into this project and will do my best to make this dream come true. Thank you all for your help and enthusiasm!”
If you also want to support Édouard De Keyser on his world tour, you can send a direct message to his boat via his profile page on the Global Solo Challenge website.
To follow Solarwind’s route, the tracker is available at: https://globalsolochallenge.com/tracker/