Kevin Le Poidevin, the only Australian skipper entered in the Global Solo Challenge and born in 1961, is a sailor of vast skill and capabilities. Thirty-one years in the military have allowed him to not only develop efficiency, skill, and knowledge in numerous areas but also great human qualities and a heart of gold. When he had to choose a name for his team, he decided on “Aviator Ocean Racing”, recalling a superior in the air force who used to say, “we are all aviators”, not just the pilots but also the mechanics, cooks, and all the base personnel.
“My team consists of me, my family, and my supporters. In the end, I do most of the work. I’m not afraid of hard work and can put in twenty hours a day if necessary. I’ve managed every aspect of the project given my prior expertise: design, maintenance, logistics, procurement, contracts, advertising, social media, video editing, drone operation, article writing, photography, electricity, mechanics, equipment, and composite repairs… Oh yes, and also sailing.” His stories flow smooth; you could listen to him for hours, always slipping in a humorous comment that lightens the mood, revealing a deep yet joyful spirit.
Naturally, Kevin counts his boat as part of his team, playfully nicknamed “The Beast” when it becomes too demanding to handle. The actual name of Kevin’s Lutra BOC Open 40 is “Roaring Forty” which he purchased back in 2017. He had an ambitious project in mind, but his plans were upended by unforeseen events, particularly Covid. “My original sailing program was supposed to span seven years but got disrupted due to the pandemic. Now, my primary and significant goal is the GSC; I’ve always dreamt of sailing around the world. Afterward, I’ll sail the boat back to Australia and do another refit to participate in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, then the 2025 Melbourne-Osaka race, followed by an attempt to break the Australia round-trip record. By the end, I’ll either be completely worn out or broke,” he jokingly concludes.
The name of his boat, Roaring Forty, aptly suits the spirit of the Australian sailor. “I see myself as a simple custodian adding a new chapter to the Roaring Forty story. In the future, I’ll hand it over to another sailor. Back in Australia, I own a Sigma 36 named “Rogue Wave”. I like the connection between these two names, both evocative of the sea and wind.”
Regarding the type of boat, Roaring Forty is an Open 40, a kind of predecessor to the Class40, but with distinct features outside the box rule: for instance, the hull can be made from any material, like carbon fiber, unlike Class 40s which must be made of fiberglass. Roaring Forty has a ballast capacity of 1000 liters on each side, whereas Class 40s are limited to 750 liters.
Refit work on Roaring Forty began in 2018, long before Kevin decided to participate in the GSC. Initially, Le Poidevin had started the refit at the Roompot Yacht Service shipyard in the Netherlands, where various parts of the boat, from the engine to ballasts, underwent careful review, and the standing rigging was replaced.
“When I bought the boat, it had PBO rigging. Although textile shrouds are light, they’re vulnerable to UV rays and moisture. Moreover, they don’t show warning signs of breaking and require constant monitoring. The previous owner had sailed around the world, but upon reaching Cape Town, had to replace two shrouds. As a result, I chose to replace all the rigging with rod rigging: more reliable, tested, and immune to wear from friction. An added benefit, not insignificant, is the cost-effectiveness.”
In the Netherlands, a part of the shipyard also focused on electronics, batteries, hydro generators, and the hull which had been stripped down before applying new layers of antifouling. Unfortunately, the work was interrupted for almost two years.
“After deciding to participate in the Global Solo Challenge starting from A Coruña, I chose to transfer the boat to Spain in advance to complete some tasks at the Marina Coruña Varadero. During the refit in Spain, I focused on the revision of the mast and gear, some composite repairs, and painting parts of the deck with a fluorescent color, as required by the GSC regulations. For the ballast, I installed the SofoScoop valves, which simplify the ballast plumbing systems, filling and emptying, and reduce the weight on board.”
Kevin’s and Aviator Ocean Racing’s campaign for the GSC is self-funded and even more challenging logistically, economically, and morally, compared to those skippers who prepared the boats in their home country and city.
“Not having my family and friends close by to help makes the process even harder. Fortunately, my family understands my passion for sailing and my dream, and they are all incredibly excited about my challenge and supportive of me even if we are geographically separated at the moment. For this campaign, I am using my retirement savings, and the exchange rate with the Australian dollar isn’t helping matters. Moreover, if I receive donations, I prefer to support the associations “Soldier On” and “Brain Tumour Alliance Australia”, to which I dedicate my circumnavigation.”
Le Poidevin has chosen to give deeper meaning to his sporting challenge by associating it with two organizations that are particularly close to his heart. As a veteran of the Australian Air Force with three decades of service, he has seen the impact military life can have on individuals and their families. In 2012, he met the co-founder of Soldier On, an organization dedicated to supporting sick or injured military personnel in reintegrating into civilian life. Since then, Kevin has been raising awareness, through his sporting achievements, about the vital work Soldier On does.
Kevin came to know the Brain Tumour Alliance Australia when his friend Nathan was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “I asked Nathan how I could help him and his family by supporting organizations and healthcare workers taking care of him. Without hesitation, he told me about BTAA, a group of volunteers that, without government funding, is committed to supporting not just cancer victims, but also their families and the healthcare staff caring for them. Sadly, Nathan, after battling for three years, passed away in February of this year, but there’s still so much work to be done, also in his memory.”
Le Poidevin not only encourages donations to the Australian organizations but wishes for this message to be global: “I am proud to display the logos of both these organizations on my boat and my mainsail, hoping they can raise awareness about supporting veterans and brain cancer patients worldwide.” He also recounts a particularly touching encounter in Falmouth with a gentleman who had to sell his sailboat to buy a motorboat because of a brain tumor. Kevin pointed to the logo on his boat to let him know he understood his situation. “He greatly appreciated the mission I am sailing for and was moved.
Kevin continues to tell us about Roaring Forty and how it will be a good traveling companion thanks to its strengths which also compensate for some weaknesses: “When I chose this type of boat, I knew I could rely on a high-quality carbon design and construction. Moreover, thanks to my skills, I am able to repair most of the systems on board. From a sailing perspective, I had the mainsail and genoa redone at Zoom sailmakers and I am pleased with their performance in navigation. The downwind sails, however, are older, but I’ve focused on the essentials. The boat is equipped with a fixed keel. At the stern, there are also daggerboards, which, when sailing upwind, help me sail closer to the wind better, even if the disadvantage is that they must be moved manually when tacking. I know mine isn’t the fastest boat in the group, especially compared to the Class 40s and Open 50s, but I believe it is reliable and sturdy enough to fulfill my dream of circumnavigating the globe and then joining me on many other adventures.”
Le Poidevin is fond of his boat and considers it his indispensable counterpart for the success of this challenge. “Sometimes I talk to my boat, especially when all the sails are well-adjusted and it sails perfectly. I have two other travel companions: “Eric” and “Ray”. I have always named my autopilots “Eric” in honor of the legendary French navigator Eric Tabarly. On Roaring Forty, I ha