Louis Robein, the skipper of the stars and the breath of the sea

©Louis Robein

Two eyes as blue as the sea and looking into the distance, so far that they dream of sailing around the world solo. A big and generous heart that wants to share his passion for the sea and show the stars to others, even to those who have never seen them or can no longer see them due to a visual impairment.

Louis Robein, a French sailor approaching his seventies, had to earn the right to sail. Born in Moselle, a town home to coal mines in northeastern France, on the border between Germany and Luxembourg, he developed a passion for sailing late, around the age of 18, but then never stopped.

At 24 years old, when he started working, he began to consistently engage in sailing. In 1994, as an amateur, he took part in his first Solitaire du Figaro, one of the toughest and most demanding races in the solo racing circuit in France. Louis ended up participating in eight editions of the Solitaire.

“At the first edition I took part in, I discovered the thrill of competition because I was not used to racing, let alone solo. I came from recreational sailing, so from a safety point of view, I was very prepared but not competitive at all. My goal was to see what I was truly capable of doing. I was very well received by the organisation and then by the professionals, who encouraged me to persevere.

©Louis Robein


There were some very tough stages—the stages in the Solitaire du Figaro average between three and six days of solo sailing—with storms and difficult weather and navigation conditions. Why did I do so many? I became the mascot of the pro circuit. I liked that environment where there is a strong team spirit and everyone helps one another on land.”

In 1999-2000, Louis skipped the Solitaire du Figaro to participate in the Transquadra Solo, a solo Atlantic crossing. It was a beautiful test to start the millennium in style, but it was not easy for the skippers. “In the winter of 1999, there were a series of three storms that hit Europe, causing severe damage. Sailing between these depressions on my small Figaro, I was at my limit. It was perhaps one of the most complex moments I experienced while sailing.”

After 2002, the organisation changed the boat model for the Solitaire du Figaro, and Louis left the class but continued to sail, mostly cruising.

In 2020, while following the skippers of the Vendée Globe, Louis discovers the launch of the Global Solo Challenge (GSC). He felt that this event might be just right for him, as he had been dreaming of sailing around the world with a crew and in stages for years, but it is not easy to form a group to do so. “I immediately thought that with my preparation, I could do it. When I talked to people who know me, they immediately said that I would be capable of it. So I told myself, this is a great project, and I will do everything possible to make it happen.”

In addition, his boat, an X-37 that Louis has owned since 2010, meets the entry criteria set out by the regulations. He signed up and began preparing his project, which is completely self-financed, with great sacrifices.

©Louis Robein


Humble, like all great people, Robein recounts the strengths that other sailors have seen in him since his first exploit in the Figaro class and that will help him carry out his round-the-world trip to the best of his ability. “Perseverance and tenacity are the qualities attributed to me. People say that I am always enthusiastic when doing something I love, that I never get discouraged, and that I never let myself be defeated. I can always find the good side of events, even in difficulties.”

To prepare for his round-the-world journey, Louis has focused on the preparation of the boat as well as navigation and some general physical training.

“Between January and June 2022, I did a stage-by-stage tour of the Atlantic, both solo and with a crew. From France, I stopped in the Canary Islands and arrived in Guadeloupe with a crew. I completed the solo qualification for the Global Solo Challenge between Guadeloupe and the Azores. Then I left for Madeira with a crew and sailed solo from Madeira to the Balearic Islands, and finally, double-handed back to France.”

Robein brings on board friends with whom he has already sailed, as well as some very special crew: visually impaired people and their companions. In fact, since retiring, Louis has become a volunteer for UNADEV, the Union Nationale des Aveugles et Déficients Visuels (national union for the blind and visually impaired). “I have always tried to help those in need. I am against welfare dependence, but I try to give confidence and allow these people to do what they can do. I like sharing my passion for sailing with them, and I have been collaborating with them for five years now.”

Louis shares that this mission enriches him greatly on a human level. Visually impaired or blind people cannot ride bicycles or scooters. Driving a car is out of the question. Sailing is the only means of transportation they can control, and it’s something incredible for them. Over time and with training, they gain more and more autonomy, thanks in part to software developed by one of the leaders and the manufacturers of the instruments installed on board. Aspiring sailors can not only take part in triangle races but also participate in short coastal races, with an instructor intervening only in cases of danger.

©Louis Robein


“Every Tuesday, I sail with them near Lyon, teaching the fundamentals of sailing and some racing concepts. I took part in a one-week training course with them in Corsica, and when I did my Atlantic tour, some of them joined, accompanied by a facilitator. During the first leg, from France to the Canary Islands, I had a visually impaired person on board who has some partial visual perception left. He told me that after losing his sight, he had never seen the stars again. So I showed him Sirius, one of the brightest stars, and he saw it. Then every night, he would try to orient himself on his own and find his star. It was a very powerful experience,” recounts the skipper.

The great sensitivity of this skipper is also expressed in the name of his boats, so full of meaning: “Le souffle de la mer,” the breath of the sea. “When I participated in my first Solitaire du Figaro, I wanted to find a name for my boat that would remind me of and celebrate nature. My philosophy is that we should not fight against nature but rather live and sail in harmony with it. If we go against nature, we have lost from the start. This name connects sailing and nature: the breath is the wind blowing on the sails, and the breath of the sea pushes the sailing vessel. I want to associate two natural elements, both the air of the winds that blow above us and the water of the sea that is below us when we sail. We must coexist with nature.”

The strong points of his boat are its sturdiness and reliability. Robein purchased his boat in 2010, and for thirteen years he has been sailing and testing all the equipment. From the very first survey, even before the purchase, the solidity of the construction and materials was apparent, and over the years, Louis has sailed many miles to adapt his beautiful “Le Souffle de la Mer III” according to his needs.

The goal of the French skipper is to finish the race and complete his round-the-world journey. “When I can, I will sail fast; I am a racer at heart, but the priority is safety and finishing the course. I trained in the Figaro class, so I know I can go far, and I will do my best to prove it.”

I believe the best navigators are those who had to earn the right to sail, like Magellan, who came from a small village in the Portuguese countryside.

“There are some unknowns in the journey; for example, I have never sailed in the Great South, but I feel a strong enthusiasm for riding big waves, seeing albatrosses, and maybe reliving a moment of grace surrounded by dolphins, as happened to me years ago in the Bay of Biscay.”

Fair winds, Louis! May the ocean grant you many emotions and countless stars to share with many people.


©Louis Robein