Olivier Jehl lives in Brest, Brittany, France, at the centre of the french offshore sailing scene. Originally from the Massif Central Olivier worked his way up the sailing world first by becoming an instructor for the famous Glénans sailing school, then obtaining a formal coastal and offshore qualification called the BPJEPS Voile which opened a world of opportunities for him. He took the course in Paimpol and where he made contacts with many people and discovered the world of french “course au large”. He decided to take part in the 2015 edition of the Mini Transat by building from A to Z his own carbon-epoxy prototype #967.
Sailing around the world single-handed non-stop by the three great capes is a long held childhood dream, the GSC offers a non elitist setting and the opportunity to participate with a reasonable budget, all aspects that have drawn Olivier to enter. He wishes for our children a future where mankind manages to find a balance between innovation and technology and preservation of a bond with nature. He is fascinated by the wisdom of Indigenous populations of the world and his communication project will be centred around associations that work with them.
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
I grew up far from the sea in the Massif Central but I have always been very drawn to this environment. I sailed with my family on windsurfs, catamarans, on the lake or at sea for leisure. As a teenager I discovered the Glénans sailing school, I then passed all the levels until i became an instructor.
Between the ages of 25 and 30, I started to sail more and more regularly as a leisure activity, going towards cruising. When I was 30, I had a click telling me to get a professional diploma, the BPJEPS Voile specialised in coastal and offshore cruising, a new life was offered to me. I did this in the most beautiful sailing area in France, North Brittany, at Paimpol.
I fell even more in love with the sea, with these landscapes, to go through weeks of sailing one after the other. Through meetings I discovered the world of French offshore racing, I then set up a Mini Transat project on a prototype sailboat. It allowed me to continue to progress and discover new ways of sailing. I also discovered the construction and the preparation of boat thanks to these famous Mini 6.50 prototypes. It made me want to build one myself from A to Z.
Not being rich I had to sell my boat but the experience was extraordinary. I was also able to do some deliveries, prepare racing boats, participate in rescue missions. An adventure that continues to grow richer day after day. Today I want to realise a childhood dream, to race around the world alone on a boat in harmony with the sea.
What lessons have you learnt from sailing?
The sea taught me a lot of things, to dream, to never let go, to persevere, to seek harmony within me. These offshore racing projects push us to our limits at all levels, on land, on the water, we learn every day and we do not know what will happen tomorrow, we keep faith, we advance, trying to do the best.
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
The desire to learn to play a boat like a musician plays an instrument. The desire to be offshore as close as possible to the Nature and to myself. The desire to share all this with people to live a collective adventure close to the essential. The desire to watch the sun rise and set morning and evening, to take squalls, storms and find the resources in me to make it happen.
What prompted you to sign up for this event?
This race represents for me a unique opportunity to take part in a solo round the world race. The budget is reasonable, it allows me to look for responsible companies in their investments, taking care of others and the environment, which fits with my way of being. Sharing an adventure at a reasonable budget allows it to be shared with everyone without elitism.
Who says reasonable budget, says sobriety in efficiency, we stay in technology, we do not stop technology but we recycle our resources as much as possible while following the technological train (I will set off on an old boat to which I will add the ‘modern electronics, modern seamanship, modern sails, use satellites, use renewable energies, etc.)
A great adventure is an adventure shared and shareable with and by the greatest number, sober, joyful, respectful of life, lively, invigorating, which takes care of everyone. This race perfectly embodies these values and it comes at the right time for me, so I’m happy to go for it!
How do you plan to prepare for this event?
Finding the boat on which I feel good, preparing it as well as possible (I have two years for that), racking up miles on it in various conditions. Know her as best as possible. Try not to forget anything in the preparation.
Create a great story, spend time on communication to share this unique moment in the most beautiful way.
Food will also be a very important aspect that I will try to optimise as well as possible. Food is our fuel, our bricks, our wires, our morale. I will try to make tasty menus, having the right fats, the right sugars, the right proteins etc. and varied, organic, local, while respecting the specifications of such an adventure, the weight. There is lots to think about!
Obviously leave as fit as possible by having done a physical preparation without excess but sufficient to contain the pain and keep morale high. A sound mind in a sound body!
Take to the open sea in September 2023, having ticked all the boxes to be sure to be in the best possible conditions of safety and to have maximum pleasure.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
I don’t know what the biggest challenge will be, there are so many details all over a project like this.
The biggest challenge is perhaps not to have forgotten anything in order to leave as serenely as possible, then it is to try to manage the unknown.
Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have.
I’m looking for a long distance design boat from around the 70’s and 80’s, a sturdy boat, stiff to the canvas, sailor, reliable, secure, with a good average speed so as not to suffer too much from the weather. I will try to use as much renewable energy as possible on board.
I’m looking for a boat that will be also my friend.
Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?
I would like to go around the world in the colour of indigenous peoples of the world with one or more associations that work with them. To make known these people who knew how to keep ancestral knowledge of humanity, of link to nature. I did this in 2015 when I went to see the Kogis Indians from Colombia with my mini 6.50 after the Mini Transat.
The association with which I had worked on this project had done an extraordinary job of communication and we were on TV, radio etc. It was already very meaningful on a mini-transat so doing the same thing again with several indigenous peoples from each continent and bringing it to life with the public with a race of several months around the world will certainly be an unforgettable experience.
Combining Reasoned technology and ancestral knowledge, this is perhaps how we will all find a desirable, harmonious, respectful and joyful future. This is what I wish for our children.
Construction of a Mini 6.50 carbon-epoxy prototype, Mini # 967
New York France North Atlantic record attempt in 2016, aborted following collision with a UFO
Travel to Colombia from Guadeloupe in mini 6.50 in 2016 then Colombia – New York
Mini-Transat 2015: 11th / 26th in prototype
Min Fastnet 2015: 8th / 28
2015 French Single-handed Offshore Championship: 9th / 42
Les Sables Les Azores 2014: 5th / 10 first stage
About the boat