French sailor Philippe Delamare will be at the starting line of the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge, which begins in September in A Coruña, Spain. Although he readily admits he is not a “real competitor,” his experience in the Southern Seas should not be underestimated when it comes to performance and, why not, even a good result.
Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago, I was only discovering the stories of Bernard Moitessier and the world of the sea, and Marco Nannini probably didn’t imagine he would one day organise a round-the-world sailing event. Yet, ten years ago, Philippe Delamare was already considering taking the plunge to fulfil his dream of sailing solo around the world. “It’s a page I had to fill, and I can’t wait to start. For a project like this, you need a bit of recklessness, but above all, unshakable motivation.”
Philippe Delamare is a sailor who “loves being on the water,” as he puts it. The Frenchman enjoys long crossings more than anything, and the idea of spending more than 150 days alone at sea does not scare him. “I don’t fear it, but I remain humble. I don’t know what it’s like to be alone at sea for such a long time. This round-the-world journey is a mix of enormous desire and the unknown.”
Approaching 60, the Global Solo Challenge participant has already sailed most of the world’s seas and experienced a thousand lives. “I’ve never done anything for more than 8 years,” he confesses. Except for sailing, that is. After studying business and working for a large American company, he started his own business, and eight years later, he decided to embark on a 5-year round-the-world trip with his wife and daughter. Their journey took them from France to Australia, through the Amazon, Patagonia, Easter Island, and the Fiji archipelago on a 43-foot aluminium boat from the Prometa shipyard.
Upon returning to land, Philippe settled in Brisbane and started a new business with a friend. They spent another eight “absolutely fabulous” years, during which he continued sailing whenever possible, delivering boats for owners twice a year. But like all good things, the friends decided to take different paths, and Philippe embarked on a new project: becoming a skipper for six months a year on a Nomad 4 for a boat owner friend. A “round-the-world” programme on a powerful boat that highlights the Frenchman’s maritime skills. “It’s a wonderful, exceptional boat, but very demanding,” he insists.
As is the case for most Global Solo Challenge participants, Marco Nannini’s race appeared at the right time. “I had some time ahead of me, and I saw the Global Solo Challenge, which is wonderful. I’m not a real competitor. Sure, the Vendée Globe is a dream. But I have commitments with the owner of the boat I work on, and it was the right timing for me to leave.”
For his journey, Philippe chose a 1989 Actual 46 aluminium boat named Mowgli. “I wanted a boat that would allow me to go on expeditions in Patagonia afterward, a boat I could reuse after the event,” he explains before continuing, “It’s clearly a displacement boat that needs to be brought to its hull speed. For a racing boat, it’s a tank!” Indeed, weighing nearly 9 tonnes originally, Mowgli is a heavyweight, and Philippe is working hard to make his sailboat more efficient and suitable for the GSC.
“Since last October, it has occupied 80% of my time. We started by stripping the boat, and we managed to save 2 tonnes. The electronics have been completely redone, and we are gradually taking care of every aspect of the boat.” The schedule until September seems to be precisely planned. “The idea is 3 weeks of sailing, 2 weeks of work, etc.,” he explains. Philippe is currently in La Rochelle, France, where his sailboat is located and is conducting his first tests.
Philippe has an advantage over some other GSC participants: he knows the Southern Ocean well.
His extensive sailing experience will be an asset in the Global Solo Challenge. “I know what to expect. We’ve always heard about the Southern Seas and read terrible things about them, and it’s a potential source of stress. It’s true; it’s exactly as you read, but not all the time. Sometimes, we’ll wonder why we came here and if we’ll make it. But I already know all of this; I know what to expect, and it’s a huge advantage.”
Philippe is returning to the Southern Seas for the purity of the place. Rather reserved during our conversation, he suddenly becomes eloquent when talking about the Southern Seas. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful, majestic place. The ocean breathes; it’s the origin of the world. It’s a place where you learn not to lie to yourself.”
Before returning to these beloved seas, Philippe must complete his qualification course and finalise the last administrative details. He also needs to plan meals for the approximately 170 days at sea that he estimates, even though Philippe admits to finding freeze-dried meals “very good.”
Philippe will then head to A Coruña to start the Global Solo Challenge at the end of September.