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Bernard Moitessier

Bernard Moitessier

Bernard Moitessier (April 10, 1925 – June 16, 1994) is a legend within the solo sailing world. The French sailor might well have set the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation in 1968 during the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Having started 6 weeks behind the eventual winner Robin Knox-Johnston, Moitessier had narrowed the time to 19 day when he rounded Cape Horn. But instead of chasing the English leader back up the Atlantic to the finish, Moitessier turned east and go round the world again “To save my soul.” He eventually dropped anchor in Tahiti.

Moitessier had already made a name for himself as a long-distance sailor after sailing his yacht Joshua from Chile via Cape Horn to Spain. He was a reluctant participant, concerned that the Sunday Times newspaper was commercialising one of the last great challenges left to man.

A succession of gales and calm periods characterised Moitessier’s voyage across the Southern Ocean where became depressed and discovered yogo as a means to controlling his moods, he started to think of not returning to Europe, which he saw as a cause of many of his worries.

Once passed Cape Horn, he experienced a south-easterly gale which reawakened these thoughts and he turned east for the Cape of Good Hope. This inner turmoil was explained in a note catapulted onto the deck of a ship anchored in Table Bay in which he explained, “parce que je suis heureux en mer et peut-être pour sau her mon âme” (“because I am happy at sea and perhaps to save my soul”).

Though driven and competitive, Moitessier passed up the chance of instant fame and and sailed on for three more months before finally dropping anchor in Tahiti Although he abandoned the race, Moitessier still circumnavigated the globe, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and then sailing almost two-thirds of the way around a second time, all non-stop and mostly in the Roaring Forty latitudes, setting a record for the longest nonstop passage by a yacht, – 37,455 nautical miles in 10 months.

Moitessier’s book, The Long Way, tells the story of his voyage as a spiritual journey as much as a sailing adventure and is still regarded as a classic of sailing and adventuring literature.



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