Learning to Sail

As most sports included into the Manneken trip, I didn’t knew much about sailing… But who has never dreamed of traveling on a boat?! Actually, probably a lot of people, but never mind. I was and still am determined as hell to achieve this part: sailing from Belize to Georgetown Guyana!

Nevertheless, sailing solo (or as a captain) requires some knowledge. I had some prior windsurf experience, but that’s almost useless on a sailboat and I had to get from scratch to autonomy in less than a year and a half. Three option were available: find a friend with a sailboat (but I didn’t know any), get some sailing lessons, or find captains looking for sailors to convey other people boats. The conveying option offers the interest of being cheap, you only pay for the board cash: drinks and meals. On the other hand, it is a real lottery! Some captains are going to be great teachers and companions while others are only interested into cheap labour. Let’s try the sailing lessons!

I looked up for the most demanding internship available to beginners and ended up at the UCPA organization from France in Lorient. It could have been another organization but the UCPA offers great price to quality, and I liked the spirit of it: one week cruising on a boat in Britain. You leave from Lorient on the Saturday and you come back on the Friday 6 days later. The itinerary is chosen all together according to weather conditions and adapted day to day. That is, you have to accept giving up any intimacy and live up to eight persons on an eleven meters long boat: not a problem!

I went on my first sailing trip during august 2016. We were eight people including the captain, it was a real success. The crew was great, everybody went perfectly along. Of course I only learned as much as one can in a week’s time, but our captain Jérôme pushed us further than I hoped and gave me the thrill. Here is a small clip of this first experience, which is also my first video (be tolerant 😉 )

After this first experience I decided to get in depth knowledge! The “Federation Française de Voile” (FFV)(French sailing federation) has five certification levels, 5 being captain. I just achieved the equivalent of level 2, and set a goal to reach at least level 4: “confirmed sailor”. The UCPA obliges to do the level 3 in two separate weeks, which meant I had still 3 weeks of internships before reaching my goal, consireing I pass each level of course. I enrolled for level 3 “cartography” in May 2017, we were three sailors plus the captain. Being a reduced crew we learned a massive amount of stuffs! Thanks captain Berenice for this intense week.

Later in August, I joined for the second level 3: “manoeuvre and technology”. The 6 person crew had crazy vibes, and made this week unforgettable. Captain Daniel, a real personage was for sure partly responsible. Hence, these weeks are more than sailing! You enter another universe made of water, reduced spaces, and closeness with strangers. After a few days you always become real teammates, and quickly learn to adapt and live together. I also had the pleasure to pass level 3 FFV for good and confirm the feeling I was on the good path!

The next step will be to engage and succeed level 4 next week starting Saturday 16th September 2017. The challenge, more than passing levels, will be to reinforce my knowledge and try to manage my weak points in order to be ready for The Manneken Trip!