The start is imminent. Martin is on the water with his GPS
strapped to his forearm. The batteries are new but
obviously there is a concern, heading information is not good.
A year ago, Martin Gavériaux succeeded in his first major challenge of windsurfing from Key West in Florida to Cuba. A few months later, at the beginning of his Olympic season, the young athlete thought up a new challenge which was to take part in the 'Record SNSM'.
This event is rather special.
It began in 2005 with the aim of promoting and encouraging the work of the SNSM rescue volunteers (National Sea Rescue Society).
Damien Grimont who dreamt up the original concept of the race which is open to all types of pro and amateur skippered boats. He came up with three symbolic courses from Saint Nazaire and Sainte Marine (between SN and SM), length 180, 230 and 360 nautical miles.
This seventh edition of the Record SNSM took place between June 17 and 21 and brought together 70 boats and 364 crew members ... And a windsurfer.
Back to the race
The start was not that simple! With a VMG worse than those of the sailing boats, Martin found himself in the middle of the fleet on the first leg to upwind. "One one occasion, I was on starboard, I was green but no-one gave way" He smiled. The Grand Charpentier lighthouse was behind him now and Martin was in the leading the group. Things were going well... comfortable and quick.
Just before night fell, Martin was on the tail of aboat that was proving to be a little harder to catch than usual. Whilse passing Hoedic, he discovered it was a Class40 that he was passing! (It had left 20 minutes before him). The race was exhilarating for Martin at this point who enjoys being on the water. The people on board yachts that he passed applaud the windsurfer as he passed.
He as wearing a full winter wetsuit and was carrying a backpack, but had bare feet so that he could 'feel the movement in the board better'.
It was time for a reunion with his support boat crewed by his familly. No room for journalists ! This dream was never goung to happen without a support boat to look after his security. They had a VHF radio link but talking was difficult. When he stopped to wait for the boat, it thought that he was resting and slowed down...
"we weren't exactly in sync, but it didn't really matter," He said afterwards
5 hours after crossing the start line, Martin arrivesd at 2400hrs in Belle Isle, where he made a stop at the 'Palais'. He changed the batteries in the GPS, gulped down some carbs, cobbled together his masthead lights and put on a windproof jacket. It was 0200 hrs when he got going again.
The night was a challenge. Martin had never spent a whole night at sea on his board before. It was really dark. It was pitch balck. It was impossible to judge the wave properly so he fell in repeatedly. Only to uphaul, pick up speed before BAM... He fell in again.
Falling in all the time was for sure very tiring
"It was crazy, with zero visibility like that I couldn't balance properly" Martin complained "But that ws nothing compared to keeping in touch with my safety boat. That was something else...."
Martin was travelling much faster on his board so, to keep in touch with the boat he had to turn round all the time and go back to find them. He had to waste endless amounts of energy on this crazy game of hide and seek whilst falling in all the time... Race, fall in, wait, go back, rest, eat a power bar, relax, race... This routine went on all night
7 hours after leaving Palace, Martin arrived in Sainte Marine
His hands were shot. His whole body was complaining. He deserved a break... Just 15 minutes. And a bite to eat... Sitting on his board floating in front of the Odet, he munched the most delicious sandwich of the year I
Hey Ho... It's off to work we go... At least Martin could see where he was going now and it was all downhill from here. Downwind to the Palais in just 3 hours.
"All on one tack - What a blast... Skimming across the water at full speed"
No real break though. Just enough time for the security boat to pick up some gas and he was off again. This time at 17 knots towards St Nazaire. Another 4 hours blitzing the ocean and at 1648hrs Martin finally crossed the finish line in a record time.
Time elapsed 21hrs 37 minutes. Average speed 8.32 knots - including rest breaks and trips to find the rescue boat :) - Distance sailed 180 nautical miles.
Martin is the first windsurfer to write his name in the pages of Record SNSM. Unable to move another muscle, He just sat on his board with a wide grin on his face as his friends and familly applauded his achievement. His feet ...white, his neck chafed by the salt rubbing on his wesuit collar. But most of all tired and happy.
Martin did not quit... he had done it
To the unbelievers who wondered, "Is this a sane thing to do? "
Martin smiled and said without hesitation," Obviously, it is sane. I didn't do this on a whim. I was ready. I prepared the safety side. I had an escort boat, which followed me all the way, and had my GPS. It took months of preparation."
But Martin prefers to remember the standing ovation he was given at the prize giving ceremony:
" When I saw people's reaction, I realized I'd done something that wasn't easy. No one has ever cheered me like that before. It was a big boost for the future, it certainly gave me a lot of encouragement"
Even Loïck Peyron, the world renowned record-holder, was moved to say "That was really impressive. It was harder than anything we've done! "
So the another exploit is done. Martin had never spent more than 10 hours on his board or sailed 200 miles or spent an entire night windsurfing. But again do not think Martin was insane.
Listen, not everyone makes such challenges, but we must be able to do them safely. This is not simple but not neither is it unreasonable, he believes: "Every challenge is a little crazy, but if you feel capable of carrying out a project and prepare well then you must try. Challenges are not possible if you don't have conviction. To do these things and succeed is highly motivating, it's also what we see with the Olympic windsurfing. On the water, you're always torn between the pleasure of sailing and concentration to overcome the difficulties. "
A challenge is a question of responsibility and maturity, "we must know how to evaluate them to get started" Martin surely has his head screwed on tight.
Martin is now training for the RS:X European Windsurfing Championships to be held in Bourgas, Bulgaria from September 10 to 19th.
There are other projects though... Martin intends to cross 5 straits on 5 continents: The English Channel, Gibraltar, Cook, Florida-Cuba (but really arrive in Cuba this time), and Taiwan (between China and Taiwan).
This is where Arnaud de Rosnay disappeared in the attempt in November '84...
"This is what intrigued me when I was younger and still does "says Martin.
And next year, why not set off on the permanent record SNSM (between St Nazaire and St Malo) OR windsurf Round Great Britain OR... We'll have to get used to these questions ;)
Athlete and adventurer Martin Gavériaux also dreams of joining a crew for ... perhaps the Jules Verne OR why not the Volvo Ocean Race ... who knows.
Congratulations Martin ....