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Australian Kevin Le Poidevin's Lutra BOC Open 40 is 9th entry in the Global Solo Challenge

by Global Solo Challenge 13 Feb 04:50 GMT
Kevin Le Poidevin from Port Stephens, Australia © Global Solo Challenge

Australian Kevin Le Poidevin took the plunge in 2017 and purchased Roaring Forty, a Lutra BOC Open 40, to fulfil his lifelong dream to break the single-handed unassisted Around Australia race record and then the 40ft Around the World unassisted and non-stop record.

His military training, experience, drive and discipline make him a very strong entry in the Global Solo Challenge 2023.

Where does your passion for sailing come from?

Being close to the water has a calming and restorative effect on me that is difficult to explain, so I am not going to keep the mystery alive! You either feel it, or you buy a farm out west. Dad was born on the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands and proudly served on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Cumberland. Mum was a tailoress on Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.

In 1964, we departed Southampton on the good ship Flavia bound for a new life in Australia. I know what you are thinking, but no, we were not convicts! The ticket price for a family of four gave way to the phrase ten-pound poms. By the age of three, I had notched up my first Transatlantic, Panama transit and Pacific crossing. The irony is not lost on me as we ended up living on a huge sheep station 400km from the sea.

I learned to sail as crew onboard Seabird a Fisher 32 cruising yacht and started racing on a 26ft Steinman lightweight flyer called Fat Albert (Fatso to us). Our race crew comprised of mostly Air Sea Rescue skippers, so our fear threshold was a lot higher than your average sailor. We pushed hard and broke a lot of stuff. Let's just say on more than one occasion when Gold Coast Seaway conditions were rough and yachts waited offshore for seas to moderate, the Fatso crew we were often back at the 'other bar'.

My first sailboat was a Javelin 14ft skiff followed by Just Jo, a lovely 1974 Custom 30 (Peter Ebbutt) IOR racer that I refitted for solo sailing. Then came Rogue Wave, a beautiful 1983 Sigma 36 that I bought in Malaysia in 2009 and solo sailed back to Australia. I competed in the 2014 and 2018 Solo Tasman Yacht Challenges from New Zealand to Mooloolaba; topping it off by competing in the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart in 2019. I still own Rogue Wave so we will have a crack at the 2021 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race inaugural double Handed division.

My sailing passion has continued to evolve in lock step with my experience, knowledge, confidence and of course the biggest constraint, budget. In 2017 I took the plunge and purchased Roaring Forty to fulfil my lifelong dream to crack the Solo Unassisted Around Australia race record and then the 40ft Around the World unassisted and non-stop record.

What are the lessons you learnt from sailing?

Military life and sailing are complimentary, since both require discipline. They both teach patience; mental and emotional control; time, risk and fatigue management so you make deliberate, effective and timely decisions; motivation to succeed; analyse and critically assess your own and others abilities so you can consider your options, all whilst operating in a time constrained, hostile and competitive environment.

What brought you to like single-handed sailing?

Self-reliance, self-belief and the need to challenge myself in an environment that I have limited influence and even less control. I enjoy the strategy, navigation and tactics plus the technical aspects of setting up my boats for maximum efficiency, whilst learning new skills that compliment my existing skills.

What prompted you to sign up for this event?

Since I also owned a Sigma 36, I was very interested when Marco (Nannini) entered British Beagle, his Sigma 36 in the 2009 OSTAR. In 2011/12, I also followed, supported and encouraged Marco's entry in the Global Ocean Race (GOR) onboard his Class 40 Financial Crisis. Call it fate or whatever, but when Marco announced his Global Solo Challenge event and it aligned with my retirement, I was 100% committed so his venture could become our adventure.

I have previously emailed another Class 40 Global race organiser requesting them to consider including an Adventure Class (similar to RdR) for older Open 40 and Open 50 designs boats. My intent was so we could compete against Vintage Class 40s that are not competitive against the new Class 40's that cost in excess of EUR500+; but alas, I didn't even get one courtesy 'go away' response.

When I emailed the same question to Marco he stepped up, and not only did he reply to my email, but he appreciated the feedback and created a Super Zero Group and a delayed start. You have to admit watching Charal pursuit race through the Vendée fleet has been fantastic.

How do you plan to prepare for this event?

Yep, planning is certainly a challenge in COVID times as Australia's international travel ban is keeping us apart. I live in Australia and Roaring Forty is currently in The Netherlands. Fortunately, I had already undertaken a major refit during 2018-19 so she is in a very good state. Whilst my sails have already lapped the planet once and new sails (and sponsor) would certainly be very welcome, I need to be sensible about where a focus my limited budget. Sustainability is also very important to me as I detest waste. The Millenium Carbon Kevlar sails are extremely robust offshore sails, so maybe all I end up doing is pack more Dr Sails epoxy!

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge..... watching Groups 0-4 sail away and then waiting on the dock and bonding with the other Super Zero entrants..... for a month!

Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have?

I found Roaring Forty in 2017 whilst on a 3-year posting to the United States. My next boat had to be proven, strong and offshore capable; setup for single-handed and definitely water ballasted. Not just a downwind flyer either as I wanted a narrower hull form for performance upwind. The availability and market for this type of boat in Australia is extremely limited, well at least at my budget entry point. Unfortunately, the US solo boat market was also very limited and prices high.

Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?

Yes, it's important to me to promote awareness and where I can help, I will assist in raising funds to enable those wonderful organisations that support our Veterans and their families. Once I have formal approvals established, I will include web links to my chosen Charity. As in all my fundraising, 100% of donations go to charity (less the platform admin fee), not to me.

Sailing experience:

2007 - first solo Townsville to Port Stephens
2010 - solo Langkawi Malaysia to Newcastle Australia
2014 - Solo Tasman Challenge Yacht Race. Port Stephens- New Plymouth NZ- Mooloolaba - Port Stephens.
2018 - Solo Tasman Challenge Yacht Race. Port Stephens- New Plymouth NZ- Mooloolaba - Port Stephens.
2019 - 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Race

About the boat:

  • Boat Name: Roaring Forty
  • Sail Number: 7204
  • Model: Lutra BOC Open 40 (Adrian Konynendyk, Lutra Yacht Design. Built: Akton Yachts, Estonia)
  • Year built: 1997
  • Group: Super Zero
  • LOA: 40
  • Displacement: 4650kg plus 1000 L water ballast each side

Find out more here.

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