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British sailor takes on world's best to raise funds for Just a Drop

by Alice Mellar 29 Jun 10:11 BST
The 2nd stage of Solitaire du Figaro 2020 departs © Alexis Courcoux

Twenty-six-year-old British sailor David Paul is set to join the crème de la crème of the sailing world when he tackles the gruelling La Solitaire Du Figaro yacht race this summer—all to raise funds for international water charity, Just a Drop.

The 2500-mile single handed offshore sailing race is considered one of the toughest in the world and among the largest events on France's sporting calendar.

A rookie to the event, David will be one of only two Brits taking part in the yachting spectacle which attracts Olympians, World Champions, European Champions, national champions, Vendee Globe and The Ocean Race winners - no mean feat for the young man from Ealing who first learned to sail as a youngster during the school holidays at Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre.

As a nine-year-old, his first ambition was to beat as many grown-ups as possible, but he soon found himself competing in regional, national and now, international racing. His first experience of long-distance offshore racing took him from the UK to the Netherlands during which he discovered the thrill of night sailing, and the adrenalizing combination of adventure and sport.

"I discovered the race La Solitaire du Figaro during that first offshore race when we were overtaken by a French boat. Rather than trying to catch the passing yacht, the people I was sailing with merely responded with, 'They're a Figaro sailor. We can't stop them'. Pretty quickly I went into research mode about this race and I was determined to be a part of it.

"The French are so dominant in this form of sailing that the standard of racing at La Solitaire du Figaro is significantly higher than at any other international offshore sailing race. As such only the bravest or craziest non-French sailors decide to take them on in their home waters," David said.

Inspired by the hours spent on the water training in his 10-metre Figaro racing yacht, David felt he wanted to take the opportunity to raise awareness about Just a Drop and the work of the charity to bring clean drinking water and sanitation to impoverished communities across the globe.

"The irony of water in the world we live in is that we are surrounded by it, yet we cannot drink it. When we race, this is especially apparent. We are surrounded by water, yet we can only take 4 litres of drinking water for each day of competition. That makes you fully appreciate clean water as a resource," David said.

"As such, the idea to take Just a Drop to one of the biggest sailing races was born. In helping to provide clean water to thousands who desperately need it, Just a Drop have undertaken a huge challenge. In my own little way, I have taken on a huge challenge myself. By partnering with Just a Drop, I believe we can help each other in achieving these goals."

Currently based in Lorient, Brittany to make the most of training opportunities, David is hoping to raise as much as he can for Just a Drop from La Solitaire du Figaro supporters both sides of the Channel.

The race, which is made up of four stages, will start on August 22 in Saint-Nazaire and work its way down the Spanish coast then up to Lorient. The second leg will see competitors follow the French coast north and around the famous tidal section at Riaz. David will have the opportunity to test his skills in home water when the third leg of the race heads to the south coast of the United Kingdom before returning to France and the final leg on September 12 across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off Southwest Ireland then back to where the race started.

"I am incredibly excited to be competing against some of the best sailors in the world. Quite thrilling for a guy who learnt how to sail as something to do in the school holidays. And to be raising money for such an important charity at the same time, it doesn't get any better than that!"

If you would like to assist in David Paul's Just a Drop fundraising efforts, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/davidpaulsailing and make a donation.

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