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Patrick Phelipon - fifty years at sea and still a dream to fulfill in the Global Solo Challenge

by Margherita Pelaschier 4 Feb 11:32 GMT
Patrick Phelipon dreams of the Global Solo Challenge © Phelipon family

Patrick Phelipon was the first skipper to register "Full Entry" for the Global Solo Challenge. Known as the most Italian of French sailors, he is a yacht designer and builder, let's say, an all-around sailing professional.

On his website, he writes that he is a dreamer and that, as a child, he dreamed of the ocean as the most beautiful story told.

Interviewing Patrick, one understands that, in addition to his kindness and calmness of character, the flame of competition burns within him. In fact, he doesn't intend to do the GSC only to participate and make a dream come true, he is focused on winning.

"At the age of 70, 50 years from my first fully crewed circumnavigation, sailing around the globe solo would be the crowning achievement of my career," says Phelipon, who in 1973-1974 participated in the first edition of the Whitbread Round the World Race aboard the Pen Duick VI with Éric Tabarly.

In your life, you have sailed the equivalent, in nautical miles, of four circumnavigations of the globe. What do you expect from your fifth one?

"I have done an around-the-world race fully crewed, but I have never done it single-handed. It's a dream I've had for a very long time, ever since I sailed with Tabarly, but it's not always an easy dream to achieve. I had registered for the Golden Globe Race, which I had to give up for various reasons.

"Then I thought of sailing Bernard Moitessier's "Long Route", and I was preparing my Endurance 35 when I heard about the GSC. I liked the format from the very start, and I registered.

"This time there are all the premises for me to be at the starting line. The excitement for this new project is also related to finding a rhythm of life dictated by nature, leaving enough room for adventure."

What experiences made you realize that solo offshore sailing was good for you?

"It wasn't love at first sight, it was a passion that slowly grew within me. I don't remember a specific episode however, ever since I returned with my family from Morocco, where I was born, to La Rochelle, I started sailing. I remember, for example, participating, at 17, in a solo race in La Rochelle Bay on a 9-meter half Tonner and placing well. Then I participated in many 500×2, where you're solo for half of the race, and I won three of them.

"I've always been comfortable alone, probably due to my independent and somewhat introverted character."

To which sailor of the past do you feel most connected?

"In my life, I have always done things as I felt them. I have no role models to inspire me, but a character that I got to know well and is an example to me is Éric Tabarly. I am certainly more in tune with Tabarly compared to Moitessier. With the former, I share the attention to technical aspects, as Eric was interested in yacht design and innovation.

"When we circumnavigated the globe, Tabarly talked little, stayed in the cockpit, and made many adjustments to optimize performance. When I sail, I watch the sky and the sea and make the most of my knowledge to make the boat run, just like he did.

"I have never had and will never have his physical strength, but we both share a great determination, which I believe I have also demonstrated in preparing this project. Like Tabarly, my goal when racing is to win, not just participate."

You have said that you chose the GSC also because it is organized by an Italian. What extra value do you find in that?

"I immediately liked the format of the GSC because it is a race dedicated to ordinary sailors who want to make a dream come true, and not just to the sailing elite.

"I believe that, thanks to the sensitivity that characterizes the Italians, there is a greater likelihood that the event will remain human and sportive rather than turn exclusively into a media platform. Furthermore, Marco Nannini, the organizer, is a great sailor, and has a race approach close to the competitors."

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