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Ocean Safety 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Edouard de Keyser starts Global Solo Challenge

by Global Solo Challenge 18 Sep 13:53 BST 17 September 2023

Yesterday, Sunday, September 17th, marked the departure of Edouard de Keyser, the only Belgian skipper entered in the Global Solo Challenge.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, the departure was postponed to allow the team to complete some last-minute work, more easily done with the boat moored at the dock. In addition, weather conditions were unfavorable, and fatigue had accumulated during last week's preparations. The Solarwind team worked tirelessly throughout Saturday to allow Édouard to set off more relaxed on his long journey.

Édouard, to realize his project, truly put into practice his belief that "with the energy of dreams, mountains can be moved." Aboard his Solaire 34 'SolarWind', a prototype designed by the French architect David Reard and built in wood and epoxy resin by Jacques Riguidel, he aims to sail around the world without using fossil fuels. "For me, sailing embodies a dual virtue: freedom and respect for the planet. I have embraced these values since my beginnings in boating. One can travel differently, without leaving a carbon footprint and without resorting to motor-sailing, even if it means slowing down and accepting some discomfort. I want to demonstrate that it's possible to tackle even great challenges, like a round-the-world journey, while simultaneously preserving the environment."

During a live social media broadcast, De Keyser stated, "I chose to delay my departure mainly due to technical issues on the boat that had not been fully resolved. I was very tired yesterday and had to make a decision; after examining the weather systems and my to-do list, I preferred to delay by 24 hours."

Marco Nannini, the event organiser, clarified, "The organization sets a departure date for competitors based on boat performance. If a competitor feels that their personal conditions, such as pre-departure stress or fatigue, or boat conditions, such as the need for additional work to ensure safety and reliability, warrant a departure delay, this option is available. Moreover, no penalty is applied, as stipulated by the GSC Regulations. A few hours of rest and technical review can save competitors days as otherwise, in case of a boat pulling into port along the route due to damage, they would be subject to a four-day penalty. On a journey around the world that will last about six months for Édouard, a day's delay is negligible. I, therefore, believe his decision was wise."

Hours before the departure, the sky was cloudy, and an easterly wind was blowing at 20-25 knots, stronger than predicted. The weather situation was complicated by a cyclone just off the Iberian Peninsula. Édouard chose to wait for the worst of this depression to pass, selecting a more favorable weather window for his departure. Waiting too long would have forced him to face headwinds from the west and the risk of being stuck in a calm zone in the coming days. Thanks to the postponed departure, the skipper avoided Saturday's storms and will find himself west of the depression center just a few hours into his journey, off Finisterre, heading south with diminishing sea and wind, making his initial days of navigation more manageable."

The organization's RIB, with another competitor from the Global Solo Challenge, Dave Linger, and a cameraman on board, accompanied Édouard in his first miles of navigation, which will see him away from land for about six months. Unfortunately, many of his supporters had already left to return to Belgium.

In the days leading up to the departure, in La Coruña, Princess Esmeralda of Belgium was also present, supporting the sailor. De Keyser's project provided an opportunity for institutional meetings between Spanish and Belgian authorities. The Mayor of La Coruña welcomed the Princess in an informal meeting at the City Hall, where sports and the environment were discussed. The Global Solo Challenge thus becomes an occasion to build bridges at the institutional level between different countries and cultures, with the participation of skippers from eleven different nationalities.

Princess Esmeralda of Belgium wanted to dedicate a message to wish the skipper a good journey: "I share with Édouard De Keyser values such as solidarity, sobriety, and the protection of our planet, especially the oceans which are threatened by pollution, plastic, and overfishing. I also admire his determination in realizing his dreams. I believe it is essential to discuss this sports project in Belgium and elsewhere to inspire young people and encourage them to care for the environment, realize their dreams and passions, and maintain hope. I wish Édouard to set sail on Sunday for an incredible journey through the beauty of the oceans... and to realize his childhood dream. We will all follow him from afar with admiration!"

From Belgium, Édouard's family follows and supports him from home.

Before his departure, Édouard thanked all the partners, his team, his family, and the GSC organization for their support and stated: "I know there will be tough times because I've already sailed solo a lot, but I also know there will be moments when I will have fun. I have invested all my resources and energy into this project and will do my best to make this dream come true. Thank you all for your help and enthusiasm!"

The second half of this month of September promises to be full of events and emotions: the departures of two more French skippers are scheduled. Louis Robein on September 23 and Philippe Delamare on September 30.

To follow Solarwind's route, the tracker is available at

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