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Canadian Melodie Schaffer back on the Globe40

by Sirius Events 19 Mar 08:14 GMT
Melodie Schaffer - Globe40 © Jean-Marie Liot

"The inaugural Globe 40 race was epic, and I cannot wait for the next one!"

Exactly one year after arriving in Lorient La Base at the end of the inaugural edition of the GLOBE40, Canadian Mélodie Schaffer has announced her official entry for the 2nd edition of the race in 2025/2026. She left her mark on the event with her impressive determination despite numerous difficulties, and made a major contribution to the promotion of women's ocean racing. Honoured in Canada as ROLEX SAILOR OF THE YEAR 2023, she shares her feelings and plans with us in the following interview. She joins an already extensive list of entrants, which is set to be extended by several other projects in advanced preparation.

First of all, how are you? What's the latest on Mélodie Schaffer?

I am doing very well. It is so lovely to be home again. After the race I took time to work on Whiskey Jack, went home for two weeks to see family, and then went back to France to race in the Normandy Channel Race with Juilia Virat on her boat Chinook,#124. I had a brilliant time with Julia, she is an amazing sailor. After that, I returned home for good. After being away for the better part of two years, it was wonderful to have time at home again. I have a boat in Toronto, a Dufour 34, called High Hopes, so my summer was spent sailing her and enjoying family time.

You finished 5th in the first edition of the Globe40 after 34,353 miles of racing around the planet and 174 days at sea... Was the return to land difficult? Do you come back from such an adventure the same? Do you feel you've changed?

It was a bit surreal coming ashore again. When you are away for that long, it is bound to make an impact on you, but I think the changes have all been positive. On the ocean, you live life much more in the moment. We kept the clock at GMT, so time as a number no longer had a real meaning. We had a schedule and obligations as far as sending in daily updates at specific times, but otherwise we were in our own world, focused on the boat underneath, the sails above, and the ocean ahead, as we raced on.

I had an experience that was truly epic and I have changed as a person. Sailing and racing on the ocean, moments become very raw and are very real. I want to hold onto that aspect. It makes life more honest and treasured.

The Globe40 put you in the spotlight in Canada, where you won the Rolex Canadian Sailor of the Year award - we can imagine that was a great source of pride and the best reward of all?

I was so honoured and humbled to win the Rolex award. I was grateful to be nominated alongside such a talented cohort of sailors in Canada, and it made me even more appreciative to win. It was such a special evening, especially with my family there. For most of the Globe race they were not able to be a part of it at the regatta sites, so it was really wonderful to have them with me for the awards night.

I got into offshore racing just recently. I first tried the RORC 600 Caribbean race, truly on a whim, and in 2018 I came home and told my family "I love being a mom, but I have been so focused on caring for the family, I forgot about me, and what sailing means to me. Offshore racing has given me a new challenge and I need to pursue this further". I had a moment, a spark, that spearheaded me to take on a new challenge. I hope by sharing my story I can encourage others to try a new challenge, and to be inspired to chase their dream too.

You've also helped put the spotlight on ocean racing in Canada. What role does this sport play in your country?

Canada is a country surrounded by three oceans and we have the most lakes in the world. We have every reason to be amazing sailors. I believe going forward offshore participation by Canadians is going to grow dramatically.

Only two women took part in the 1st edition (2 legs for Estelle Greck), what's your view on the place of women in ocean racing? How do you explain the fact that there are so few women at the start of the major races?

I have been sailing seriously since my teenage years. It has always been an environment with more men than women. This disparity never dissuaded me, I sail and race because it is what I want to do.

I don't know why there is such a difference in numbers, between men and women in sailing and as skippers, as especially in a sport like sailing, where strength counts but so much relies on strategy, technical ability, and resilience. There is no reason why women cannot compete equally with men. I think the best thing we can do, to balance the numbers, is give as many people, especially kids, the opportunity to experience and pursue sailing.

You were one of the leading figures at this 1st edition. What are your best memories and highlights of this inaugural edition?

Offshore racing is complex. There are big and small moments, both are equally valuable. Of course a highlight for me is leg 7, in which we won the leg, and we set the leg speed/distance record, and the overall race speed/distance record. After so many hardships, and in particular for me with starting each leg with a new teammate, that victory was huge.

Rounding Cape Horn was also epic, as was the feeling crossing the final finish line completing my race around the world.

I value the small magical moments as well- sunrises, sunsets, the stars at night, and I cherished anytime I saw dolphins or rainbows. My favourite place for racing was in the Beagle Channel; it is a very special place in the world, and the scenery was spectacular!

Let me finish by saying, each morning when I first went on deck, I was in awe of my boat sailing so beautifully. I looked at the sunrise, my boat on the ocean, and thought 'this is my world, this is my office, how lucky I am to be here!'

On the contrary, you had a lot of problems with torn sails, torn pushpit, the breaking of your bowsprit... how have you always managed to bounce back and believe in your ability to get through the ordeal?

Why did I have so many challenges, I don't know. Certainly, there were moments on the ocean where I wondered why, and I had small moments of doubt but I had to persevere, and to push onwards. My daughter taught me an expression she learned from horseback riding "over, under, or through" meaning there's no getting around the problem. Ideally, you go over, but sometimes you sneak under, and other times you push through. In the middle of the ocean, you have to manage the problem - that mindset and characteristic is part of who I am, to push onwards with grit and determination, even when it is tough. I had moments of tears, but never once did I think of giving up.

You've announced your entry for the 2nd edition of the Globe40. Was it a natural step for you to embark on a new round-the-world campaign?

When I finished the first Globe 40, I knew I wanted to race the second one. There was never a hesitation about returning for the next race.

I want to race the next Globe 40 race with new sails and a steady teammate. I want to be at the start line ready to go, not two steps behind. I know how to sail Whiskey Jack fast, and race her well, and I want to be in a position where that is my sole focus.

By announcing your participation a year and a half before the start, you're putting all the chances on your side to have a well-prepared project. What are your ambitions for this 2nd edition?

I will be at the start line ready to go, and with experience on my side. Racing offshore there are always challenges, but having faced so many, that will now be to my advantage. Racing offshore you start all together, and you finish across the same finish line, but for the most part, your race is against yourself, pushing to be your own very best.

Can you tell us a bit more about your team and the people who will be accompanying you around the world?

It is early days leading up to the race but the energy and responses already have been amazing. I have had many people approach me and offer support, and we are now building a campaign going forward. With a team and shore crew behind me, the path to the next race will be much easier.

What advice would you give to the rookies who don't have all the experience you've gained?

I ventured into this race having only owned WhiskeyJack for 10 months. I was also newer to offshore, but the racing and sailing community is amazing and so supportive. Make sure you know your boat, and all the systems, the basics of all of them. Then when problems arise you can troubleshoot yourself and hopefully solve the issues, but also the knowledge will allow you to ask intelligent questions that will get the answers you need to manage the situation. As prepared as you are, the ocean will throw challenges at you, so be ready for that, to manage the moment and make the boat safe, to problem solve and then ask for advice as needed.

Think of the Wizard of Oz, and the Yellow Brick Road. Just like Dorothy, you have to start with that first step on the yellow brick road. You don't know the challenges you will face, but you know your goal. Make sure your boat is ready, train with your teammate and believe in them, and make sure you yourself are ready to face this challenge. Beyond your skill and knowledge, it is your resilience that will be challenged. That is what this race is all about.

Do you already have any ideas for innovations on your boat, in terms of performance or even comfort?

The boat will have a full new set of sails, and some upgrades. While racing I had a white board for shore work divided into three sections - 'maintenance, repairs and wish list'. The maintenance and repairs happened at each stopover, but there was never time for the wish list items. Now I will be completing those wish list items. After 35,000 miles racing on the ocean there are parts that need to be repaired or replaced. This will all be done so she is safe, ready, and optimized for the next race around the world.

The inaugural Globe 40 race was epic, and I cannot wait for the next one!

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