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"She's an old boat, heavy and not at all suited to going upwind in a breeze, but she's super strong: she took some sort of glides in the mountains of water generated by 35 knots of wind against the eddies of the Gulf Stream current..."


Fourth place in the Multi50 class for the old trimaran Vers un monde sans Sida: Erik Nigon finishes just four hours off the podium!

The skipper of Vers un monde sans Sida crossed the finish line anchored off Sandy Hook on Thursday night, May 19, at 4h 02' 33'' (i.e. 10h 02' 33'' French time). Erik Nigon had opted for a southerly route in the wake of the Ultime trimarans, but the solo sailor has been plagued by technical problems on his nearly thirty-year-old Multi50. He covered 4,553 miles at an average speed of 11.31 knots on the water in 16 days 18 hours 32 minutes 33 seconds, 4d 11h 12' 16'' behind the winner of the Multi50 category.

"I wasn't interested in the choices of the other competitors because my goal was to get the boat to New York by taking it to its and my limits."

"Dear friends of Le Voilier au Ruban Rouge, I'm writing you a quick note as my sailboat and I have less than 100 miles left to reach New York (I'll specify the "we" so there's no confusion...) and apart from a bit of slack water, some fishermen, the coast guards and Olmix, the route is clear...

I'm not superstitious... (but I've just checked the room under the mast, touched wood 3 times and crossed my fingers which have doubled in volume in 2 weeks, not going to be practical for the guitar...) but normally I should arrive for the exit from the Big Apple clubs... and you'll be reading this notebook plugged into your smartphone to see the arrival under the Verazzano bridge. A year ago, I didn't want to do this race because I was wondering where the fun was, but in December, the arrival in New York, my desire not to let my retirement from the last Route du Rhum be the end of it, and then the desire to plead with AIDES for this cause, which is so difficult to put across today, made me decide to put the boat back in shape and embark on this adventure.

If you're expecting to see schools of cetaceans in a blue-white light on a gentle sea in shorts and with a cup of coffee in hand, if you think you're going to spend your night gliding through schools of fluorescent plankton as if in the trade winds, watching the Milky Way and releasing the exocets... you haven't ticked the right box!

The pleasure here lies in the fact that we're still racing day after day, breaking everything we hadn't planned to, but managing to make repairs, (almost) all the time catching more than 25 knots of wind and rarely sailing downwind, but managing to link together maneuvers to reduce and increase sail area without hurting the equipment or doing anything stupid. The pleasure is in the exchanges with you, but I haven't found much in pure navigation at the helm of the boat, because there's no respite. After rounding a low-pressure system, we're reaching in 25 to 30 knots, then it's a bit of downwind sailing but in heavy seas, and we're almost at rest rounding the bubble of a high-pressure system... except that without an aerial system to tell us where the wind is coming from in the calm at night, it's not easy. On a Rhum, you have to get out of the wind, then possibly make a detour to the Azores to catch a low-pressure flow, but after that it's 10 days of gliding bliss. Here, it's a real mess, what's the next thing you have to deal with, right up to a small low-pressure system 300 miles from the finish, where, in addition to taking a cartouche as the front passes, I get trapped for 6 hours in a bubble.

This transatlantic race is so demanding on the man and his equipment that it's impossible not to break something or make a fart. As far as the equipment is concerned, you can see the big visible things like the daggerboards (oversized pieces of carbon), the float or the mainsail track... I've had my share, but I'm sure that if the game went on, other problems would arise, as the boats are massacred in this race, because it's a race and you have to be constantly on the limit. The limit is pulled down when you're single-handed, but you have targeted speeds according to the conditions, and the routing doesn't apply weighting coefficients according to the skipper's mood. Race strategy, such as passing north or south of a weather system, is simulated with the boat's performance, and if you want to be on time, you can't give up.

I wasn't interested in the choices made by the other competitors, as my aim was to take the boat to NY and push it to its and my limits. She's an old boat, heavy and not at all suited to upwind sailing in a breeze, but she's super-strong, and she's taken some sort of glides in the mountains of water generated by 35 knots of wind against the current eddies of the Golf Stream (I'm still scared to death). It's supple, it creaks all over, you can feel the deformations in the back and under the buttocks, but apart from a few cracks, it's holding up bravely.

Physically, apart from the aches and pains and the backache from pulling on bits in the wrong positions, it's been the sleep (the night before) that's been the hardest. Usually, I'm able to manage short naps, but in this case, with the adrenalin of problems or stress in strong winds and the need to stay awake in light airs, because there's no overhead and therefore no pilot in wind mode, I broke all my wakefulness records and regularly lost my lucidity. Fortunately I'm aware of this and do a rehearsal check before each reefing manoeuvre (and there are a lot of them a day at the moment). Well, I'm approaching a buoy and saw a fisherman at the last minute this morning, so I'm going to stand by outside (it's freezing here!) and dream of the finish while keeping the boat running as hard as I can.

Next earth notebook if all goes well.

I can't believe we're finally here and we're already here...

Think about the fight against AIDS, which is a serious thing, I'll talk to you again after the Brooklyn beer.Erik and his incredible sailboat with the red ribbon."


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