Blog submitted by Karen Jaques
Karen is the Corporate Fundraising Manger for ORBIS UK.
I have just spent the weekend with my colleague, Eleanor Phelan promoting ORBIS in Nantes & St Nazaire in the Pays de La Loire, France as ORBIS takes part in La Solidaire du Chocolat. It was a triple whammy: a weekend of firsts. The first sailing event for ORBIS, the first trans Atlantic race for skipper Stephen Card and his co-skipper Shaun Murphy and the first race that combines the challenges of racing and raising funds for charity.It was brilliant to be there – a mandatory attendance directed by the race organizers who have created a mono class race to celebrate the cocoa trade between the France and Mexico, a race which reenacts the voyage of the ships that transported chocolate across the Atlantic following the trade winds. But this is the first race of its kind for it is the first time that a charitable challenge unites competitors, sponsors, charities and patrons around a clear humanitarian approach. It will become a bi annual event promoting the regions strong maritime ties, the chocolate trade between Mexico and France bound collectively by the concept of its humanitarian values as sailors face the challenge of Trans Atlantic racing. Stephen Card and Shaun Murphy nominated ORBIS as their charity with a goal of raising Euros 25,000.
My sailing knowledge is limited, so please bear with me. The Cariberi is a racing yacht and was built in 2006 for its first race - the legendary Route de Rum. (French races always seem to involve eating and drinking – funny that) Built to ‘box rule’ it is 12m long, 4m wide and has a 3m draught. With twin rudders, it can sail on a steep angle and an open cockpit so that the waves wash off. With an e-glass hull, the boat is stripped out completely to keep it light. No heads, two suspended net bunks which ratchet up to compensate for the angle of the boat, a single gimble with the kettle to boil water for the freeze dried meals, one small sink and storage and 2 clearly marked buckets for ‘personal use’ make up the ‘home comforts’ of this racing yacht. This is no race for the faint hearted.
Sailing from St Nazaire to Progresso, Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, the boats left on October 18. The boys reckon on a fast race taking 25 days and a slow race 30 days. Both unanimously believe the most challenging part with be the first 500 miles as they leave St Nazaire and head out into the Bay of Biscay. Heading into westerly winds, the boat will slam into the waves as they tack out of the Bay but once through this wet, windy and lively section of the race, the boat will sail southwards past Portugal benefiting from the northerly winds and Portuguese currents. Stephen and Shaun will have to pick the best route given the conditions and will sail a shift system of three hours on, three hours off, for 24 hours a day. The course takes them south of the Azores where the racing conditions become favorable as the currents and warm easterly ‘trade winds’ take them across the Atlantic, navigating south of St Barts and Cuba on to Progresso in the Yucatan. If any of this is erroneous – blame me, my exhaustion and the Atlantic Pilot Atlas which I used to figure this all out :).
The ‘Nuit du Chocolat’ on the Ile de Nantes kicked off with Mexican music for the crowds gathered along the quayside and bridges. With the tallship, the Belem moored alongside the competing yachts, energy filled the evening air. Boats looked lively with their sponsor’s pendants and fluttering flags, an array of color on their river moorings. Saturday culminated with the skippers and co-skippers gathering on stage with their nominated charities for a group presentation.
As Stephen and Shaun need to raise Euros 25,000 and have not reached their target, the cheque diplomatically presented their sponsors as ‘the grand public anglais’. It would be fantastic if any readers became part of the ‘grand public global’ by digging into their ‘poches’ (pockets) to help us find the funds. It would be brilliant and you can donate online through Stephen's Justgiving site http://justgiving.co.uk/france2mexico/, through our website: www.orbis.org.uk or simply call me (Karen) on UK +44 2027 608 7266.
Despite overcast skies, the atmosphere on Sunday was filled with excitement, a constant buzz from the participating boats, crews, sponsors, family, friends, media and charities. Lead by the stately three masted Belem, the flotilla made its ways from Nantes to St Nazaire surrounded by press filled ribs speeding between the boats, a helicopter flying low over the masts and under the bridge with huge numbers of the public waving happily as the boats sailed off. It was fantastic to be part of this pre-race event. On board with us, was a twelve year old schoolgirl, Caroline Deltier who had been chosen to represent her class as the school locally follow the event. A first for her too – first time on a boat and the first time she had spent a day with English people. Fortunately for her, Eleanor speaks fluent French.
I have written this blog not to tell you about the amazing work we do – I hope you are aware of it already – but to capture the excitement we felt in being associated for the first time with such a challenging event. The seriousness of the race hit me when I saw the stripped out boat, the navigation console and equipment, the EPIB and their survival suits. It is a huge challenge for Stephen and Shaun, even though they both have thousands of off shore racing miles between them. I hope my text can inspire and encourage others to fundraise for ORBIS in new and exciting ways, to takie part in the physical challenges of life whilst thinking of others less able to join in the adventure. We felt privileged to be there and we hope that Stephen and Shaun, against all the odds, will win this race making it another FIRST for us all!
You can track the progress of the ORBIS yacht on the official La Solidaire du Chocolat website.
Race Tracking: http://lasolidaireduchocolat.geovoile.com/