The motivations that drive the skippers to participate in the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge are as numerous and varied as the stars in the sky on a beautiful summer night. However, there is one thing that comes up again and again in the words of various participants in this extraordinary adventure: the Global Solo Challenge is the ideal opportunity to realise a childhood dream.
The 63-year-old Belgian Amaury de Jamblinne is no exception to the rule: “I have been dreaming of a solo round-the-world voyage via the three Great Capes for a long time. Jacques Brel used to say, ‘It is better to live your dreams than dream of your life’. And this is the moment for me.
Amaury’s passion for the sea developed at an early age. At first, at his father’s side, then as a teenager, when he started windsurfing and light sailing. In 1981, after his military service, he embarked on an adventure that would change his life. For two years, the Belgian skipper sailed the seas of the globe as a crew member until he reached Australia. A journey that marked him forever and gave him a taste for the open sea. Since then, he has completed several transatlantic races and a two-year round-the-world trip with his family.
“It’s hard to explain what it feels like to be on the high seas. Faced with the ocean, different people react in different ways: people who panic, people who don’t like it, and some are simply indifferent… For me, it’s a place where I feel reasonably comfortable. There is something very instinctive at sea; you develop a sixth sense. It’s a place where I feel like I know what to do. Even if that doesn’t mean you always make the best decision” he says.
Amaury remains humble in the face of the elements and the power of the oceans. Apprehension and anxiety are part of the game, according to him. Especially when it comes to the South Seas and the Roaring Fifties. “It’s normal and healthy to be afraid; it’s a natural regulator. But it is also in these moments that we feel alive. In the sanitised world in which we live, the sea remains one of the rare places where you are solely responsible for yourself.
When he discovered the Global Solo Challenge, Amaury saw an opportunity: to realise his dream of sailing around the world single-handed without really being alone. The safety aspect of the Global Solo Challenge encouraged him to take the plunge and embark on the adventure. “Safety is one of Marco’s (Nannini, the organiser’s) concerns — not to say obsessions,” he smiles. Before continuing: “It’s a very good thing. Knowing that the fleet will be grouped together as they approach the Southern Seas gives an extra level of security that is not to be underestimated.
His boat, Tagaora, is a 1990 aluminium open 50 built by a French doctor, Eric Bardaille, to participate in the Route du Rhum of that year. In 1992, Tagaora participated in the Ostar and won in its category. It also participated in the Transat Jacques Vabres in 2005 before being sold a few years later to a Dane.
The meeting of Amaury and Tagaora was a crucial moment and deserves to be told in two minutes. It happened by chance in the port of Le Havre (in France) in 2017 when the Belgian skipper, a connoisseur, immediately noticed the lines of the boat. But Amaury did not linger any longer on his future sailboat. Two years later, while he was again in Normandy, Amaury noticed that Tagoara had not moved at all. He inquired about it, tried to find out the owner, and unfortunately learned that the boat had just been sold a week earlier!
Fortunately for him and for the Global Solo Challenge, the story did not end there. In April 2022, Amaury returned once again to Le Havre. And there, in the same place, mussels covered the hull of the boat—Tagoara. No sooner said than done, Amaury found a way to contact the owner, who had never come to pick up his boat. He quickly closed a deal.
“I like the idea of giving a second life to a boat. We are currently refitting it with the help of Basile Géron, who is in Le Havre. He is my ‘boat captain’, to whom I owe a lot. He has skills and contacts that I don’t have; he advises me. I go back and forth as soon as I can to Le Havre to work on Tagaora so that she is ready for the GSC. We need to review the sails, the rigging, and the electronics.”
Amaury admits that his boat is certainly not the fastest in the fleet. But for the Belgian, it is a boat perfectly adapted to the Global Solo Challenge. “It is not an extreme boat; it is only 4 metres wide and has a reasonable draft of 2.5 metres. It also works very well upwind. It’s a bit of a Pogo 40 in spirit, in fact, a sort of Swiss Army knife, a sailboat made for fast cruising with a comfortable saloon,” he says.
Amaury estimates his journey at 150 days. The most important thing for him is to finish the adventure: “The idea is to sail around the world. We have to preserve the sailor and the boat. After talking with other participants, I know that this is a feeling shared by many. But rest assured—I would still push hard and go my best if I had a competitor in front of me and time to overtake him”.
Amaruy really appreciates the relationship established with other Global Solo Challenge entrants. “We regularly exchange information and good tips in a WhatsApp group. What’s really good is that it’s not every man for himself. We know we’re going to experience the same thing, so we help each other out.”
Everything must fall into place, and parts must arrive in time to be on the starting line, and Amaury recognises that the timing is tight. He is still looking for sponsors and would like to take advantage of his trip to contribute to a scientific project if the opportunity arises. “I’m going to a place on the planet where few venture, and I have room to take equipment on board, to measure the density of algae, for example. My main problem is that I don’t have enough people to help me with this kind of thing or with communication”.
What will you miss the most during the event? “My kids, of course. Comfort and serenity too, sometimes, I imagine. But this will be compensated by intense emotions, sailing under the stars”. Amaury also plans to take with him things he enjoys during his trip. “I’m a fan of Jean Le Cam, who brings with him red wine and camembert when others eat freeze-dried food every day. I think we function better when our morale is high. I’m also going to ask my children to make me surprise packages to open during the circumnavigation”.
Amaury will do his qualifying navigation in May or June. The route is not yet defined, but he is thinking of a return trip to the Azores. He will also have to train before starting the Global Solo Challenge to sail around the world and, finally, realise his dream.
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Text: Mathieu Houllière
Image: ©Amaury de Jamblinne