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Moitessier, Bernard

Category: Explorer or adventurer

Bernard Moitessier (10 April 1925 – 16 June 1994), was a French national born and raised in Vietnam.  He is possibly one of the most famous and widely liked round the world lone yachtsmen there has been.

In 1968, Moitessier participated in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time, Moitessier was the likely winner, but he elected to continue on to Tahiti  and not return to the start line in England.

For Moitessier, the race finished in mid Pacific after he had passed the three capes and crossed his outward track.  Leading, and with all the hardest sections behind him, he decided to forfeit the race and continue on to the Pacific again - to anchor finally among old friends in Tahiti.  ... The voyage had always been seen as Moitessier as something other than a sponsored, publicised, competitive event.  It was on the long ocean way, alone with his boat, that Moitessier began to regard this as a voyage that could not end for him with the rewards of those whose values were not his.

And his values were grounded in a deep almost mystic spirituality.

Bernard was born in French Indonesia in 1925, astride two cultures – French and Vietnamese, in a turbulent era that moved dramatically from peace to war.  Much of his sailing knowledge was gained during time spent at sea with the fishermen of the Gulf of Siam

He was imprisoned during the Japanese occupation and was later drafted to fight the Viet Minh in a French war that foreshadowed America’s Vietnam involvement two decades later.

When 25 years old, Moitessier left Vietnam to answer the call of the sea.  He led the life of a sea gypsy, wandering the Indian ocean, the South Atlantic and the Caribbean, during this time he survived two catastrophic ship wrecks.

 

His greatest sailing adventures followed – the Tahiti-Alicante passage and his 10 month round the world solo voyage in 1969, when he withdrew from the Golden Globe Race and sailed on to Tahiti.

Moitessier then spent 3 years on a remote atoll in the Tuanmotu Archipelago.  Called ‘Tamata’ [try it] by his Tuanmotu friends; he built a Polynesian style house, planted coconut trees and gradually transformed the sun blasted coral into a speck of green in the middle of the South Pacific.

After living in the USA, he spent the last years of his life in France.  He died in June 1994 and is buried in a small village in Brittany.

Now internationally recognised as one of the greatest French sailors and as a writer and ecologist,  his last book ‘Tamata and the Alliance’, was both a memoir and a deeper, more meditative book than his other books describing not only his adventures, but his spiritual insights.  We have, however, included quotes from his other books as well.

References

  • Tamata and the Alliance

Other works

  • Sailing to the Reefs
    Cape Horn: The logical route
    The Long Way

Voyage of Joshua – "The long route"

Observations

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