Ireland's 2017 Vendee Globe competitor Enda O’Coineen reveals a 'marriage' of two former Vendee Globe campaigns; his own with the French IMOCA 60, Le Souffe du Nord. The Galway Bay solo sailor also confirms – from his boatyard base in New Zealand – that he intends to fulfill his dream of circumnavigating the globe and 'unofficially' finish the solo non–stop round the world race almost a year after a dismasting brought his voyage to a halt.
Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand. It's Spring here, the birds are singing and all our KIWI friends are gearing up for Summer.
Following a ‘rebuild‘ our IMOCA 60, “ Souffe du Norde Kilcullen Team Ireland” - has come out of the yard and is due for launch today – Tuesday. Early morning it involved closing the highway, then through a large mountain tunnel leading to Lyttleton, a commercial harbour with ‘depth’ and still in a bit of a mess from the earthquake a while back.
On launching, we plan some trials and then a training leg up along the coast. Then a hop to the North Island and Wellington, the Capital, around to Tangaroa and then Auckland.
Leaving the boat secure, I am then heading back to the Irish Winter and the magic of Christmas. Then in January, we sail from Auckland back around to Dunedin and Otago Bay. Hence to complete a circumnavigation of New Zealand. Could this be a first for an Irishman? Perhaps Afloat’s Mr William Nixon can advise?
After that, it’s the ‘ Big One” and will be non-stop singlehanded to Les Sables D'Olonne and hopefully “unofficially” finish the Vendee – around the World with ‘One Stop’ – taking in a lap of Kiwiland!
Originally, after 60 days at sea, I ended up in Dunedin with no mast and a broken spirit. Such is serendipity, that The Souffe du Nord boat was broken almost in half and had a good mast. She had something big and soft, probably a whale – and arrived in the same place.
Our teams seemed destined to marry. For me it was clear on first sight. For them the courtship took a while. Interestingly our meeting point was the same place that Ernest Shackelton set out for the Antartic – 100 years previously to the month…
No less than 11 teams dropped out on this leg. Essentially you take the risks and accept the consequences. That said, it was a massive blow after such a period of intensity, to be suddenly mastless and cast adrift from a fast armada powering through the Southern Ocean was dramatic and a downer.
Then my ambition switched to survival and to get safely back to land without calling the rescues services some 200 miles out. And now that has become a simple desire to complete the circumnavigation and finish the race " unofficially” in Les Sables D'Olonne.
Last February, on returning back to Ireland - other than a few immediate talks, I went back to work ( to pay for it all). Most offers were resisted - and I could have easily dined out on my disaster story all year. As you know, in Ireland sometimes to fail is more successful that success itself.
Many people kindly wish you on – which is great – but deep down they always secretly love you to see fail. It brings great satisfaction. Human nature makes many feel great and superior when others fail. And, sure is it not great to give people this small joy? Cheers to the begrudgers and those who begrudge the begrugers – may they both self-extinguish!
Originally, I was going to acquire the Souffe eu Nord Mast and their boat was to be written off. However, in the end, it made sense for me to work with them to fix their boat and sell my hull.
So now both teams have merged on an equal basis and we share the costs. The boat, was owned by a group of French businessmen based around Lille. And while keeping the partnership, it made sense for Team Ireland to take over the ownership. They have built a support group of almost 2,000 – they are passionate and a lot of fun. Their skipper, hired–in for the event Thomas Ruyant is a great sailor. However, he simply wanted out and became a bit scared of the boat, and is currently doing a two handed trans-Atlantic, the TJV.
With a courtship period, defined by logic, with ceremony and fanfare in Lille, I have been appointed their “Ambassador”. After some soul-searching they decided that they really wanted to finish.
Amongst other things, this involves taking a stuffed Hummingbird to Dunkirk. It joins my bottles of whiskey that have accompanied me on my voyage – one of which is promised to Prince Albert in Monaco who is a whiskey collector - and the other he has agreed to auction off with is in his castle for the Atlantic Youth Trust.
And why the Hummingbird? As legend has it, there was a forest fire in South America. And a flock of Hummingbirds would dive into the ocean and carry water in their beaks to dump on the fire to save the forest. Needless to say, the birds failed miserably but their message is that if everybody “does a bit” we have a chance to save the world. Go figure!
And, should you wish to understand our Souffe du Nord partners more, you can meet them when they come to Dublin on the 30th November. We have a party with the French Ambassador and at the same time announce the Atlantic Youth Trust schools programme and a workshop on using ocean adventure as an education tool in schools.
We are also working to assist Joan Mulloy from Team Ireland Racing, Gregor McGuikian also from Team Ireland Racing and to work also with Nin O'Leary of Ireland Ocean Racing, a great project.
Nin was to come on the leg up to Auckland but at the last moment had some issues at the last moment and will now likely come on the leg from Auckland back around to Dunedin/Otago.
We were fortunate to be able to facilitate Stewart Hosford of Ireland Ocean Racing of getting hold of Great American IV. Ireland is such a small place and there is a powerful logic for all involved in the sport, and the development of ocean sailing, to work together,
These ocean projects are incubating professional sailing teams. It's ‘baby steps’ for the moment and it's necessary to focus on one step at a time and sure who knows where the journey may lead? A circumnavigaton of some more Pacific countries and Atlantic islands on route?