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The skippers are all heart

IMOCA fleet @Défi Azimut / V. Curuchet
IMOCA fleet @Défi Azimut / V. Curuchet

The sailors in the IMOCA class are men and women who are committed to various causes with messages they wish to convey and charities they wish to support to give a meaning to their projects. Various themes can be found: protecting the environment, encouraging the integration of people with handicaps, saving sick children and offering them dream opportunities, fighting against AIDS, working to ensure greater diversity and equal opportunities at school… Concerned about safeguarding the natural environment in which they work, as they can see for themselves the damage being done to the oceans, the skippers are also personally involved adopting measures at their level to help things change.

 

Curing and helping people deal in a better way with illness

For the general public, the clearest commitment is probably what Sam Davies is doing with the Initiatives Cœur project, which supports the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque (Heart surgery) charity (www.mecenat-cardiaque.org). This enables children suffering from heart defects to come to France to be operated on, when they cannot be looked after in their own country. This noble cause has brought together a lot of people and attracted a great deal of support. More than 600,000 people have liked the Initiatives Cœur Facebook page.

Sam Davies’s partner in life, Romain Attanasio is also supporting a charity aiming to help seriously ill children: the Rêves charity (http://www.reves.fr/) enables them to see their dreams come true and allows them to get away from their illness for a while, offering them encouragement and giving them the strength to fight.

As for Erik Nigon, he is a loyal defender of the fight against AIDS. “I took the AIDES charity aboard my Figaro boat back in 2005 (www.aides.org). This is the main charity that has been fighting against AIDS,” the skipper of the IMOCA ‘Vers un monde sans Sida’ told us. Erik is backing this major charity, offering support and hope “looking forward to theelimination of the virus by 2030.”

 

Encouraging diversity and equal opportunities

Other sailors are supporting charities concerned by wider social causes. That is the case for Manuel Cousin, who is working alongside the Coup de Pouce charity (www.coupdepouceasso.fr). They work towards equal opportunities for everyone at school, whatever their social, background and the situation of their family. The basic principle behind their action is that everyone should have the right to succeed at school.
Damien Seguin is a patron of the Des pieds et des mains charity (http://www.despiedsetdesmains.fr/), which encourages the integration of the handicapped through sailing. Concrete measures have been put in place to convince everyone that having a handicap should not be a hurdle when entering sporting events alongside the able-bodied.

In 2012, Isabelle Joschke created her own charity, Horizon mixité (https://isabellejoschke.com/la-skipper/horizon-mixite/), the ambition of which is to encourage diversity in sport, but also in other areas within our society. This involves ending prejudices, which unfortunately remain with us today. “As someone involved in sport, it is vital for us to tackle this subject,” stressed the sailor. “The glass ceiling for women in sailing can be found in other areas. With my career, I want to prove that it is possible to be a woman and see my dreams come true.”


Environmental projects

Theprotection of the oceans is at the heart of the project of five IMOCA skippers. Vincent Riou will be the ambassador for the WWF (France) (www.wwf.fr) alongside Isabelle Autissier. The bow and mainsail of his PRB are decorated with the famous panda symbolising the charity. “For some time now, I have wanted to show my commitment to the environment,” explained Vincent. “I want to spend as much time on that as possible and I hope that my modest contribution will help society to change, so that we can preserve our planet and our oceans. Protecting the oceans means protecting the whole of the planet and mankind.”

Stéphane Le Diraison is conveying the message ‘Time For Oceans’ (http://www.stephanelediraison.com/time-for-oceans-le-nouveau-projet-imoca-de-stephane-le-diraison/) which is an important idea: preserving the oceans involves many different people and the commitment of institutions, firms and individual citizens. Each of us can act at our own level to contribute to the protection of the environment. “We want to take advantage of major ocean races to underline these matters get people to sign up and offer support to the message we are conveying,” declared Stéphane.

As for Paul Meilhat, he is an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation Europe (www.surfrider.eu) and more particularly the Ocean Initiative project (www.initiativesoceanes.org). “Ocean initiatives involves joining together with our neighbours and friends and family to clean a lake, river or beach. It’s one moment in the year. In the spring, we all do our spring-cleaning in our homes, but we also need to do it where there is water,” explained the skipper of SMA. 
The German sailor, Boris Herrmann has also come up with a programme to protect the oceans, “Ocean Challenge,” which in particular involves educating the younger generations. A very complete educational and play kit has been made available (http://www.borisherrmannracing.com/ocean-challenge-kit/).

As for Alexia Barrier, she has set up a huge project, 4myplanet (www.alexiasailingteam.com/fr/les-missions-4myplanet-148.html), around four major themes: sport, education, science and technology. “During my sailing trips, I shall be collecting scientific data such as the salinity and temperature of the water on the surface. I shall be monitoring the wildlife and the presence of waste and plastics,” she explained a few weeks ago (https://www.imoca.org/en/news/2082-alexia-barrier-on-the-way-to-her-dream.htm). 

Small measures, major consequences?

“It is high time we changed our way of doing things, but it is not merely by saying that we need to change things that this will happen. We change things by working from the inside, with an upbeat tone and with our own personal involvement.” Like Paul Meilhat, the other skippers in the IMOCA class act in their daily life adopting simple but effective measures. Alan Roura and Sam Davies told us that they no longer drink from single-use plastic containers, preferring stainless steel beakers. “It’s hard as I travel around a lot, but it is possible if we make the effort,” explained Sam.
Damien Seguin also acts in favour of sustainable development. When a piece of his equipment no longer works, he checks first to make sure it cannot be repaired rather than buying new gear. In that way, he avoids unnecessary expense and at the same time produces less waste.

Regularly, Romain Attanasio sets off with his son, Ruben, to clean up a beach. Erik Nigon goes to work on his bike, a 45-minute journey, which offers him some physical exercise, while carrying out a useful measure for the planet. Stéphane Le Diraison has adopted a strict approach to dealing with waste and buys loose products without packaging. He also tries to reduce the time he spends in the shower. All of these individual cases may seem banal, but if they were adopted by the whole of the population, there would be a vast improvement. Each of us can on a personal level play our part in protecting the environment.

The IMOCA supports “Ocean As Common”, an appeal for the ocean to be seen as a common good for mankind

Launched byCatherine Chabaud, the first woman to complete the solo round the world voyage in a race in the 1996 Vendée Globe, the appeal for the ocean to be seen as a common good for mankind (www.OceanAsCommon.org ), echoes the concerns of the sailors. That is the reason why the IMOCA class  decided to support the appeal launched on 8th June in Monaco during World Ocean Day and within the context of the launch of the IMOCA Globe Series.


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