Antoine Cousot is a family man, a Mariner who could not resist the opportunity to sail solo around the world navigating with Sextant, Compass, and wind up clock, the sort of gear available 1968.
In this Podcast interview Antoine shares some interesting insight into his preparations for the race, including how he found sponsors, the experiments he is doing to ensure he eats well and how he plans to manage communication with his family.
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LINDSAY: I’m Lindsay Turvey and today I’m interviewing Antoine Cousot – I think I got that right, or close enough. You’re an entrant in the 2018 Golden Globe race. Hello Antoine and welcome.
Antoine: Thank you Lindsay. You did right. Antoine Cousot. I know it’s a pretty difficult one for a non french speaking person but you did well.
LINDSAY: I’m looking forward to hearing your story and I’m sure many of our listeners and readers are too. There’s some interesting videos on your Golden Globe race profile, but they didn’t really answer the questions I have for you. We’d like to hear or get to know you a little bit more and hear your story.
You’re based in France. What was it like growing up and when did you start being drawn towards the sea and boats?
ANTOINE: I’m based in France. Actually, I just come back to France. I spent a couple of years overseas but when I decided to join the Golden Globe race, it was a good time to go back to France and settle down a little bit with the kids and everything. Actually, I’m born in Normandy and I grew up in Vendee so maybe you don’t really know where Vendee is but you probably know where Vendee Globe [Race] starts. It starts in Vendee actually and I live in a little town probably 20 kilometres north of that and I grew up there. It’s a long beach with Dunes and everything and I came to sailing in my early 20’s. I didn’t have the chance to wear my panties on dinghy and stuff like that. I went straight on the big boats and started around 20.
Where I lived there’s a boat factory – boat manufacturer named Beneteau. When you grow up in a town like that where you see boats every day, you see boats in the water and then they just disappear, at one point you realise that there’s something going on beyond your horizon. I decided just to talk with the guys on the dock and say, “What’s the deal here?” The guy explained to me all the business, you know selling the boats to the Caribbean, to South of Africa, to Beira and it sounded so amazing for me. I said, “Can I join in? I’ve never done any sailing before.” The next day I was on the boat. My first, or my second actually sailing experience was crossing the Atlantic. That was a big step, and then I carry on. I liked it so much it became my job for a while. I worked my rank up from being a crew, deck hand to mate, first mate up to captain and then to captain of super yacht and stuff like that. That’s pretty much the beginning of my sailing career and my life actually before to do other stuff and come back to sailing once in a while. Now I’ve got kids and I’m married so it’s a different story. Until Don McIntyre came up with this crazy idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe. I said to my wife, “Sorry darling but I really want to do that one.” I’ve been around the world. I’ve been sailing intensively for a while but I never been around the world in one shot. That makes sailing. You have to do that once in your life when you’re a sailor I think.
LINDSAY: Yeah that’s very good. You really went into the deep end there. Your second trip out on a boat was across the Atlantic. Is that correct?
ANTOINE: That’s right.
LINDSAY: Woah. That’s great.
ANTOINE: I was trying to remember the first time. The first time was I actually went to Caribbean to see some friends and the father of my friend was a skipper – was a professional skipper and he said, “Antoine just come with me. We’ll take a boat from St Martin and we go to Martinique one of the French island.” I say, “Yeah. I’ve never been on a sailing boat,” and he said “No worries. Just come along.” I spent a week doing that and it just blew my mind. I couldn’t believe that it was so cool. Of course, with the Caribbean you get palm trees and sandy beach, blue water and everything. The lifestyle – it was just crazy.
LINDSAY: That’s enough to get anybody addicted to sailing – cruising the Caribbean I’m sure.
ANTOINE: Yeah, but I burned my skin to the bones, because I was not used to live naked on the boat without sunscreen and everything like that.
LINDSAY: Yeah sunburn that’s something I get affected with very easily too. Too much Scottish blood in me I think.
Now you hinted about a professional career. Can you tell us a bit about the knowledge and experience that you’ve gained and give us an overview of your life on the sea and some of the boats that you’ve actually worked on – the lessons that they taught you.
ANTOINE: Yeah, I think I’ve got a pretty straight experience from small sailing boats to bigger sailing boats and super yachts. Then I worked on the Seine river. When I met my wife and she was living in Paris, I decided to move from the Med. I was living in Antibes at the south of France and I had to come to Paris. I worked on Seine river, driving what they call the Batobus it’s just a smaller shuttle. Then I was in the Navy. I was in the French submarine. I spent some time on a submarine. I worked on all kind of boats but sailing boat represents most of my sailing career.
As I said, starting from France one of my jobs was kind of yacht delivery captain you know just taking boats from one place in the world to another place and going back and forth, for example the Atlantic. Just take the boat to the Caribbean pick up the…This is the charter boat. They’re brand new, you take them over there, you cannot afford a single scratch on the boat and it was a great way to learn how to passage planning, to manage a crew – because you don’t know the crew you are going with and I can tell you that I have a couple of good stories about that. People you don’t know and you take them for six to eight weeks across the Atlantic. You learn a lot of basic sailing skills that become very, very important for future.
Then I used to own boats myself. From small 26, 28, 30’ boat up to 45’ boat. The last few years I was in Norway and I used to have my own charter company. I was taking people in the Fiord and going to the arctic. Spent a winter in the ice and stuff like that. Unfortunately, I had to sell that boat to buy my entry boat for the Golden Globe race. It’s just to give you an idea of what I’ve done. From a 144’ super yacht in the Med or the Bahamas to the Arctic to go for fishing and spent a lot of time at sea.
LINDSAY: That certainly is a good lot of variety there on various boats. It’s interesting that you’re in the super yacht business. My sons started his career there.
I wanted to now move on a little bit to the fact that you’re an entrant in the Golden Globe race, which is for those that haven’t heard about it a slow, back-to-basics, solo race which is non-stop around the world. My question is, why?
ANTOINE: The short answer is it’s a life time experience. This is the ultimate sailing experience. As a sailor, if you dream about it why not doing it? That really is the short answer.
The true story is it’s a good way to challenge yourself and spend a lot of time – because it’s not a three-month journey, it’s probably an eight-month journey, to spend time with yourself and learning to go deeper with yourself. Try to understand if you have a…how can I live. Like an interior life. You see what I mean? Can I talk with myself for ten months? This is for me the biggest challenge. Going around the world sailing, I mean it should be okay. It’s like cycling. You can do the Tour De France, I’m sure it would just take time but you can do it. But the mental part you know, it’s just unbelievable and I think that’s exactly what’s happening for this Golden Globe race. A lot of sailor could do that, and that’s where the true is coming. Can you really, really do it. Can you cope with that? With yourself for eight to ten months. So, this is why I’m going.
LINDSAY: Yeah that’s a good reason. I sort of understand where you’re coming from there. At one stage in my life I sailed from New Zealand to Canada and then bought a big Chev Impala station wagon and drove four months around America. It’s weird, even though I was amongst millions of people theoretically it was the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life traveling by myself in this car. I don’t think I liked it very much but it was a good time to re-think where I was going and what direction I was taking in my life, and what was important to me. That’s one of the things that can happen when you’re at sea. You clear your head of all the mess that is cluttering it up when you’re in the city and living the normal life that most people live. Then you go to sea and your head clears and you can see things from a different perspective. I’m sure that some of the answers to the questions that you’ve got will come to you quite clearly while you’re on that eight months solo trip around the world.
ANTOINE: On top of that I would say that for me it’s the perfect time to do this. I could have done that before on my own, you know with the boat and doing that. Now of course with my wife we challenge that because I’ve got three kids. They are seven, five and three years old. They’re very young. I will miss one part of their early life, but in the same time it’s the right time for me because I feel comfortable to do it. Despite what I just said about the kids and everything, because it’s going to be a good way to show them that if you want something in life you need to take risks, you need to go forwards and it’s not easy. Life is not easy. I hope to be a good example. I hope you know.
Again, taking the importance of time. It’s a luxury today. We live in a linear time. We are running after time and what is behind us, is lost. Going back at sea it’s going back to this cosmic time. It’s a bit odd what I’m saying but I hope you follow me. When I say cosmic time it means you live with the sunrise, sunset, the stars and the cycle – the old cycle like people used to live before – before we get the clock. I’ve already experienced that at sea when you spend three weeks, one month at sea. At one point your body feel fully aligned with that. You wake up, you eat when you need to eat, you sleep when you need to sleep, you feel very well. Today we’ve got a lot of stress a lot of anxiety because we are running after time. We think everything is lost. It’s a bit like a farmer. He knows that next year in the spring you put the seed in the soil and something will happen. There’s a cycle. We live in harmony with what’s surrounds us. The environment. We tend to forget that.
LINDSAY: It’s just a product of modern life. We’ve got so many human comforts that we take for granted.
Going to talk a little bit now about the boat that you chose. You chose a Biscay 36 yacht for the race. Why was that? Why did you choose that design?
ANTOINE: Well first there’s not so many boats to choose from. There was 10 – 15 boats. Now there’s probably more than that but right at the beginning, as I was one of the first to sign up I chose the Biscay 36. Either the Rustler 36, or the Biscay 36 and the Saga 34. That was my top three boats. I look at all of them. I designed to go for the Biscay for a couple of reasons. First it was a Ketch and I really liked the Ketch because of the specificity to adjust the sail plan, you know the sail area with the wind and you can use only the Staysail and the Mizzen and put your main down. You know so you sail with your main. When it’s a long journey so you need to make sure your sail can cope with a long passage. When you look at numbers, it’s good. It’s quite light. When you compare to Baba 35 – it is 12 tonnes. Mine is a bit under 7 tonnes. I think the Rustler is 7.5 tonne. I really wanted to have something, in brackets, “light”. The water line is not bad. I think it’s 8.4 metres. Again, it’s above the Rustler 36. The sail area is a bit larger than the Rustler is my main competitor. It’s going to be a race between Rustler and Biscay. This is my point of view. Somebody with a Baba 35 would say, “No way.”
There’s really two field fleet the light boats and the heavy boats, and when I talk with the other French there we all were on the same page for that. We need to go for the light one.
It’s all about making sure I can handle the sail area on my own, without hurting myself. It’s a small sail and I can play a lot with the Staysail, the head sail, the main, the Main and the Mizzen Staysail you know a lot of possibilities. That’s very good. Then we have a steering Windvane. If something breaks the fact to have a Ketch it’s much easier to sail without any auto pilot. Without any wind vane. That’s something you need to take into consideration.
Then the inside is good as well. I build up a kind of dog house now with a water tight door. I removed all the vents. There’s no water that can come in. When I started this project and with that boat, and I say, “I’m going to do this project with one goal which is going back home, because I’ve got three kids and a wife.” Then we’ll see. So, the boat is bulletproof. On top of that we make light and very good at all wind angles so it’s a good platform to do something very, very interesting. First to have fun, to be safe and maybe do something interesting for the race.
LINDSAY: You’ve answered a lot of the questions that I had around boat design there too and I agree that weight is a factor. I think having a heavy boat means that you would displace more water and that’s definitely got to be slower I would imagine. Maybe it doesn’t come down to that though – the boat design. Maybe it comes down more to the psychology of the skippers and how hard they push their boats. It’s going to be a very interesting race and it’s going to be great watching the progress of the various boats and designs.
Now a personal question, how are you funding the Golden Globe race?
ANTOINE: Well I started by tapping in my savings. There’s no way to do without. You need to. In French we say to mouille ta chemise means to wet your shirt. That means I had to sell my boat. I had a 45’ boat which was too big for the race so I sold my boat and I can tell you that was pretty tough because my kids grew up on that boat and I’ve been sailing with my wife, and I spent the winter in the ice in Norway. It was quite emotional but I sold the boat. With the money I bought my Biscay 36 and then I put some money to start the refit. Now I’m looking for sponsors. I have already some sponsors. A lot of technical partners. I’ve got the painting for free, I got the wind vane for free, I got the watch for free. I’ve got a lot of stuff. Then I still need a lot of money to make sure I get everything ready. Meaning finishing the refit of the yacht, getting a new mast, a new rig, a new Spars, new sails, a bit of work inside. It’s going fine. I’m very confident to be on the starting line with everything I need. But I had to put some money into upfront.
LINDSAY: Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about finding sponsors. I know there’s a couple of the entrants that are still looking for sponsors. Is there any technique you use? Is it just marketing yourself? How would people go about looking for a sponsor?
ANTOINE: There’s a couple of strategies. What I did is to make sure I had a great story and I would talk to the right people. It sounds easy but you know we’re celebrating the 50 years anniversary of GGR, Golden Globe Race. I started to look around in France and look at companies that were celebrating their 50th anniversary next year. As a company project. I did a flyer. I made a couple of pages of my story on a flyer to explain the race, to explain who I am, what I want to do, how much it cost and what can I offer to them. Then I was just taking the phone saying, “Here’s my name, here’s my project and can we talk.” Of course, you give 100 phone calls and get two answers. But two answers you manage to get a meeting and then you have time to explain, and then you sign one. This is the ratio. You spend a lot of time. That’s why I’m talking about strategies because if you call everybody you’re wasting your time. If you understand the business needs of the companies you have a chance. The best of the best is to work through your network. That means you know somebody, know somebody work in the company and can introduce you to the CEO or to the brand manager, or the communication manager or something. That’s the way to do it. You need a very strong, inner circle of people and they will work for you. That’s the best. You can send 100’s of 1000’s of flyers, it’s very unlikely that you come back with a, “Oh that’s great. Thank you. We want to work with you.” It doesn’t work like that.
There’s 100’s of people looking for funds out there. For sailing but for the community as well. To getting money for the school, for the football club, for rugby…anything. You’re not the only one looking for money so you need to be sharp and have a good strategy. Of course, there’s some tricks. This is confidential.
LINDSAY: So, what I got from that was that if you contacted 100 sponsors, or potential sponsors, one of them would come through and to get to them was all about using your inner circle, your contacts, people that you know and offering them something that’s similar to what you’re doing – the 50 year anniversary. That was a good strategy.
ANTOINE: You can sell that as a company project. They want to do something next year because the company is going to celebrate 50th anniversary, so why not joining and combining the two stories. It did work for me. One of my…It’s not really a sponsor but the partner is the Open University. The Open University is a British distance learning. One of the biggest world distance learning university and they are going to celebrate next year their 50th anniversary. They launched a big communication campaign with me. I’m an alumni. I’m a former student of them. So the university will say, “We have a former student that is going around the world.” and they just launched a scholarship for them on my name which is something unbelievable for me. We try to raise one million pounds now to give this money to kids to go back to school, or just to go to school.
So you start with one idea that, “Do you want to be my sponsor” and now I’m doing something totally different but it’s really meaningful and it will attract companies. Again, it’s a different strategy to build up a very strong partnership with organisation, or university, or a case, or something like that and use that to attract companies. That’s a different strategy. For me it did work.
LINDSAY: Very cunning. I’ll be very curious to hear what some of those secret strategies are too but maybe not a public call like this.
I’m going to head off in a different direction now. Change tact so to speak. We’re very spoilt in this day and age. We go to a supermarket or a food store at least once a week, most of us. You’re going to be out there for at least eight months. I bet everyone’s curious about what sort of food you’re going to eat. Have you planned that yet?
ANTOINE: Yeah. Yeah of course. I’m planning that. On top of that I’m French so I have a very heavy background of food. So fresh food will stay for one week or two weeks, no more. We need to bring a mix of can and dry food. You cannot do anything else. What I’m doing now is trying…I’m lucky enough to have a nice garden and I can grow veggies and fruit and everything. I’m working now – starting now in the summer to get some fruit and veggies, cut them in small pieces and dry them up and vacuum them. Then we’ll see this winter how long it can last. The food is the fuel of the skipper. Sleeping is a different story – I mean good sleep. But you need good sleep. If you just go with dried food you won’t go very far. You need good food. You need a mix of different product. You need enough because you need to think that maybe five percent, maybe ten percent of all the food you will carry will be not rotten, but you know you will lose that food. You need to consider that.
Then I’m planning for 240 days. I think I’m going for 300 days of food and enough for fishing as well. Fishing gear. If I had to give you a ratio it’s probably 60 percent of dried food – there’s a lot of dried food because it’s light and even if I don’t use everything I still have it onboard. A lot of cans. There’s a lot of cereal. A lot of porridge and stuff like that. A lot of food that I’m going to cook. A friend of mine is a a chef so we’re going to cook ten different dishes and we’re going to vacuum that and again we’re going to see how long it can last. If it’s six months it’s good. If it’s three months, it’s already three months but we hope to keep the food because we’re not putting any milk, any cream, any stuff like that. Neither salt and pepper you know. It’s quite experimental. We’re trying a lot of stuff. I will have enough food. If I’ve got for example 250 kilos of food I’m bringing.
That’s the food for the body. I need food for the mind. I think I’ve got 50 kilos or 75 kilos of books and everything. That’s the ratio. This is for the body, this is for the mind. We need to nourish the mind as well. At the end I’m quite close stopping at 400 kilos of stuff I’m bringing with me. It sounds a lot, but it’s not much.
LINDSAY: Yeah it sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into it. You’re experimenting in the year leading up towards this. Now it’s just over a year before you go. I think it’s interesting that you’re experimenting and seeing how long things last.
ANTOINE: We don’t know and we can’t rely on what is in the supermarket. At sea with the moisture, the humidity and the docks moving around like that – hopefully they’re not moving around too much, but I’ve got the experience that just a can after six weeks you can see rust on it. Either you varnish everything, either you empty all the can in a different pot and you vacuum that and you put in a sealed bag and everything so it’s a lot of maintenance. The plan is to – you know, I’ve got some bags, month feed bag. I’ve got 10 bags and I’ve got food for every single month at my bag so I can actually balance the boat with the bags. I can move all the bags on one side or on the other side when I tack on one tack . It’s pretty much like a modern racing. I will be on racing mode anyway, but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the bag from the guy from the Vendee Globe or the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s quite organised. Everything is labelled. So we hope to do that. Plus, a bit of fun, a bit of fantasy and a bit of to be excited to eat this, wow we get some good food and a bottle of wine and it’s great. I want every Sunday to have a glass of wine and put on a new shirt. Not going to shirt but having kind of routine. Let’s see how it goes.
LINDSAY: Sounds like a great strategy and I’m sure it’s going to come together nicely for you. I like the idea of ballasting the boat with the food and things because that’s a lot of weight out there. 400 kilos of food initially. I guess it won’t be so important as you get towards the end but that’s all very good. You’re definitely out there to win or at least get a good result. I like that. It is a race.
ANTOINE: That’s the idea. Going for solo at sea, on your own, you need an objective. It’s not a need of personal fulfilment. You need to go beyond that and I think racing…I’m not a racer. You won’t see me on a Sunday afternoon racing in between three buoy. You won’t see me. I’m just happy at sea crossing ocean, but I’m bored when I’m racing in the bay.
LINDSAY: Yeah obviously a bit part of achieving a good result on this race is going to be celestial navigation. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of celestial navigation and what your experience is with that?
ANTOINE: My experience started back in 93’ when I actually crossed the Atlantic again and I decided to do it with a sextant and the stars and everything, and it did work. It’s a routine. If you start from scratch you will be 500 miles from where you are, but it’s coming nicely when you start to do the effort to understand how it works and do it properly. What a joy, what an excitement when you plot your position and you double check the GPS and you’re not far. You’re not far actually to where you are. That’s pretty exciting.
I’ve done courses. I’m an Ocean Yachtmaster. I’ve done all the course theory and everything but to be honest, I haven’t done that for ten years now so I need to back to the books and I’m sailing next month. I’m going from Palmas to Azores and back to France, and I’m going to practice big time because I need a bit of practice. I need to. I’m a bit rusty on that. This is the two big components; the celestial navigation and the SSB communication because nobody’s using that anymore. I’m happy to still have one year to practice and making sure I’m fully ready with that.
Again, it’s part of this beautiful adventure for this retro race.
LINDSAY: I understand what you’re saying there. I did my ocean yacht masters course in New Zealand, and I did a passage from New Zealand to Tonga trying to use just celestial navigation. As part of a crew the owner was using GPS, but I decided I’d do the whole plot all the way up. I got very frustrated – the fact that the clouds seemed to come in right on nautical twilight and nautical sunrise. It seemed to be a thing of the tropics. I went a few days without getting a proper fix and all I had was running fixes with the sun as that poked its head through the clouds during the day. It can be quite frustrating and you can go many days without a fix.
ANTOINE: There are so many boats out there. Every week you see a boat now, so you can just pick up the VHF and ask your position. I’m not too worried about…
LINDSAY: And that’s allowed in the race rules. Is that correct?
ANTOINE: Yeah. Yes. It is. We can chat with the boats and anything plotting with the VHF we can talk with.
LINDSAY: Oh well that’s great. Yeah, and there are a lot more boats out there then there were 50 years ago that’s for sure. I believe that the race organisers have put a few things into place to help keep you safe in terms of electronics that are purely passive – they don’t help you with navigation but they help other boats see where you are. Provided they’re keeping a lookout, that will certainly make it easier for them to see you.
What are some of the challenges that you see coming up as your biggest to overcome with the Golden Globe race campaign?
ANTOINE: I would say making sure I’m fully ready. I’m talking about myself first physically, mentally because today it’s fine – you know I’m focusing on the boat, focusing on the project funding and things, but maybe one week before you know, to go you can start panicking. You know you can say, “My goodness. I’m really going now?” Making sure I’m mentally strong enough to go. Making sure my family is fine with that at the last minute. You know, with leaving the kids and everything. How can I make sure that they’ll be happy for…We try to get organised with my wife because eight months without the father – without me playing the role as a tutor and teaching them, that this is my job as a father. I won’t be here so I won’t to make sure they have – I’ve got my log my log on the boat. I want them to have their log so we can chat once a week, we can talk, “What have you done?” blah blah blah. Then when we come back we have a nice story to share. That’s one of my biggest challenges. To be fully ready in that.
Of course, I want the boat to be ready. It’s a big part of making sure I get enough money to achieve that, making sure I’ve got the right solution – technical solution, and making sure also we can engage at a different level. Making sure we can engage people around that. Today Don McIntyre is doing a great job and I just want to make sure at the end we all align, we’re all happy and we can have fun, and we have thousands or a million-people following that race. It’s not only for me. I hope we can inspire people and they understand why we’re doing that. Chasing dreams and everything. Because life is short and once again it’s so easy to live in the comfort of everyday life. If you want something, you need to get out there and do what you need to do. Hopefully we will engage people.
LINDSAY: Do you get seasick?
ANTOINE: No. I’m not.
LINDSAY: Very lucky.
ANTOINE: Yeah, you know even when the submarine and you dive and you don’t feel the boat shaking too much – below 50 metres, but when you’re on the surface of a submarine and you cross the channel for example, if you’re not seasick that’s the good test. That will make some of the people very seasick, so I know 100% I’m not seasick. I’m very, very happy with that.
LINDSAY: That’s very lucky. You’re a professional skipper, tell us a bit about your experience with dealing with seasick crews?
ANTOINE: Oh, my best example is my wife. When we met I was delivering a boat again to the Caribbean and was looking for crew. I was working for an agency in the UK and they say, “Well we’ve got three people. They wait for you at that place.” I went there, we had a beer and everything and then the next day we were off. After six hours, they all went searching for the bucket and they were all seasick. I had to drive the boat by myself when we left from Vendee and when I started to talk with one guy. He came up on deck. We were at A Coruna which is the corner of Spain. That was two days after. I had to feed them with water, bananas, Coke – Coke work very good for that, and they were all laid down in the sand, including my wife. She was seasick for four days. We reached Cascades which is in Portugal – the entrance of the Tagus River in Lisbon and about the second time I was talking with my wife she was laying down for four days and she was not in a very good shape. That’s part of sailing. I think people were scared. It was middle of December. It was very cold, it was windy, it’s the Gulf of Biscay so you have crossed seas and everything – there’s a lot of traffic. If you’re not used to that, I understand you can be scared. Seasickness for me it’s about…You need to do something on the boat. You need to be busy and relax. It sounds easy to say, but it’s not that easy.
After four days when we had this stop in Lisbon they started to recover. I took the time after three or four days again just to make sure that we’re okay. We went off again and we stop at the Canary Islands and of course it was sunny and it was easier. Long swell and everything. They were born again. Then we had a beautiful crossing – 18 days to the Caribbean. It was right at the beginning – for four days everybody was seasick, puking everywhere and so I did my best to be with them and talk and doing their watch and everything. There’s not much you can do when you’re really bound. You need to save some energy.
LINDSAY: If you were new to sailing like many of our listeners and readers are, what would your ideal income source be to maximise your life on the sea and how would that work?
ANTOINE: Well first I would recommend not to buy a boat straight away. I would recommend to go with friends and rent a boat. People, sometimes they just dream. It’s like a toy. They want a toy. They want a sailing boat and it’s wise to start understanding what it is to go at sea before spending a lot of bucks on that. I would recommend to go with friends and spend a couple of days. Maybe rent a boat to feel if you like it, if you’re comfortable to drive a boat. Then if you really keen on having the boat, don’t be too greedy. Don’t buy too big and making sure you know what you’re doing.
There are some rules. You need to have a harness, you need to make sure the boat is serviced – everything is ready to go before going out. Most of the accidents or incidents are close to shore with minor problem that turns into nightmares. I’m very sad to hear some stories because people not aware of things.
LINDSAY: Really it’s more important to get the experience than to really make a big investment in monetary terms. The experience is really worth more to you than having a financial income source at the beginning. It’s more important to get the experience.
ANTOINE: Just to give you an example. If I would have the money to buy the Porsche – a sports car. Big nice car. I think I would spend a week or maybe two days on a racing track with a coach just to teach me how to drive a Porsche before to go to the Porsche dealer and say, “Please give me that and I give you the money, and thank you. Bye Bye.” That’s my point of view. It’s just because when I do something I like to understand what I’m doing. It’s not a precaution – it’s just to make sure I can deal with that.
LINDSAY: Okay. Alright so that’s the worst experience that you’ve had at sea or when did you feel really bad about the situation that you got yourself in to?
ANTOINE: If we want to talk about nasty weather I used to work in Cape Town, and deliver boats from Cape Town to Tortola which is Virgin Islands. It’s quite a distance. It’s almost 7000 nautical miles across the South Atlantic and half of the North Atlantic. Of course, when you do that you leave at the wrong time in the southern ocean, that means you live in middle of fall – something like that, and you arrive early summer in the Caribbean. You leave and it’s windy, and then you get there and you get the tropical storms and everything. This is exactly what happened once. I left Cape Town and two days later I was caught with 30’ swell and 70 knots of wind with some crew that were not very, very experienced. On top of that I had a catamaran – brand new catamaran, a Leopard 47. That was pretty interesting sailing going through this low pressure, going fast and with so many big swell that was interesting. Nothing bad happened, but all the crew were inside, locked up. I was outside and I was steering the boat for something like 18 hours going up and down, until the low pass and I got some good wind heading to St Helena.
Then we went back on track to the Caribbean and when we got to the Caribbean we got hit by a tropical storm. No big seas but very, very strong winds. I was almost ready to shoot into the mangrove to make sure the boat was not smashed somewhere. It was interesting.
Finally, we got to the British Virgin Island and I parked the boat, signed off the paper and everything was fine. Not even a scratch so that was good.
I love that. You know, you do your job, you don’t say a word, then you have a beer and then you can stop to think about what happened.
LINDSAY: So really that was the question about the worst thing that happened, but it sounds like that’s sort of almost the best thing that happened to you as well. When you get a good result at the end of a tough passage. That’s funny how that happens quite often.
ANTOINE: I’ve got a good one. I was in the Med. I was sailing with crew. I was on a 90’ boat – I was captain of that. I had a girl and she…We were close reach, it was a bit windy and I asked her if she could bring in the jib. She was looking under like that you know on the south – on the Leeway and she started to winch and she had long hair. Her hair got caught into the rope while she was winching because you don’t winch with the winch end on, you just press a button. She pressed the button and all the hair came through as the winch – well the big winch of the motor and I heard the screaming and thought, “Gosh what’s going on there?” I could see here she couldn’t move. She was completely caught with the hair into the winch. I just jumped, took my knife and just cut the hair. All the crew was shocked. I said, “Well you need to react. That’s the only way. We don’t care about the hair, we don’t care about the rope. I want her safe. That’s what I want.” That was a bit of a panic there but in one minute that was resolved.
LINDSAY: That could have gone even worse if you hadn’t reacted so decisively and positively.
What’s the best experience you’ve had while you’re at sea, or when were you the happiest?
ANTOINE: The best ever is of course the second time at sea when I did this crossing, when I got to the Caribbean. Everything was there. The dolphin, the sunset, the smell. After three weeks at sea you could smell it so strong – the soil, the flowers, the fruits – everything smelled very, very strongly. Just the beauty of that and the achievement – that’s my best experience ever.
LINDSAY: I remember we were sailing up towards Papeete and we must have been downwind from an island that was a long way away – the nearest land was over 150 miles but we had this very strong smell of flowers and things. We actually started to question our navigation and wondered whether we were in the right place because of the strong smell coming across the water. It’s amazing how your senses get a lot more sensitive when you’ve been at sea for a long time.
ANTOINE. That exactly. You know, when I started to explain about this cosmic time – you know I want to go back to this harmony you get at sea and it’s exactly that. You spend so much time at sea you develop other senses you don’t use every day. That’s very powerful. It just jogged my mind now and it’s just wow. I can remember exactly now the smell, 25 years back in time and it’s very strong.
LINDSAY: Yeah, I totally understand.
Is there anything more you can offer our listeners and readers to help them get started in terms of the opportunities available to people now in this day and age. Something that can help them move on from just dreaming about going sailing and actually living a life on the sea, and becoming a mariner. What advice can you give them?
ANTOINE: Again maybe I’m repeating myself, but if you really want something in life then why not doing it? It means if you aren’t trying sailing just go. Just forget the money side and everything. There’s always a solution – sailing with friends, joining a club (a sailing club). Just do it. Don’t wait. It’s so easy to postpone stuff – you know say, “Oh we’ll do that later when I’ve got time, when I’ve got money, when I’ll be retired.” No way. It’s now. 70% of the earth is covered by sea and there’s a diversity of things to see, to experience around the world. You can just start at the corner where you live and you can go to the ice, you can go to the tropics, you can go to anywhere and discover a lot of stuff.
For me, if you ask me why I’m going around the world it’s just because we cannot go any further. We have to go back somewhere. The earth is round so unfortunately, we have to go back home at one point. I would really encourage people to go out. To meet other people, other culture, and having a sailing boat is great. You will experience a lot of good stuff. If you travel by boat like I used to do for many years, you bring your home. Which means if you travel like a backpacker or something like that and you go to a place and visit the place, you can meet somebody and people will invite you to their home, but you cannot do that because you’re living in the hotel. When you live on a boat you can invite people to your home and that makes a bit of difference to share something to go a bit deeper in the relationship with somebody. That’s why sailing is, I don’t know, I could talk for hours about that. They should give it a try.
LINDSAY: It’s true. When you are visiting another country it’s really good to have your home with you. That’s the thing that appealed to it as far as my wife was concerned about having a home with us as we travelled. A very powerful point there.
Final thing – is there anything our listeners and readers can do for you to help you with this campaign?
ANTOINE: Well very soon I will launch – not really a crowdfunding but it’s like a shop. I will put some package. I can’t tell you exactly what it is today but I invite people to look it up on my website in a months’ time – maybe two weeks and we’ll see how it goes. There will be some interesting offer. With that money is going of course for my campaign and also is going for the scholarship fund to help people and kids to go to school. It’s a good deal. That’s one thing.
Then I just want them to be conscious, aware that there is a race going on next year and it’s not kind of every day race. It’s a big stuff. I encourage people to talk about it and engage.
LINDSAY: Share it on social media.
You better tell us what your website is so that people can find it.
ANTOINE: My website is very simple it’s www.antoinecousot.com.
LINDSAY: If they go to the transcription of this interview they’ll find it there and we’ll put a link to your website on the transcription. Excellent, well thank you very much Antoine.
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