First a giant flotilla of official boats, yachts and motor boats, then a guard of honour through the channel, then a rapturous welcome by hundreds of school children let out of school for the occasion. It was a welcome fit for a hero, and a hero she was hailed. When Raphaela le Gouvello completed her 60 day solo windsurf across the Indian Ocean, the eager Reunion Islanders, where she landed, could hardly contain themselves.
When she crossed the official finish line at 10.21am, she still had twelve nautical miles to go before reaching the town of Le Port, but it was hardly solo. Escorted by her huge welcoming party of craft of all types and sizes, she partly sailed and was partly towed.
Among those accompanying her were the new French lifeboat 'Moïse Bègue', the patrol boat 'La Rieuse', the Gendarmerie's (military police) boat, an IFREMER boat and passenger boats, filled with children shouting wildly.
As for the Mascareignes Club and the Le Port Yachting Club, they had mobilized all of their members to welcome Raphaëla in full sail.
The windsurfer from Breton, sitting on her board, did a lap of honour inside the waters of the West Port, towed by the French navy's inflatable dinghies. Then a guard of honour was organized between the two quaysides of the channel that links the marina to the Pointe des Galets, where her surfboard was later moored.
Raphaëla stepped onto Reunion Island soil for the first time as over 350 children from 6 primary and secondary school classes were gathered to see Raphaëla do a walkabout, after stepping onto the 'welcome' pontoon.
She said a first few words for her family, so relieved to know that she's on firm ground again. She said that this voyage has certainly been the most difficult of all her crossings (she had previously crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans), representing the greatest danger. She also mentioned that she would not be tackling any more oceans, since she had done this round of the oceans in her own way, but she said that she had many more projects, again linked to protecting the environment.
After her welcome, the Prefect Laurent Cayrel handed her a Message from the President of the Republic of France, which said:
‘Dear Raphaëla Le Gouvello,
Having successfully crossed the Atlantic, the Mediterranean then the Pacific, you have spent sixty days at sea and crossed from the port of Exmouth in Australia to the coasts of Reunion Island.
‘You are the first person to have crossed the Indian Ocean on a surfboard, and I am delighted to send you my most sincere congratulations and express my admiration at this exploit.
‘I should like to pay tribute to your exceptional courage and mental strength that you needed to lucidly tackle the uncertainties of this venture and to overcome 'heavy weather' like capsizing, before arriving at Le Port.
‘The action that you have undertaken, thanks to the teaching kit to help the younger generations understand the great environmental issues of this new millennium, confirms your public-spiritedness and your responsible approach, which sets an example to us all.
‘I include the whole team that accompanied you each day in your success and enabled you to meet this superb challenge, as I offer you my warmest best wishes.
‘A superb exploit!
Jacques CHIRAC Click Here
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