Please select your home edition
Edition
MySail Skipper

An interview with David Sussmann on the Bermuda-Lorient Challenge

by David Schmidt 4 May 2022 08:00 PDT May 8, 2022
Pure Ocean aims to raise environmental awareness and action by sponsoring events such as the Lorient-Bermuda Challege © Pure Ocean

New distance races and rallies are a relatively rare thing, and we at Sail-World are always excited to shine the editorial spotlight on new opportunities for people to get offshore. But, when the race or rally in question is also aimed at raising people's environmental awareness, we're all ears. Enter the Bermuda-Lorient Challenge, which is set to begin on the waters off of Bermuda on May 8 and will take the fleet across the Atlantic to Lorient, France.

The event is being organized by Pure Ocean, and it's being billed as a challenge, rather than a race or rally. This leaves the door wide open for cruisers or racers who are more interested in sailing the historic course as a rally, while crews that are motivated to push hard and rack up the daily mileage can enjoy some friendly competition.

Pure Ocean (www.pure-ocean.org) was founded by David Sussmann and is based in Lorient and Marseille, France. According to the organization's website, the group's mission is to raise public awareness about the ecological challenges that our planet—and our species—is facing, and to redirect this awareness towards support for ambitious projects that help protect biodiversity and delicate marine ecosystems.

Cooler still, Pure Ocean partially accomplishes this by promoting offshore races such as the 2020 Route Saint-Pierre Lorient Pure Ocean Challenge (www.sail-world.com/news/230024/David-Sussmann-on-the-2020-Pure-Ocean-Challenge), and now its successor, the Bermuda-Lorient Challenge.

I checked in with Sussmann, via email, to learn more about Pure Ocean's latest offshore event.

Can you please describe the culture of Pure Ocean and the Bermuda-Lorient Challenge to readers who have not had the chance to sail this course?

There's a great history to the race from the 1970s and 1980s, which captured the imagination of sailing fans but despite several attempts there hasn't been a race between Bermuda and Lorient for quite some time.

At Pure Ocean we believe in the power of sports, and sailing for raising awareness about the need to protect the ocean, which is why we're restarting the Bermuda - Lorient, along with our partners Absolute Dreamer and Lorient Grand Large.

We are keen to welcome a range of boats to resurrect the iconic race, challenging sailors to beat the race times that took the sport to a wider audience around 40 years ago.

The monohull Fernande, in 1979, skippered by Jean-Claude Parisis and Olivier de Rosny won, and [in 1983,] the catamaran William-Saurin, with Eugène Riguidel and Jean-François le Menec at the helm, set the fastest time for the crossing of 12 days 23 hours and 16 minutes.

What's the competition (or rally) like, and what kinds of sailors can one expect to meet on the dock before the start?

We are hoping to attract a range of both professional and amateur sailors who may be heading back to Europe for the summer racing season following the Caribbean regattas such as Les Voiles de St. Barth. We have been talking to a range of boats about taking part, including multihull and Class 40.

Of course, it's going to be a competitive race for those dedicated to offshore racing, but we also want the sailors to help us spread the message about ocean conservation.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year?

We aim to have several boats taking part this year with a view to cementing and expanding the event in the future as an annual fixture of the sailing calendar. There are some boats that are unable to take part this year but have already expressed an interest for next year, which is great news.

We are also proud to have four-time Transat Jacques Vabre winner Jean-Pierre Dick onboard as an ambassador and his JP54 will be taking part in the race this year.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter in the Atlantic in May? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

In May the weather is warmer with long hours of daylight, which makes for good sailing conditions. If we get the right depressions that will whisk the boats across the Atlantic in fast times, maybe beating the record, then it will be a good crossing.

The best scenario is to have a depression that brings us directly from Bermuda to Brittany with good winds, and the worst is if there are anticyclonic conditions on the route with light winds forcing us north to find some more downwind conditions.

Are you eyeing any perennial favorites for strong finishes? What about any dark horses?

I don't want to make any predictions and jinx anyone before we've even started but with veteran sailors like Jean-Pierre Dick involved it's going to be a fast and competitive race.

What was the reason for changing the course from St Pierre et Miquelon—Lorient (2020, 2021) to Bermuda—Lorient for 2022?

We organized two editions out of St Pierre et Miquelon, which were successful, but [St Pierre et Miquelon's] geographical location, so far north, makes it difficult to attract many sailors. Shifting the start line much further south will make it easier to increase numbers as there are more boats sailing around Bermuda, and in the Caribbean, that intend to head to Europe for the summer.

Do you suspect that European-based boats that are racing on the Caribbean circuit might join the rally as a fun/safe way to get their boats home?

That's absolutely the idea, as mentioned earlier. They can not only take part in a boat race but also do something positive for ocean health.

Our longer-term vision is to have racing boats create specific "charters" where a mix of professional and amateur sailors who maybe don't have the level of experience can take part in an exciting and impactful adventure and maybe break a sailing record too!

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the race's environmental wake?

We aim to keep the footprint of the race in Bermuda as small as possible. When the boats arrive in Lorient, we have organised a series of events that will convene key stakeholders to discuss ways in which we can work together to restore ocean health.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

If anyone who reads this is inspired to take part, please contact

Related Articles

Things Do Change…
It's quite some time ago now: three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly It's quite some time ago now. Three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly. It was one of those unwritten laws. An adage, if you will. Posted on 21 May
Introducing Paris 2024 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team
Celebrating and introducing the sailors off to Marseille shortly For fans of U.S. Olympic sailing, the past several quadrennials have been a nosebleed, at best. Despite this history, however, the USA has fielded a young-but-hopefully-competitive team for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 21 May
The most famous boat in the world
Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd have to think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes. Right oh. Well, for just another eight months or so, she's not going anywhere. The most famous boat in the world has another, albeit short, charter with one aim. Posted on 20 May
Loads of amenity - Goes like a cut cat
As the first Cure 55 steps closer to being splashed it looked more like a Purosangue to me As the first Cure 55 steps ever closer to being splashed, I could not help thinking that it was a lot like the Ferrari Purosangue. More space than your typical two-seat hypercar, yet with the punch to dispatch distances and pretenders with complete ease. Posted on 16 May
James Clarkson on the 2024 I14 Nationals
A Q&A with James Clarkson on the 2024 International 14 U.S. Nationals Sail-World checked in with James Clarkson, president of the International 14 class, via email, to learn more about this high-level skiff regatta. Posted on 14 May
This isn't what I expected
I'm very surprised just how different the new AC75s are A month ago, when I wrote 'AC75 launching season', just three of the AC75s set to contest the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona had been revealed. Now it's five, with just the French Orient Express Racing Team left to show their hand. Posted on 13 May
Celebrating throughlines in sailing leadership
And the sailing world's newest hero Back in mid-March, Sail-World celebrated singlehanded American skipper Cole Brauer as the sailing world's newest hero. Now, I'm now happy to report that we have another sailing hero, albeit one who carries a British passport. Posted on 7 May
The Lewin-LaFrance sisters on their Olympic dreams
A Q&A with Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance on their 49erFX campaign for Paris 2024 Sail-World checked in with sisters Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance, who are representing Canada in the 49erFX event at the 2024 Paris Olympics, via email, to learn more about their campaign. Posted on 7 May
Pre-eminence
Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian. Hope everyone is as proud of their country, as I am. Most folk I know seem to be. Posted on 6 May
Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug
A Q&A with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug Race Sail-World checked in with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton, who serve as race organizers, via email, to learn more about this 38-nautical-mile river race. Posted on 1 May
Hyde Sails 2022 One Design FOOTERPredictWind - Wave Routing 728x90 BOTTOMMySail Skipper