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For Edouard de Keyser, the Global Solo Challenge may be the sign of destiny to fulfill his dream

by Mathieu Houllière 21 Jan 03:10 PST
Edouard de Keyser © Edouard de Keyser / Global Solo Challenge

Belgian Edouard de Keyser is one of the participants in the Global Solo Challenge. When in September, at age 56, he will set off on this extraordinary adventure from the port of A Coruña, it will be a childhood dream coming true for the man from Brussels.

Very committed to the environmental cause, Edouard will attempt the feat of sailing around the world without any fossil fuels on his yacht, SolarWind. A few months before the start, we met him to talk about his past as a sailor, his boat, and his preparation.

The sea was initially a refuge for Edouard. A memory from his holidays in Brittany when he was a child, and which will always be with him. In Perros-Guirec, where he has been going every year since he was a child, Edouard spends his time in the ports, contemplating the racing or sailing boats. It is also there that he enrolls in a sailing school and discovers the Optimist and the 320, a sort of precursor of the Laser. "Sailing was my own space. My parents were separated but they always agreed that I should sail." The sea, a reassuring place? A strange idea for most people...

The idea of being able to travel independently, without having to spend money, fascinated Edouard. When he was a teenager, he took over the management of the Glénants sailing school where he quickly became an instructor. Summer and winter alike, Edouard savored every moment. At 17, he bought his first boat: a Corsaire. "I put it in a shed and then I fixed it up for a year. I love to tinker". The Brussels native quickly realized that he could not go very far with this boat and acquired a 7-meter-long hPrimaat. With it, his first year of medicine barely in his pocket, he sails all summer in Brittany. Alone. "This is one of my best memories. I was gone for two months, it was freedom." Was it the trigger? Two years later, Edouard quits his medical studies and decides, at the age of 23, to take on a crazy challenge: the Mini Transat.

In 1988, the famous transatlantic regatta did not have the notoriety it has today and Edouard quickly found sponsors to set up his project. "My boat was called 'Bruxelles gagnant'. As I was the only Belgian at the time to compete, it was relatively easy to find partners. His two-year project gave him a taste for the open sea and solo racing, even if the results were not there. "I wanted to be clever, but I took the wrong option. You always learn from sailing, that's what's extraordinary about it."

The sailor will have the opportunity to learn in his new adventure. On July 14, 1991, aboard the Kittiwake, a 14.5-meter long steel schooner, Edouard set off towards Greenland for a three-month 100% Belgian expedition. The challenge and the conditions prove to be as hard as the human adventure is beautiful. But Edouard understood that he would not earn much money if he persisted in becoming a sailor. So the Belgian put away his follies and turned to computers, at a time when the Internet was still at the beginning. Edouard was gifted and participated in the emergence of the Internet in Belgium. "At the time, everyone thought we were crazy. We started like in the movies, in our garage, and nobody believed that it would work.

The years passed, the money came in, but Edouard kept an eye on the sea and the horizon. In 2007, he decided to sell his company to find the open sea. "At 20 years old, I said that I would not work on a boat to earn money." But now, it was the opposite. With his family, Edouard sailed around the world for two years, from the Caribbean to French Polynesia. There again, he learns and gains experience. 15 years later, Edouard dreamed of one last challenge: a solo round-the-world race. The Global Solo Challenge appeared at that moment, like a sign of destiny. We met him to ask him a few questions.

Continue reading the full article here...

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