Saturday, December 05, 2009
‘Les 4 Vents’ (The Four Winds)
Between 24th May, 1950 and 25th July, 1958, the French yachtsman Marcel Bardiaux made a single-handed circumnavigation west-about from Ouistreham, France, to Arcachon, France, via Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. This was truly a great adventure in a homemade yacht to the design of Henri Dervin which Bardiaux modified by simplifying the cabin structure. She was 30’ 8” from bow to stern and her beam was 8’ 10”. On completion of Bardiaux’s epic voyage, ‘Les 4 Vents’ was the smallest vessel to have circled the Globe. Irving Johnson awarded Bardiaux the 1958 Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal for his circumnavigation which required great resourcefulness, determination and perseverance.
In 1930 Marcel paddled his homemade canoe 11,000 kilometres through the rivers of Europe, first exploring the Danube to the Black Sea and Istanbul, then across the Aegean to Marseilles, from where he made his way to Paris via the canals. He became the French Kayak Champion and the European Kayak Champion. He was a founding member of the Kayak Club of France. In 1939, as a reservist, he was taken prisoner and transported to Germany where he escaped by fooling his pursuers. He convinced them that he had drowned in a river, but all the time he was breathing through a metal tube. Back in France in 1943, while the country was still occupied by the Germans, he covertly built ‘Les 4 Vents’ from meagre resources. Finding lead for the keel required great ingenuity.
During his 68.000 nautical mile odyssey, Marcel experienced more than one capsize, a dismasting and several groundings. Along the way he put into at least 500 ports. In 1958 he published two books: "Aux 4 Vents de L’aventure”, Volumes 1 and 2". Not content with his circumnavigation, he set about building a stainless steel yacht, which he named ‘Inox’. Ten years later, when she was finished, he set off on a 30 year voyage of discovery, logging 400,000 nautical miles while sailing the oceans of the world, including several Atlantic crossings. At the age of 87 he died aboard his yacht in the harbour of Redon, Ile et Vilaine, in February, 2000, one of the truly great mariners.