A tour of Solidaires

Thierry Dubois takes us on a guided tour of his Open 60
One of the joys of the singlehanded offshore racing community is some of the larger than life characters you meet. One of the most gregarious is undoubtedly Frenchman Thierry Dubois, who in the last 24 hours has taken over the lead in Around Alone. Around Alone is Thierry's third singlehanded round the world race, following his graduating up to the Open 60 class after his win in the Mini Transat in 1993. Dubois is best known for very nearly losing his life in the 1996 Vendee Globe, when during a terrible storm in the Southern Ocean more than 1,000 miles south of Australia his Open 60 capsized - and stayed that way. A Royal Australian Air Force plane dropped liferafts to him and incredibly Dubois jumped into the Southern Ocean and swam to one. He inflated it and clambered in only to find, as his upturned craft drifted out of sight, that the liferaft was punctured and sinking. Thankfully Dubois tugged on the line attached to the liferaft and found another at the other end. He was eventually rescued by the Australian navy at the same time as Tony Bullimore. Rather than be put off sailing, Dubois built another boat again using designer Bernard Nivelt, but this time paying considerable attention to safety. His new Open 60 Solidaires has a lot of tumblehome to prevent her tripping over her deck. Dubois says she has more stability than the minimum stipulated in the class rules. She has a swing keel too, a feature which certainly would have helped Dubois right his old boat in the Vendee, had she been fitted with one. Most impressive though is the number of bulkheads she has - 12 in total, five of them full bulkheads. In addition to these, like Bernard Stamm's Bobst Group-Armor Lux,