Bullens finds a replacement boat
The Velux 5 Oceans has not even started yet and already Christophe Bullens has been on an incredible voyage. After a nail-biting ten days after his Eco 60 was dismasted en route to the start in La Rochelle, the Belgian ocean racer has confirmed he expects to be on the start line after securing a new boat for the race. Just five days before the start of the 30,000-mile solo round the world race, he has bought Artech from French yachtsman Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty.
The 49-year-old Belgian completed a 2,500-mile qualification passage in his original Eco 60 Five Oceans of Smiles in September. But his campaign was thrown into jeopardy early last week when his original yacht Five Oceans of Smiles was cruelly dismasted 15 miles off the coast of France.
Five Oceans of Smiles was towed into Cherbourg with its mast broken into three pieces, a hole in the starboard side of the hull and destroyed sails. Since then, Bullens and his small shore team have been working round the clock to find another Eco 60 to sail in the Velux 5 Oceans.
But with just days to go until the race start, Bullens and his team have secured funding to buy Artech, confirming his place on the start line. The yacht will now be renamed and rebranded Five Oceans of Smiles in support of the Smiles charity which supports children who are HIV positive. Based at the Saint-Pieter hospital in Brussels, Smiles seeks to give HIV positive children the possibility to be born, grow up and live a normal childhood.
“It has been a real rollercoaster since the dismasting,” Bullens said. “We never stopped believing that we could be in this race and we fought to be on the start line until the end. Funding came through at the last minute and we are going to be on the start line. There was no way we were going to abandon the children – we are doing this race for them.”
Velux 5 Oceans Race Director David Adams added: “Christophe’s tenacity in the face of adversity is an illustration of what makes solo sailors so special. Many people would have thrown in the towel following the dismasting last week, but not Christophe. He has worked tirelessly to find a solution to making the start line and he has a fantastic Eco 60 to take on The Ultimate Solo Challenge.”
Artech was built in 2002 by ex-Southampton Institute graduates Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty, Elie Canivenc and Soizic Dubois to a design of theirs called the Furtif 60. THe boat was raced by Canivenc in the 2002 Route du Rhum as Leasecom but retired due to the severe conditions experienced in the race that year. Three years later Dejeanty raced her with co-skipper Alexandre Toulorge in the Transat Jacques Vabre under the name Maisonneuve-Région Basse Normandie. Currently lying in Lorient, she is race ready and will be delivered to La Rochelle by the weekend. A 2002 generation boats makes her one of the youngest Open 60s allowed under the Eco 60 rule.
Although he qualified previously on the original Five Oceans of Smiles, Bullens still needs to satisfy the Velux 5 Oceans race committee that his new boat is up to the challenge of sailing round the world.