Another extraordinary voyage

Bruce Montgomery speaks to transoceanic windsurfer Raphaela Le Gouvello
French transoceanic windsurfer Raphaela Le Gouvello has outlined the extraordinary Indian Ocean voyage upon which she is about to embark, from Exmouth on the coast of Western Australia to the island of Reunion, 3,400 nautical miles to the west, on a sailboard, solo and unaccompanied. At night, when she is resting, her craft will have all the characteristics of a corked bottle, bobbing along on the surface of the ocean. She will be entombed inside. Le Gouvello leaves on 5 April, atop her 7.8 m long sailboard, harnessed to the boom like any other windsurfer but below her feet is her accommodation for the next 11 weeks, a white cocoon of safety when the going gets rough, as it surely will. She has chosen the low latitudes of the Indian Ocean for this crossing so that she will be sailing above the westerlies of the Roaring Forties. Rather, she expects to be sailing by day in the favourable south-easterly trade winds and drifting in the west-flowing south equatorial current by night, when she is sleeping. Image courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems However, unlike the Roaring Forties, she will be sailing in commercial shipping lanes. That’s a benefit if she needs to be rescued, but a nightmare if she becomes hard to detect. The only time she will be accompanied will be on the first night as she clears the WA coast. An escort boat will be with her. “There could be fishing boats around,” she says, “so we have to be careful. The following morning we say goodbye and I shall be alone.” Her daily routine is to sail for six to eight hours each day and then enter her sleeping/living compartment via a hatch on deck. “It is too dangerous for me to sail at night,” she says. “I am not sitting on a boat. I am