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35 crossings of the Golfe de Gascogne, 19 transatlantic and a half turn of the world, from the Pacific Ocean to the Red Sea, while passing through the Indian Ocean, Richard Mérigeaux finished second of the 2003 mini transat on “Bon Pied Bon Oeil”. Sailor of exception, he is accustomed of the podiums for the Fastnet Mini, indeed he finished every year at the second place since 2001, except in 2003 when he finished 3rd.
47 years old, expressive face, tanned by the sun sea, well built shoulders, earrings on the left ear, we would think we are with Corto Maltese! Small glasses on his nose Richard Merigeaux reminds us the teacher who he has been as his first vocation. His voice is quite and serene, you will feel the man’s strength and experience, who knows how to keep cool. He tells, jokily, that during the last the Mini Transat, he was really made fear for the first time: “One morning, while raising me, I just had time to ascend the wind a little to take speed and to see the bulb of a cargo liner passing 4 meters behind the back of my boat…”
For the last 20 years Richard has lived in La Rochelle and like all sailors from the old school he is reserved and doesn’t talk too much in a similar way to Eric Tabarly with whom he has had the opportunity to sail on the ” Cote D’or 2” and the ”Pen Duik ”. In race to remain reserved is part of his strategy “the less you talk, the less others know about your position”. During the last ”mini transat” there were no books or music on board, between the setting up of the boat, sleep, meals, radio duty, we have plenty to keep us busy”. Richard has this unique charisma, which is found among the Tabarly, Kersauson and Moitessier of this world. Indeed, his passion consists in navigating and boat racing on old rigs such as ”Petite Lande”, a lateen schooner that he knows well.
History of a passion
Born in the department of Les deux Sevres, he spent his whole youth in the Vienne department near Poitiers, far away from the sea. Our sailor first goes on board on a sailboat at the age of 21. His childhood dream comes true. ”I have never known where I got it from but the sea and boats have always made me dream”. For a month he will sail back and forth between La Rochelle and London. After that experience Richard will decide upon settling in La Rochelle. At the beginning his boat (a frigate built in 1961) will be his home, in La Rochelle floating dock. For 6 years he will work as a primary school teacher before becoming a skipper. After taking a training session in sailing using his mates’ boats or his own, he finally convoys his first boat professionally. The beginnings are tough and in that environment at the time you had to show your true colors. Then comes the time of tax breaks, a blessing for skippers who must escort numerous boats as far as the Dom TOM (off shore French territories). Today Richard skips mainly yachts, which belong to rich owners.
His passion for sailing reaches as far as his reading material. ”Like everyone else” he has read the works of Moitessier but this kind of book bores him, “if I have to read: on such a day the weather was so and so, and on such a day I rigged up such sail, then I am not interested”. By far, to long journals, he prefers Jack London or Henri de Monfreid ‘s adventures and stories, or historical novels by C.S Forrester like ”Captain Hornblower”.
Although he is cool and collected, Richard is not tongue-tied. He speaks with chagrin about the elitist trend observed in some races or about the absurdity of the regulations ruling the yachting.
In the near future the man from La Rochelle is getting ready to race in two-man crew for the ”Mini Fastnet ” before embarking on larger boats. His favorite time on a boat? The last quarter, the morning one, everyone is asleep, the sun is rising, and you are the only master aboard…
– CdB –