Philippe Poupon and his family sail some of the most dangerous seas on the Earth

Philippe Poupon is an ex-team member of Skipper Eric Tabarly and during his time racing he was part of the team that won the following: 3 time Solitaire du Figaro winner, winner of Route du Rhum, winner of l’OSTAR, 3rd place Vendée Globe, and the list goes on.

Philippe Poupon has certainly earned his stripes. Now as our TIMEZERO Ambassador he does not compete anymore but focuses on his project: Fleur Australe.

On board his sailboat that has been designed for polar expeditions, with his family he has set sail on a voyage which has seen him sail more than 80 000 nm in hostile seas. They are sailing from the Artic to the Antarctic, via Alaska and Polynesia, while enduring fierce storms, sea ice, icebergs and everything in-between.

After an expedition of many months in the Mediterranean, Fleur Australe left at the start of the year to conquer the Red Sea by travelling from Istanbul to Oman. Our Ambassador retraces his tracks in this interview of his trip from the Mediterranean sea to the Red sea, Gulf of Aden and to the Arabian Gulf.

The Middle-East, a zone like no other

“Sailing from the Red Sea, up to the Gulf of Aden, navigating through Djibouti & Oman, passing along the coast of Yemen (a country currently at war) and then along the Somali coastline infamous for its pirates, certainly made us question whether it was safe enough. The current naval forces that operate in the area to protect the on average 60 boats that go through this shipping lane each day, made up of cargo ships, container ships and cruise ships. We got in touch with sailors who have experience in these waters, especially diving schools that operate between Egypt, Soudan and Djibouti. This trip required planning in advance to get the various visas for all the countries involved.

crédit photographique “Fleur Australe”

Getting a better overall picture of what the trip was about, we felt that it was right to go ahead with it. The freedom to sail wherever you want doesn’t exist there and getting the permission to sail through these areas was a nightmare. One needs to be very patient and understand when the only way forward is through bribery, the “baksheesh” as they call it there. Certainly nothing like what a sailor from Brittany is accustomed to.

Our hunger for adventure helped us to overcome these problems and looking back on it, it’s better just to keep the good moments because while there were some disagreements while going through customs in Egypt, it’s often a little hostile there, and basically in each of these countries so you can’t let that get in the way.

The winds in the Red Sea:

For the navigation, we prepared each route by having a very precise study on each of the winds. The upper end of the Red Sea is often swept by northerly winds while to the south, southerly winds are more common before entering the Gulf of Aden, and these southerly winds can be extremely strong inside the corridor of Bab El Mandeb.

Le Bab El Mandeb is only a few miles across between Eritrea and Yemen. Clearly it is the part of the trip where you want to have it done as quickly as possible and be as accurate as possible so as not to flirt with the coastline. While Yemen is currently in civil war, Eritrea is an exchange zone for all types of arms deals.

With all these precautions, we were able to carry out the trip from the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden without any hindrances. While danger is never far away, it is possible to sail this part of the world steeped in history by respecting the rules. It is crazy to think that we have sailed the same route as sailors such as Henri de Monfreid and Rimbaud.

Fleur Australe et TIMEZERO:

Our boat, the Fleur Australe is equipped with TIMEZERO software and we have two computers on board which provides added security. With the reception of wind files, we can manage our trip and for instance choose the best departure date from the port of Massaoua in Eritrea to Djibouti when a window of good weather presented itself. The same strategy for departure is needed when calculating the best moment to leave Djibouti towards Oman. TIMEZERO is perfect in terms of providing more insights for marine navigation.”

Philippe Poupon has been using TIMEZERO software for over 30 years and was already using it in the 1986 Route du Rhum edition which he ended up winning. TIMEZERO software provides a chart engine with seamless loading when zooming in and out, weather forecasts which are regularly used by this TIMEZERO Ambassador as well as integrated and fully configurable alarm systems.  For performance enhanced navigation as well as for security, the Weather Routing module is vital to Philippe Poupon to calculate the fastest route on his sailboat by using the following factors: weather, polars and navigation style.

Find out about TIMEZERO software used by Philippe Poupon: