Why Bernard Moitessier’s entire life is a hymn to freedom


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The antidote to the new generation’s disenchantment with sailing is there. These are the teachings of legendary navigator Bernard Moitessier, who made entire generations fall in love. We present his philosophical testament in seven points: principles that Moitessier never renounced, and to which he patterned his life. The first key word of this trip is “freedom.”

Bernard Moitessier’s entire life is a hymn to freedom. His desire to sail the world, to be himself no matter what, to pursue an ideal of purity, to remain loyal only to the ocean, what are they if not the expression of an unabashedly free spirit? The wanderer of the seas, the lone sailor, the hippy of the oceans, that’s what they called him at the time.

Moitessier felt the myth of a free life as a boy when inspired by the fishermen in Hanoi, Indochina, where he was born in 1925, he left his family and his father’s business to wander the Gulf of Siam on a small boat. Here, owning a boat, putting the bow on the horizon, plying the oceans, that’s all he needs to be happy. But the yearning for freedom for adult Moitessier is above all an act of rebellion against Western society infused with consumerism and devoted to the god of money.

“I file suit against the Modern World, he is the monster,” he writes. The French navigator says no to the fakes of contemporaries through a symbolic gesture that has gone down in history. In 1969 when he was leading the fleet in the Golden Globe Race, the solo round-the-world race, instead of returning a winner to Europe, collecting the £5,000 prize and the glory, Moitessier decided to abandon the competition and continue sailing to “save his soul,” as he explains in the book The Long Course.

He runs into a ship, brings it to a halt, gives the captain a message saying he is giving up the race, and disappears to the South Seas. That renunciation of success in the name of sailing purity is one of the most intense moments in sailing sport, a resounding rip-off, a sublime challenge, a stroke of genius that leaves the world stunned and turns Moitessier into an idol.

The Frenchman was pointing out to everyone that another way is possible: “Having the time, being able to choose, not knowing where you are going and going there anyway.” This anti-establishment philosophy carved on a boat in the middle of the ocean has won everyone over, not only because of its romantic and libertarian spirit, but also because it is basically within the reach of anyone.

In the next installment, we will tell you about Moitessier’s spirit of nature.




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