Olivier de Kersauson

The last of the giants?

As second in command to Eric Tabarly for more than 10 years, and a pioneer of the foils on Pen Duick IV in 1979, Olivier de Kersauson is one of the last of the giants of multihull ocean racing and the era of the great epics when GPS was in its infancy and modern cartography methods did not yet exist. A record-hunter on all the world’s seas before he finally hung up his oilskins in 2008, settling on a coral atoll in the Tuamotus, “a thousand leagues from all the noise“. The sailor has also published numerous books. In his latest opus, Veritas tantam potentiam habet ut non subverti possit (Truth is so powerful that it cannot be destroyed), OdK, who knows the world so well, constantly questions our society. And he is always amazed by the technological evolution of multihulls. Olivier de Kersauson joined the Académie de Marine last October. A recognition that he considers «a truly wonderful surprise». Our collaborator Patrick Jean, once a crew member on Vendredi 13, met Olivier 50 years ago. He spoke with him for us.

MW - To begin with, tell us about your new book...
OdK: Veritas Tantam is the result of the observations of an older man - me - about the world in which he has lived and how he perceives it today. I am also interested in how this world is perceived by the new generation. Our society is in constant mutation, and the important thing is to keep a steady course in the midst of the storms, to try to remain free in a society that is increasingly constrained, and above all not to sink into ideology and one-track thinking. I have always been suspicious of the statements of those who want to change the world instead of asking themselves if it is not up to them to change themselves and adapt. I was lucky enough to be in a profession where you had to adapt constantly. To adapt to the realities of the sea, to the distances and to the weather, all of which are immutable. This life has given me a different perspective thanks to what I have been through. So let’s look at the world with tenderness and kindness without always setting ourselves up as victims. It is a waste of time. Let us be enthusiastic about life and not naive about the world around us. Living is not a duty, it is an opportunity.
MW - How do you view the technological development of today’s racing multihulls?
OdK: It’s wonderful. This new generation is living the same evolution as the Pen Duick generation, of which I was lucky enough to be a part. We were fighting like the teams of today still do. And always in search of performance. Performance is applied intelligence. It is the result of reflection, creation and the manner in which they are applied, with the same considerations as those when we were racing. Ocean racing demands the risk of innovating, of developing, of crossing the limits without knowing exactly what we will find beyond them. It is the most exhilarating adventure in maritime history. The skippers should be praised for their courage and their will to push their trimarans, which are the result of a kind of perfect alchemy, to their maximum potential. And we still don’t know the limits of these new trimarans. I am full of admiration for them and for the sponsors who are prepared to finance these projects. With the same uncertainties and the same commitment.
MW - Has ocean racing lost some of its romanticism?
OdK: The 1970s/1980s were a completely different time. Not better or worse, just different. We sailed without GPS, without telephones, without electronics or weather charts, with the delightful reality of being alone with the sea and our seamanship. With the same doubts, the same risks, but always the same enthusiasm. The Pen Duick generation had already invented everything, from the use of long floats to composite materials for construction, wing masts and even the use of carbon. There was already the essence of innovation. Since then, research and its applications have progressed phenomenally. How can we not admire these trimarans that fly at more than 40 ...

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