105 days, 20 hours, 10 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s how long Alan Roura spent alone at sea. A single journey that accounts for 1/2000 of the 24-year-old’s entire life.
He didn’t just survive the adventure, the young Swiss finished twelfth in the legendary Vendée Globe around-the-world race. A sailing trip alone, without stops or any assistance.
“People thought I was driven by the record and I have had many comments about wanting this too early, saying I wasn’t ready for the challenge, or that I was too young to go through with it. When I was looking for someone to trust me to sponsor me, I faced many rejections because of my age compared to the other participants.”
Despite the doubts, Roura took the challenge and got support from La Fabrique a family company that decided to back his hopes. Together, the sailor, the sponsor and his support team achieved to prepare for the race in less than a year – a third of what it took for some of his rivals.
Spending more than 100 days alone is something most people will never come close to experiencing. Bad weather conditions and technical issues can be tough but the biggest challenges come from within. However, Roura said he still managed to keep himself sane.
“ I had 7 or 8 hours of free time scattered throughout the 24 hours of each day, and never more than a couple of hours to sleep. During those small moments, I loved watching a movie. When you are alone in the middle of the ocean this feels amazing. The sound and the pictures almost make you feel like you are with someone. I also drew a lot, even if it wasn’t easy on the sailing boat. I love to draw but I admit sometimes it looked like the drawings of a 3-year old”.
Drawing by Alan Roura
“Another amazing experience in this adventure is when the weather allows you to just lie down under the sun, on the boat, to watch the endless sea. I could do it for hours and the feeling was indescribable. You enjoy the experience of living purely in the present time.”
The usual question people ask Alan is what was the best and what was the worst moment of his race. To this one he usually replies:
“There are no such things as best and worst in a sailing race. The most complicated moments are the ones when everything goes wrong, when you lose hope, but these moments become the ones you overcame fear and despair. They become the best memories.”
“The best 3 moments of the race were the start, Cape Horn in southern Chile and the arrival in Sables d’Olonne. The departure is a mix of joy and fear as you watch all your loved ones vanishing on the horizon. Cape Horn is a special moment for every sailor in the world. It makes you realize how little you are. It’s also the only moment when you actually see land. The arrival is also terrifying because you know it is the end of something important and that tomorrow will not be the same, compared to the past 100 days you just lived by yourself. Of course, you are also very happy to finally finish the race and to meet again with people after such a long time living in solitude”.
Overall, since the first seven editions of what is now commonly called the “Everest of the Seas”, only 71 out of the 138 sailors made it to the finish line. Alan Roura is proud to be one them.
All pictures by Christophe Breschi for Vendée Globe.