The worst day of her life, when she thought she would lose it. On December 2, Samantha Davies, 46, heroine of the Vendée Globe 2008-2009, which she had finished in fourth place, was in the lead when her ultra-fast monohull struck a floating object.
“It’s like I hit a wall, I flew into the cockpit and broke my ribs, I really thought I was dying, says the sailor on the phone from southern New Zealand. Then I feared that I would not be able to save my boat… Fortunately I found the energy to bring it ashore in Cape Town, South Africa. “
“The colleagues are already in Brazil”
She resumed sea on December 14 and is currently sailing not far from Alexia Barrier, 25e out of the 27 sailors still in the race. 25e against out of race: all the difference between these two women, formerly teammates in a Transat, is there. One follows her path, the other mourns her dreams of victory or the podium.
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to navigate without taking part in the fight, she continues. The first days after my return to sea were terrible, I was alone, far behind everyone. Now I’m starting to overtake competitors, but it’s hard to still have the Pacific to cross when the colleagues I usually fight with are already in Brazil. “
Between the noises of the lapping and the mistakes of the telephone communication, we perceive in the sometimes broken voice that the wound is still open. The courageous Englishwoman raised in “Fighting spirit” (spirit of combat Editor’s note) thought for a while not to leave. “On my first day ashore, I thought the time for my retirement had come. I dreamed of myself with my wand under my arm, when my son left school. And then I thought of Mireille, and all the others. “
“I had to get back on my horse”
Mireille is a little African who has had an open heart surgery in France, like 47 other young patients, thanks to the generosity of donors following her adventure. Two other children with a more solid heart pushed her to leave, her son Ruben, 9, and especially little Samantha Davies who had decided, a long time ago, to become a sailor.
“I had fallen from my horse, I had to get back into the saddle, overcome my fear, she says. Otherwise my career was over and I wouldn’t have been able to face those who helped me repair my boat in South Africa and those who encouraged me to take the helm again. “
Starting with Isabelle Autissier, one of the greatest sailors in history, who finished her Vendée Globe 1996-1997 out of the race under the same conditions. The president of WWF-France, who has also become a novelist, sent her as a viaticum the magnificent text she had written at the time and that Samantha Davies knows almost by heart : “And why persist? And why go back? For nothing ? Not for everything… for fidelity to his life choices, for the tribute to those who believed in it, who financed, built, worked, dreamed with me. For the principle of not giving up. For the honor of the captains who never abandon their ship. So that life continues, full, dense, sometimes bitter, sometimes caressing. And then, so that one day I bring my boat back to Les Sables-d’Olonne, as planned, quite simply. “
“Harder and even more beautiful”
Quite simply ? This adverb no longer really fits the Vendée Globe, which has become a sophisticated, expensive race, where adventure has given way to sporting competition. Usual in the first editions, the out-of-race arrivals have moreover disappeared from the shelves and Samantha Davies is aware of taking up the legend’s story in sepia ink.
“As it is very hard, I tell myself that it will perhaps be even more beautiful than my successful Vendée in 2008, she hopes. Of course I have blues, but I’m also happy to rediscover the pleasure of sailing differently, taking the time to listen to the sea, the birds, sleep, read and chat with friends on WhatsApp. ”
For example by toasting a beer a week, over the phone, every Friday, with her best friend, the Englishwoman Miranda Merron, who sails 2,000 km ahead: “To her, I can say whatever I have in me, in English, in my language, as if we were girls at the pub. “
She sails for the hearts of sick children
Baptized initiatives-coeur.fr, Samantha Davies’ boat bears the colors of the Mécénat cardiologie surgeon association, which finances operations in France for children from countries that do not have the necessary means. Donors can go to the initiatives-coeur.fr website and trigger clicks synonymous with euros (each operation costs € 12,000). They can also apply to become a foster family for children during their convalescence in France.