Back in 2018, Elisabeth Thorens had the audacious idea of creating a project to help women with breast cancer. In remission herself, she wanted to offer women affected by the disease the opportunity to recover from their ordeal through sailing. A few months later, little by little, her plan was starting to take shape thanks to support from various sources and with a lot of effort. The team was growing and the project was becoming a reality.
Following more than a year of preparation, eight women from the r’Ose Transat association weighed anchor on November 4th, 2019 to sail across the Atlantic aboard a Lagoon 42, Puma III. The crew was exclusively female: 6 women who have lived through the ordeal of breast cancer, a doctor and a skipper.
The first week turned out to be full of emotions, with the start of a project that had taken more than a year to set up. During their crossing, they were incredibly lucky with the weather. They didn’t experience any particular issues with the boat, apart from the gennaker halyard, which parted at the masthead sheave. They took advantage of their 36-hour stopover in the Cape Verde islands to climb the mast, change the halyard and add a spare one.
Stéphane Couty – Crew member “It was a challenge; a testimony that life doesn’t stop. We’re not survivors, we are alive, very alive and we want to go on further.”
Before setting off, they were a little apprehensive about the size of the boat for eight people. In the end, they were pleasantly surprised by the ergonomics, with a layout which guarantees excellent use of the space, making it easy to move around on board. The big plus of the boat is the amount of space in the galley. Elisabeth tells us that they were able to eat good, fresh food until the second week of the transatlantic crossing.
Elisabeth: “For me, a catamaran like the Lagoon 42 is the ideal boat for this kind of adventure. We were each able to find our place on board without stepping on each other. We even had room to dance! The Lagoon 42 is easy to handle and we all really enjoyed learning to sail on board her”.
Aboard, the roles were naturally defined and the days were punctuated thanks to various activities: On board, the roles were naturally defined and their days were punctuated thanks to various activities: sailing, discussing about their illness, meditation, writing, reading, photography, dancing to unwind a little… At night, they alternated watchkeeping shifts and enjoyed the starry sky.
Muriel Andrey-Favre – Skipper: “I would often find the crew lying on the coachroof admiring this breathtaking spectacle, a starry night with no light pollution! Life on board followed its course, and the proximity to the finish made the last few hours even more intense. You realize how lucky you are to have been part of this extraordinary adventure.”
During this experience, the skipper taught them how to disregard the theory, and to sail using their senses by feeling and observing the sea.
At the finish:
The crew reached the waters of Martinique on Thursday 28th November 2019, after many days at sea. There was big welcoming committee: husbands, partners, brothers, sisters and children were all there to welcome the crew of r’Ose Transat, their eight heroines.
This expedition allowed these women to face their fears and regain their self-confidence. It also encouraged women’s vocations in the world of sailing, as several of them are now dreaming of putting to sea again and crisscrossing the oceans.
Elisabeth Thorens-Gaud – Crew member: “I’ve lived some extraordinary moments on the ocean, with exceptional women of infinite kindness. These moments are now engraved in my heart.”
After their transatlantic crossing, they felt they had made progress, and feel more resilient in the face of life. They all say they have returned ashore with a feeling of lightness.
And r’Ose Transat?
Today, a big part of the project is still to come. During their transatlantic passage, Elisabeth created a logbook which aims to tell their story. This is going to be published late 2020, during “Pink October”, the month dedicated to breast cancer, by Éditions Favre. In this book, we’ll be able to find all their adventures as well as their testimonies.
A documentary film is also set to be released in April to recount their journey and their stories. Today the r’Ose transat adventure is continuing! The association “Heureuse qui comme…” (which translates as “Happy are those like…”) which manages the projects, is currently organizing sailing courses on Lake Geneva. This is the r’Ose Transat project and plans to set up a new transatlantic crossing in 2021.
The aim of these courses is not only to learn how to prepare a boat, but also to create an environment conducive to sharing, in order to exchange ideas about the disease and to regain self-confidence.
To find out more about their adventure, discover their logbook by clicking here
© Caroline Ackermann