Sailor crosses Atlantic on kite power

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Frenchwoman Anne Quemere becomes the first to kite-sail across an ocean unassisted

Frenchwoman Anne Quemere becomes the first to kite-sail across an ocean unassisted

The only person to row across the Atlantic in both directions has become the first person to sail a kite-driven boat unassisted across an ocean.

Anne Quemere, 40, of Quimper, France, set sail from Ambrose Light off New York June 18, crossing the Atlantic to Douarnenez, France, in 55 days and 15 hours. After nearly two months at sea Quemere says she was excited to return to her homeland.

“About 1,000 people were there to welcome me home,” Quemere says in an interview with Soundings. “I did this to prove that it was possible, and I’m happy to be back home now.”

In 2002-’03 Quemere rowed across the Atlantic from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, completing the westward passage in 55 days, 13 hours, 9 minutes, according to information on the Ocean Rowing Society Web site (www.oceanrowing.com). In 2004 she rowed across the pond from Chatham, Mass., to Lizard Point off Cornwall, England, in 87 days.

“Kite-sailing was the next step for me,” says Quemere. “I planned it just after my second Atlantic crossing in September 2004.”

Quemere, who says she has sailed since childhood, began preparing for the kite-sailing adventure about two years ago. Her preparation was “totally different from my two previous rowing challenges, as kiting can be compared to sailing sometimes,” she says. “When there is wind, the speed is three times superior to rowing.”

Designed by Marc Ginisty, Quemere’s boat, Connétable II, measures 18 feet overall and has an aft cabin for sleeping and a larger forward compartment for storing kites. Quemere carried an Argos beacon to track her progress, GPS, a hand-held VHF, flares, PFD, a strobe light and radar reflector.

In September 2005 British adventurer and former Royal Marine Dom Mee attempted to kite-sail across the North Atlantic but had to be rescued 460 miles off Newfoundland. Mee’s 14-foot boat, Little Murka, had capsized nine times in seas kicked up by the remnants of hurricanes Katrina and Maria, and tropical storms Nate and Ophelia.

“I never understood why he left at that time of the year,” Quemere says. “Fall is too late to cross the Atlantic the north way. Weather conditions are very tough, and for a first attempt you try to get the better chance to go, not the worst. So leaving in June, I knew I would not get the weather conditions he got.”

In fact, Quemere says she often experienced periods of no wind. “The weather was terrible this year, as I experienced a lack of wind almost every week,” she says. “That is the reason why it took me so long when I was planning on crossing in about six weeks. Mentally it was very difficult to deal with.”

During those windless periods, though, Quemere says she was able to enjoy the journey and the wildlife. “Seeing marine life such as dolphins [and] whales was wonderful,” she says. “It is always a great moment to meet with nature as we realize we humans are just part of it and nothing more.”

Back on the hard in France, Quemere says she plans to take some time off from crossing oceans but wouldn’t rule out future expeditions. “Every adventure is another step in my life,” she says. “They give me the opportunity to meet very interesting people, and from those meetings, I build new adventures. I do not like the idea of a scheduled life for the next 10 years to come, though. I am more on spontaneity, and opportunity.”

For more information, visit www.anne-quemere.com.