It takes a special kind of person to want to sail around the world… alone…. on a whim. But Bernard Moitessier was that kind of person. Not only did he circumnavigate the world, but he did it twice—once with his wife and then, the next time, alone.
His first voyage, which he undertook with his wife Françoise in 1963, would take two years: a journey of over 14216 nautical miles in over 126 days, setting a world record.
And yet wanderlust still gripped the voyager, even after those grueling years at sea. Even more, he wanted to do it again. Word of his desire reached the ears of Robin Knox-Johnston, an English sailor who had just secured sponsorship from the Sunday Times for a single-handed yacht race.
The Sunday Times invited Moitessier to take part. He was hesitant, at first, about the publicity that the race—and, if he won, the £5000 prize—would bring him. However, he consented, and set sail from Plymouth on August 22 in his boat, the Joshua.
Despite the battering seas and winds in the Roaring Forties, Moitessier made good time, and was held by many spectators of the race to be the favorite. But in the calms of the Indian Ocean, he had a change of heart. Winning the race would not bring him the happiness that he could only find at sea.
He withdrew from the race, by firing a note addressed to the Sunday Times via slingshot onto the deck of a passing ship. In explaining his decision to abandon the race and continue to circumnavigate the globe alone, he said “because I am happy at sea, and perhaps to save my soul.” All told, he and the Joshua sailed 37,455 nautical miles in 10 months, yet another world record.
That same spirit of adventure inhabits this watch, a Yema Yachtingraf Croissière. It was created for sailors like Moitessier, who take part in yacht races. The colorful sub-dial at 3 o’clock is a countdown timer for the start of the race. However, the additional sub-dial at 6 o’clock—a cross-shape which gives the model its name—can be used to measure elapsed time up to 12 hours.
If you’re ever gripped by wanderlust and desire, like Moitessier, to take to the sea, you would do well to have a watch like this one strapped to your wrist.
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