Simon Rigal, temporary captain

More accustomed to embarking on Abeille tugboats over the past 10 years, Simon is back on board, sailing Tara to …

More accustomed to embarking on Abeille tugboats over the past 10 years, Simon is back on board, sailing Tara to Papua New Guinea. This is a temporary replacement since Martin Hertau (official captain of the Tara Pacific expedition along with Samuel Audrain) is currently in training at the national merchant marine school in Nantes. Simon’s first nautical miles as Tara’s captain date back to the end of August 2005. He was only 27 years old and had his dream come true piloting a vessel on an ornithological campaign in South Georgia.


Simon, you’ve returned 12 years after your first experience aboard Tara. Why?

When Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation, called me to propose this temporary job as Tara’s Captain, I was touched and very happy. We’ve been in contact since Georgia and the Tara team has invited me to most of their events. But this proposal meant coming back on board and participating in an expedition. So I asked and obtained from “Les Abeilles” management (whom I’d like to thank here) an unpaid leave, and here I am. Being back gives me the impression that I’ve come full circle. Like a pilgrimage, it makes me feel good. After South Georgia, I sailed Tara from Lorient until the schooner was locked in the ice for the Arctic drift expedition. Then I became a dad. Being back on board, I’m reliving some of those past sensations. Memories resurface and I’m reconnecting with the marine adventure I love so much. I’m also delighted to meet people: Daniel Cron, Nicolas de la Brosse, Charlène Gicquel, Samuel Audrain and Marion Lauters who disembarked in New Zealand. I see that everyone is progressing well, just like the project. Moreover, I’d never been to New Zealand and Australia.


4-retrouvailles - Charlene Gicquel - Fondation Tara Expeditions© Charlène Gicquel / Tara Expéditions Foundation


You just took over the helm from Samuel, who disembarked 4 days ago. You’ve known each other for a long time. He was a sailor when you first met, wasn’t he?

I met Samuel at the beginning of 2005, during the Clipperton expedition led by Jean-Louis Étienne aboard the Rara Avis, one of Father Jaouen’s ships. Before that, during my 5th year in the merchant navy, we sailed one day to Camaret with another of Father Jaouen’s vessels. Tara was there and the crew members in their yellow raincoats were having a drink. I was with Nicolas Quentin, Tara’s future chief engineer. We didn’t dare talk to them, even though the schooner made us fantasize. Some time after that, Sam embarked aboard Tara, as did Nico Quentin. They told me Tara Expeditions was looking for a skipper and I received a first phone call. I thought: “If I don’t do it now, I never will”. That’s how my story with Tara began.


6-photo 8_Simon Rigal, nouveau capitaine_Vincent Hilaire _ Fondation Tara Expeditions© Vincent Hilaire / Tara Expéditions Foundation


You really got a foot in the door: afterwards you spent more than a year aboard Tara, participating in 2 amazing missions.

I embarked in Camaret at the end of August 2005, a few months after Clipperton. Tara was being prepared for a campaign in the Southern Ocean: Georgia, Patagonia, Diego Ramirez, etc. I was a 27-year-old captain and I found myself at the helm of this awesome ship. One day while we were sailing to the island of Groix, long before leaving for Cape Verde and Georgia, I realized that when you strongly believe in something, you can sometimes make it happen. With Tara, I had access to everything I love: a mix of adventure, different cultures, science and art. The campaign in Georgia was exciting. We were doing counts of giant petrels, albatross and fur seals with the British Antarctic Survey. There was also a glaciologist aboard who installed sensors to monitor advancing glaciers in the Antarctic Ocean. We then conducted a second campaign with Sally Poncet, an Australian biologist specialized in the Antarctic, and Ellen MacArthur.


While you were down south, another campaign was already in preparation on the opposite side of the world: the Arctic drift.

With Tara, you never get bored (laughs)! After these 2 campaigns in the Southern Ocean, we first had to sail back to France after a last stop in the Diego Ramirez Islands and rounding Cape Horn. Tara Arctic was already in preparation with a period of dry dock maintenance lasting several months during the spring of 2006. I had been navigating for 2 years in a row in the Pacific (Clipperton), the Antarctic and Georgia, and soon it would be the Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans! Tara Arctic was a really outstanding project. Romain asked me to sail the schooner until she was locked in ice. I didn’t want to stay afterwards because I was feeling tired after 2 years of circumnavigation. I had planned on coming back aboard Tara for the second winter of the expedition and sailing her back home to Lorient. But, shortly afterwards, I became a dad and started my career at Les Abeilles.


Tara en Arctique au début du mois de septembre 2006© F. Latreille / Tara Expéditions Foundation


Ten years have gone by, and you’re joining Tara today. How does the schooner look to you?

Technically, there are 2 new engines and 2 new propellers, currently in their breaking-in period. The exhaust system has also been successfully improved during Tara’s recent dry dock in New Zealand. The sails are in good condition. Tara is aging well, thanks to all the sailors’ hard work. On a scientific level too, everything has also evolved in the right direction. Tara remains Tara, with this futuristic look from the 1990s (smile). She still slams hard into the waves (laughs)!  This ship was born from a crazy idea but she’s following her course. The schooner herself is a whole project. I take my hat off to all those who have given so much for the adventure to keep growing. In return, Tara makes you grow up too. Sam, who was a sailor 10 years ago and is now her captain, is the best example of this.


The former chief engineer of the Abeille Languedoc will enjoy the voyage to Papua New Guinea.


Interview by Vincent Hilaire

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© Vincent Hilaire / Tara Expéditions Fondation

Tara’s new departure: heading to Sydney for the 2nd year of Tara Pacific

Docked in New Zealand since June 18th, Tara set sail this Wednesday for the 2nd year of the Tara Pacific …

Docked in New Zealand since June 18th, Tara set sail this Wednesday for the 2nd year of the Tara Pacific expedition devoted to coral. The annual maintenance is completed, and a new chapter of this maritime odyssey begins. By the end of October, scientists aboard the schooner will have collected hundreds of new coral samples from the planet’s 2 largest structures built by these animals — in Australia and New Caledonia.


DCIM100MEDIADJI_0001.JPG© François Aurat / Tara Expéditions Foundation


After torrential rains lasting almost all day, the sun slowly came out 2 hours before our departure to offer us an exceptional late afternoon. The landscapes surrounding Whangarei and its river resemble those of Normandy or Limousin in France.


Before the end of the traditional clearance* procedure Tara’s new captain, Simon Rigal asked chief mechanic Charlène Gicquel and Daniel Cron (who will debark in Sydney) to start the 2 engines. Seeing that everything was on the right track with the Kiwi customs officer, Simon was eager to leave Whangarei and carry out the departure maneuvers during this window of beautiful, dry weather.


Samuel Audrain, outgoing captain and Marion Lauters, outgoing cook, played dockhands and released the moorings on land. Slowly, after a slight move forward on the last mooring, Simon backed up to the end of the dock.


Hailed one last time by Marion and Samuel, Tara then headed east leaving a wake behind the gray hull. Ahead were 15 km of nighttime navigation to leave this beautiful sinuous river and reach the sea.


photo 14_Nicolas de la Brosse prepare les voiles_Vincent Hilaire - Fondation Tara Expeditions© Vincent Hilaire / Tara Expéditions Foundation


Less than 2 hours later, the first signs of rolling indicated that we had left this sheltered path for open water. Like a dromedary advancing in a sea of sand dunes, the schooner bobbed and throbbed forward.


We navigated with the motor for almost a day before encountering more difficult conditions. Weather reports announce 30 knot** westerly winds for the next few days.

This means we will start sailing to Sydney into the wind and the hours ahead may be a bit taxing for the 10 who are on board. They will have no choice but to quickly acquire their sea-legs. To stabilize the schooner and reduce rolling, the sailors hoisted the mainsail and foresail.


We are expected on August 18th in Sydney, a distance of 1,215 nautical miles.*** On our first night at sea there’s a nearly full moon. This is the second time the schooner will come into Darling Harbor. In March 1990, Jean-Louis Étienne finished the trans-Antarctica with 6 other explorers in this Australian port.


Vincent Hilaire


* authorization for departure

** 55 km/hour

***2,250 km

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10 years of passion, and no previous pop-up!

After more than 2 days traveling west, I arrived on August 6 in Auckland (New Zealand). A 2-hour drive brought …

After more than 2 days traveling west, I arrived on August 6 in Auckland (New Zealand). A 2-hour drive brought me to Port Whangarei and the welcoming sight of Tara’s orange tipped masts. After a first good night’s sleep, my 5th mission on board began. I met up with many former traveling companions: Nicolas de la Brosse, first mate, François Aurat, deck officer, Samuel Audrain, outgoing captain, Marion Lauters, outgoing cook and Daniel Cron, chief engineer. My sailing family is brought together once again for 3 and a half months, up to Papua New Guinea. Together, we’re going to write a new page of these 10 years of expeditions and passion that I’ve had the chance to experience, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.


retrouvailles - Charlene Gicquel - Fondation Tara Expeditions
Reunion of the new on board correspondent Vincent Hilaire with the crew at Whangarei. © Charlène Gicquel / Tara Expéditions Foundation


Everything started well when I left home. The taxi driver was on time and we soon arrived at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport terminal 2A. “New Zealand, it’s not next door!” he said before we chatted about French news.

At 8.30am, there was already a big queue for checking-in. After half an hour, I reached a counter and began the classic routine of ID presentation for these 3 flights about to take me to the southern hemisphere, at the other end of the world. My luggage was being registered when a pop-up appeared on the screen in front of the Air Tahiti Nui stewardess. “I can’t complete your check-in. The computer is blocked because you don’t have a return ticket”.

I explained that it was normal since I was on my way to join a ship. After my mission, I would disembark at another location. Despite my explanation, the pop-up persisted.

So I had to interrupt the formalities before completion, even though my boarding passes were duly issued. Now I had to plead my case. I produced the Tara Pacific expedition’s  presentation file and my contract letter to a first supervisor.

But the pop-up was still resisting, imposing its hegemony.

Three quarters of an hour after my arrival, I was still at the same terminal in front of the main supervisor. A new ordeal where I needed to be on my toes: presentation file, explanation of the mission and the inapplicability of a return ticket, etc. “We can’t let you go without a ticket back, Sir. I have to call immigration services in New Zealand to inform them and they will decide. They will need a local address.” Despite my experience in these situations with 2 hours before take-off, my departure was not certain.

The address given, the head supervisor came back a quarter of an hour later, on the phone with Auckland. In Shakespeare’s language, I had to explain once again the reasons for my one-way ticket. Fortunately, my interrogator was friendly and supportive. Having detailed a bit more about our mission and reassured her of my customs clearance papers, I then explained to her that Tara was actually Peter Blake’s ship, the former Seamaster. All of a sudden, the pop-up was disappeared: Sir Peter Blake’s aura had defeated it.

I checked my baggage, passed security and finally embarked.

Paris-Los Angeles was an 11-hour flight, followed by a first 10-hour transit. Unfortunately, I was about to discover that the pop-up had a cousin in the USA!

An hour before boarding my second plane to fly Los Angeles-Papeete, a loudspeaker message invited me to go to the nearest terminal counter.

Hello Sir, why don’t you have a return ticket?”  Since I wasn’t afraid of the pop-up anymore, my arguments were now well organized for battle: “Sir, I was asked the same question in Paris. Despite this, the New Zealand border police have given their consent to my entry, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to board the plane in France. In addition, I already have the customs clearance to go to Australia, our next stopover”.

Ok Sir, I’ll check with my boss.

The pop-up’s American cousin and partners never re-appeared.


Vincent Hilaire

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© Julien Girardot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

“On board and in dry dock maintenance, I’m the mechanic!” – Daniel Cron, chief engineer

Interview with Daniel Cron in Whangarei, New Zealand, where Tara has stopped for repairs. Engines, electricity, painting, the schooner undergoes …

Interview with Daniel Cron in Whangarei, New Zealand, where Tara has stopped for repairs. Engines, electricity, painting, the schooner undergoes a midway overhaul in the southern hemisphere’s winter weather. 


Tara was in dry dock maintenance for several months in Lorient before the expedition departure. Why is Tara in dry dock now, a year after leaving her home port?

A ship is like a car and needs to be maintained. To do this, you take it to a mechanic. I’m the chief engineer here: I ensure the proper functioning of the engines for propulsion, generators for electricity, desalinator for drinking water and many other small repairs. Dry dock maintenance is a bit like the “technical control” for cars, with the difference that Tara is much more complex than a car, because in addition to mechanics, there’s the “sailing” dimension!

During an expedition, we always organize at least one month of dry dock maintenance each year, but when preparing for a new mission, some maintenance can take 4-6 months! Moreover, the “whale” (Tara’s nickname) is now an “elderly lady”:  28 years is a lot for a ship, and she needs to receive increasing care year after year.


Tara_au_chantier2-credit_Noelie_Pansiot-Fondation Tara Expeditions.jpgTo prepare for the second year of the Tara Pacific expedition, overhauling the schooner continues in dry dock. © Tara Expéditions Foundation


Who works in the maintenance shipyard? Are people sailors and mechanics at the same time?

Dry dock maintenance for a sailor is literally changing your way of life! The expedition is put on hold during maintenance and all the scientists go back to their labs. We take the vessel out of the water which is always impressive! Then begins a ballet of coming and going between the stores, and technicians coming to support us during the repairs. No more night shifts and no more scientific sampling. During the maintenance, we live like you landlubbers, although still on board. It’s a rare thing for us and we value the opportunity to easily communicate with our loved ones, go to a restaurant, the swimming pool, and sometimes even explore a region. It also feels good to get out of the ship for a while. A small team of 6 or 7 sailors usually remains on board and everyone contributes and becomes somewhat of a “mechanic”. Days are busy, we don’t count hours. Maintenance in dry dock is always intense!


DCIM100MEDIADJI_0087.JPGTara in dry dock for repairs. © Nicolas de la Brosse / Tara Expéditions Foundation


What type of work is performed?

Maintenance in the shipyard is usually carried out, either because we haven’t had time to do it earlier (between science and navigation), or because it’s impossible to stop the equipment for repairs while sailing, or simply because it requires very specific tools we don’t have on board. During each maintenance, there are many recurring small repairs, almost mandatory every year: cleaning the hull, checking the sea water valves (to avoid stupidly sinking), painting, welding, cleaning, and of course, everything associated with safety! Everything has to be checked: medical equipment (needed in the event of an accident), firefighting equipment (in case of fire), and the various distress and safety systems (in the event of abandoning ship). In addition, there are some major works specifically planned for this dry dock in New Zealand, for instance, fitting silencers on the engines’ exhaust pipes to reduce noise, installation of new propellers to go faster and consume less fuel, replacing the desalinator, and many more. We continuously try to improve daily life aboard the schooner and to renovate when needed!


Daniel_Cron_credit_Fondation Tara Expeditions
Chief engineer Daniel Cron checks the condition of the 2 engines. © Tara Expéditions Foundation


In what shape are Tara’s engines?

Even though Tara is a sailboat, we have 2 engines aboard that allow us to maneuver in port or move forward when there’s not enough wind. Each of them drives a propeller. The chief engineer is fully aware of their importance and spends his time taking great care of them! Over time, it feels like a real relationship has developed between the three of us (laughs). I have a particular relationship with these machines, even to the point where I personify them! Now, everyone on board knows these “ladies” under their respective nicknames, “Brigitte” and “Thérèse”, respectively located on the port (bâbord in French) and starboard (tribord) sides. Who knows if they don’t have their own secret feelings? (laughs).

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Stopover in New Zealand for Tara’s Annual Check-up

Having completed the first year of the Tara Pacific expedition, on June 18 Tara docked in Whangarei, northern New Zealand. …

Having completed the first year of the Tara Pacific expedition, on June 18 Tara docked in Whangarei, northern New Zealand. Samuel Audrain, Tara’s captain since he embarked in Kobe, and 6 sailors are participating in this mid-course maintenance session. This is a classic check-up, including verification of the engines and other vital elements. At the end of this week, the sailors will take a break and go to Auckland for a week. Invited by the Sir Peter Blake Trust, Tara and her crew will participate in many festivities.


9_Arrivee_NZ_iminente_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2230082After 8 days of sailing, Tara arrives in New Zealand with the first rays of sun. © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions


As soon as they arrived from Fiji, the crew set to work. For Samuel, it was important to reach New Zealand on this date and this season, for two reasons: “First of all, we couldn’t stay in the northern hemisphere with the cyclone season coming up and still maintain our schedule for the rest of the expedition. Moreover, in Whangarei, we have an ideal technical platform for the overhaul.

The workers are efficient, competent and available to do what we had planned before the next departure on August 9th”.

VH: As always aboard Tara, time is short. How did you organize the work with local shipyards?

SA: “Over the past few weeks, we established 2 lists for the chantier. The first included all the work to to be done by local service providers. We know we can delegate certain tasks to them, including a lot of welding. Then there’s a list of things to do ourselves, including the revision of the 2 new engines Brigitte 2 and Thérèse 2 which are celebrating their first year of operation. We also intend to reduce the overall sound level by installing silencers. Among the important micro-projects already accomplished this week, we completely repainted the freshwater reservoir.

On the way back from Auckland, around July 19, the second part of the chantier will begin. We’ll take Tara out of the water to clean the hull, and also remove the shaft lines of the 2 engines. The engine cooling system does not work well. The temperature gets too high and we have to find a solution. Installing a new, more efficient refrigeration chamber is the right thing to do. We will also take the opportunity to install 2 new propellers. Tara will be in dry dock for about 10 days, then we’ll finish the last tasks with the boat in the water”.


Samuel Audrain (capitaine) vérifie le câblage de la timonerie depuis le carréSamuel Audrain (captain) checks the wiring of the wheelhouse from the main cabin. © Maeva Bardy / Fondation Tara Expéditions


VH: It’s been more than 10 days since you started to test Tara. How do you find the schooner after the first year of expedition in these hot latitudes?

SA: I find that the more time passes, the better Tara is! When we return to Lorient next time, it won’t be difficult to be quickly operational again.

The annual maintenance session will also be the occasion for several visits and certifications. Since we are registered in the Merchant Shipping Registry, we will have the annual visit of the Bureau Veritas, the certification organization that gives us the right to sail.

There will also be an official fire inspection, and a mandatory sanitary visit which happens every 6 months.


19_Arrivee_a_terre_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2230178For a few days the schooner will have some repair work done before the Auckland stopover. © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions


VH: Tara, formerly Seamaster, is returning for the first time to the homeland of its former owner, the late Sir Peter Blake. Before the big festivities in Auckland that will last a week with many visitors on board, how did the locals welcome you in this quiet town of Whangarei?

SA: As soon as we entered the channel leading to our berth at Whangarei, we saw people photographing Tara from the surrounding hills. Some told us they had recognized the boat and were very surprised to see it here again. Since then, photos have been published in the local press, as well as important coverage by the national press.

When we started working on Tara with local service providers, they said: Welcome home”!

There’s no doubt that when Tara arrives in Auckland on Saturday, July 1 at 1 pm, there will be a great thrill on board.

The tribute will be immense. The memory of the sailor with the generous blonde mustache is still very much present. Especially since New Zealand just won the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. The last time this trophy was brought back by the kiwis to their island, it was with Peter Blake.


Vincent Hilaire

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© Nicolas de la Brosse / Fondation Tara Expéditions

Return to America’s Cup Country, by Romain Troublé

At the end of 2000, the schooner Seamaster (renamed Tara 3 years later) with Sir Peter Blake at the helm, …

At the end of 2000, the schooner Seamaster (renamed Tara 3 years later) with Sir Peter Blake at the helm, left Auckland’s Viaduct Harbor for a long journey. Like the famous explorer Sir Edmund Hilary before him, navigator Peter Blake had proven to his fellow Kiwis that they were capable of making a mark on the rest of the world. A true leader of men, he broke records around the world and won almost all the major sailing races, including the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000.


“Meeting Peter, participating in the America’s Cup, living here in Auckland – These experiences will undoubtedly accompany me throughout my life”


It’s very moving to come back here, as it was 17 years ago in 2000, and also in 2003. I had the chance to sail in the Hauraki Gulf aboard the French challenge for the America’s Cup. We didn’t win, but meeting Peter, participating in the Cup, living here in Auckland – will definitely accompany me throughout my entire life, like all the powerful experiences that one can live in a lifetime. It was during this period, in 2002, that Etienne Bourgois, founder of the Tara project, came here to build a boat and met Alistair Moore, who, a few years later, told him that Seamaster might be sold.


“The story of Tara has been crazy, since her construction: Yesterday and today, her existence comes from the realm of dreams”


unnamed1© Ivor Wilkins


To be back here aboard Tara is something very special and powerful for Etienne and for me.  Bringing Tara back to Viaduct Harbor after all these years and adventures in the 4 corners of planet Ocean is extremely moving – an intense emotion shared by the hundreds of Kiwis visiting Tara this week. We really feel the aura of Peter at every encounter. I often say that Tara is one of those rare boats endowed with a soul. Her history has been crazy since her construction. Yesterday and today, her existence comes from the realm of dreams, from the passion that motivated Jean-Louis Etienne, Sir Peter Blake, and the Tara team to turn dreams into reality.


Being here is great, and it seems that destiny has played one of its tricks. The New Zealand team engaged in the America’s Cup in Bermuda last month not only had the talent to win the trophy hands down – Bravo! – but had the good idea to bring the trophy back to Auckland yesterday, after losing it 14 years ago.


Hamish Hooper _ ETNZ© Hammish Hooper / ETNZ


Lots of “thumbs up”, “good job, guys!”, “bravos!”, photos and selfies from the 10,000 Kiwi spectators


History and immense chance, a meeting of paths –  I was here in the driving rain with the Tara dream team, in the heart of the parade celebrating the return of the New Zealand Emirates Team, amidst hundreds of boats. Lots of  “thumbs up”, “good job, guys!, “bravos!”, photos and selfies from the 10,000 Kiwi spectators present. Without a doubt the most beautiful recognition for Agnès b., Etienne, the Tara team, our partners, and for me was given by the public here. The feeling that Tara is worthy of Peter’s legacy. It wasn’t a given, and now it’s up to all of us to continue.


“A very beautiful way to close the loop”


Returning here in these conditions at this precise moment is a very beautiful way of closing the loop. But beyond this, Etienne and I believe this is the beginning of a new cycle. The Sir Peter Blake Foundation and the City of Auckland have given a unique and moving welcome for Tara. The Blake Foundation teams are as passionate as we are in sharing, engaging the public and the young generation on the path of science and sustainable development. A wonderful partnership that will allow us to welcome young Blake Ambassadors on board for expeditions, get the participation of Kiwis, and why not sponsors  in the missions of the Tara Expeditions Foundation. Stand-by tack!


Romain Troublé,
Executive director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation

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Portrait of Nicolas Bin, first mate

The list of the first mate’s tasks is long, very long. If we were to cite his most important responsibility, …

The list of the first mate’s tasks is long, very long. If we were to cite his most important responsibility, it would certainly be safety. At age 36, Nicolas Bin takes his job seriously, with rigor and a profound knowledge of the boat. That’s what it takes to be in the N° 2 position aboard Tara. Before he leaves the boat after 5 months of mission, here’s a lively portrait of Tara’s first mate:

Can you talk about my shorts and boots in this portrait?” Despite his responsibilities, the first mate maintains his keen sense of humor. A cheerful type with hair just starting to turn gray, he enjoys making plays on words. Trained at the Glénans school of sailing, Nicolas did not consider the profession of sailor immediately. After his baccalaureat, he hesitated between pursuing studies in music (at a conservatory) or sports (at the fac). But the music lover/black belt in judo finally chose a third alternative: the sea.

When asked what he likes about sailing, Nicolas replies: “It’s one of the last spaces of liberty. I love traveling and meeting people, and from a technical point of view, I enjoy maneuvering the boat and adjusting the sails. When I sail, I always imagine the boat seen from the outside. I try to visualize its aesthetics”. Despite his Alsatian origins, Nicolas began sailing at age 10 with his father in Plobsheim.   “When I was a child, at the end of  a summer vacation the last swim in the sea was a special moment. It was a separation from the sea and I always said a special goodbye”.

After a year and a half as a volunteer at Les Glénans, Nicolas passed the national sailing certification in Quiberon, then was certified “Patron de plaisance” in Cherbourg. From 2005 to 2007, he worked between France and the West Indies as an itinerant “Chef de base”, training instructors for the UCPA. Afterwards he did many back and forth trips between Egypt and Marseilles, but also across the Atlantic. Of all the boats he sailed, only one really caught his attention: “Shooting Star”, a 60-foot former racing catamaran. “I liked that boat very much because it was rugged, with a very elegant profile. It was my first big boat”. Afterwards Nicolas alternated seasons in Corsica and Ushuaia, then went to warm up in French Polynesia on a charter dive boat.

Aboard Tara, the first mate is at the heart of human relations. Each time the scientific team changes, Nicolas is in charge of welcoming new arrivals, explaining the functioning of the boat, organizing the night shift, etc. His briefing on safety and life on board is well established and leaves out no details. He gathers new arrivals around the large table in the main cabin to talk about the challenges of group living and the joys of sharing household chores. And he always gives this warning: “Forbidden to injure yourself on board. Everyone must watch over his own safety and that of others…When there’s a doubt, there’s no doubt: if you smell a suspicious smell, hear a suspicious noise, tell a sailor”.


First Mate Nico Bin getting his first look at Japan_photo credit Sarah Fretwell_0Q8A3656© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions


For Loïc Caudan, one of the 2 head mechanics aboard, “It’s pleasant and easy to work with Nico. I think we have the same way of apprehending work on board. He’s always motivated to lend a hand, whatever the task to accomplish, even the most unpleasant. The first mate’s role is very important: he’s the link between crew and captain, between scientists and crew. Nicolas is very good in this role. He puts everyone at ease with his irresistible charm”.

Charming, even a crooner, he never holds back at the piano: “He could have lived in another era” says Daniel Cron, the other head mechanic.  “He has a slightly jazzy, retro side”. I could see him playing in the smoky bars of New Orleans with the greats of the time — Amstrong, Parker, etc.”

When Nicolas’ name is mentioned to Samuel Audrain, the Captain praises him highly: “He’s the ideal first mate — a guy who really knows how to sail and has experience in sailing, which is important aboard Tara. He likes things well done. Nico is also a sensitive guy you can really talk to. And it’s nice to share something other than work. We often get together to play music”.


P2170647© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions


After a day’s work, the 2 men meet to ‘let go’, Samuel on the accordion and Nicolas at the piano. The wheelhouse, PC Com or workshop are transformed into a rehearsal room. The duo plays and replays the same melodies over and over: Libertango; Tango for Claude, Besame Mucho…Sometimes, at the request of the Taranauts, the musicians set up in the main cabin. Crew members start to sing and dance, with more or less talent, but always in good humor. With big smiles, Sam and Nico get totally into the music, playing until they drop.


Noëlie Pansiot

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© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

“Bula Fiji”

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days, the sailors finally docked the schooner. On June 1, at 2pm …

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days, the sailors finally docked the schooner. On June 1, at 2pm local time, Tara entered Port of Lautoka, a city located west of Viti Levu in the Fiji archipelago. But this was a short stopover. The Taranauts’ program during their first 24 hours ashore was very busy: buying provisions, filling out customs forms, and preparing the ship for a new scientific mission.

Some Taranauts would gladly have stayed a few more days at sea, but others were looking forward to setting foot on land, hearing birds singing and seeing green vegetation. For Samuel Audrain, Tara’s captain and sailor at heart: “When you’re on board for a long time, you enter another space-time. In the end, you lose track of time spent at sea. One or two more weeks don’t change anything.”


Image ElyxElyx, the UN’s digital ambassador, who illustrated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aboard Tara to participate in World Ocean Day from Fiji © Elyx by Yak


For a month, the skyline and the sea had become our daily lives. On June 1 around 6am, land appeared, breaking our routine. When the first islets came into sight on the port side, the deck was already teeming with scientists ready with a plankton net to filter liters of water. At this early hour, nobody had yet realized that this great adventure on the high seas was about to end. Around 10am, Tara entered the Navula Passage, heading toward a quarantine zone before obtaining approval from the health authorities in Lautoka. A little further, a small pod of dolphins escorted the schooner…


13_Lamaneurs_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2220429Docking pilots in the port of Lautoka, Viti Levu Island © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation


At 2pm, the head docker moored the schooner while others immediately shouted their greetings: “Bula!” In Fijian, this means “welcome, hello, goodbye” – a word repeated by every new person we meet. Here, in the second largest town in the Republic of Fiji, people greet each other in the street.

Tomorrow, the Taranauts will sail another 25 miles towards Kuta Island to reach their first sampling site. The scientists on board will follow the sampling protocol, marking the beginning of the second year of Tara’s expedition in the Pacific Ocean. For 5 days, the team will study 3 different sites. Then the schooner will sail along the south coast of Viti Levu to reach its capital, Suva. Taranauts will then be able to follow closely the UN Ocean Conference, being held in New York. They will participate in live discussions with United Nations representatives and contribute their precious testimony.


10_Tara_baie_Kuata_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-0058Tara moored near the small island of Kuata in Fiji © Samuel Audrain / Tara Expéditions Foundation


*Bula Fiji: Welcome to Fiji


Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

Portrait of a sailor: Loïc Caudan

Loïc Caudan is something of a shadow man aboard Tara: he’s below deck in the bowels of the whale and …

Loïc Caudan is something of a shadow man aboard Tara: he’s below deck in the bowels of the whale and discreetly watches over its vital organs. Whether in the engine room, the workshop, the hold or under the passageways, he moves around carefully, far from the bustle of the bridge, which is perfect for him. During his long months on board, he pampers, repairs, creates and maintains. Who exactly is this Taranaut? Portrait of a “chief mechanic” very different from the stereotypes.


For the first mate, Nicolas Bin, Loïc is “a guy I like to work and sail with! He’s someone who finishes things and doesn’t go half-way.” On board, everyone agrees that the young man is conscientious and reliable. But not only…


2-Loic_Caudan_credit_NPansiot-2170205Chief engineer Loïc Caudan upon arrival in Yokohama harbour © Noélie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation


32 years old, married with one child, Loïc grew up in Val-d’Oise until he was 20. He enrolled in geography at the university and earned a bachelor’s degree in “History, Sociology, Climatology and Geology”. In parallel, he became an instructor for “dinghy sailing and sailboat cruising”. Following a year of volunteer work at the French Les Glénans sailing school and a state certificate as sports instructor at the National Sailing School of Quiberon, Loïc found his vocation! “At least for a while.” He then worked at Les Glénans for 3 seasons. While there, he didn’t hesitate to jump overboard to put his apprentice-monitors to the test during rescue exercises. “The most grueling session lasted 45 minutes in 15° C water. That’s a long time, even in a wetsuit,” recalls the chief mechanic.


In 2010, he joined forces with Father Jaouen’s association to improve his knowledge of ship maintenance and repair: “I was given responsibilities even as a novice. I helped to fabricate a bronze rudder bearing for a 36-meter boat. A rare experience!” It’s here that he acquired the basics for his future work aboard Tara. He then embarked on a major personal project: buying and refitting a steel sailboat and sailing along the coasts of Africa, Brazil and Uruguay.


On his return in 2012, he passed the 750Kw mechanic’s certificate and volunteered as a mechanic on the Greenland expedition Under the Pole. “I was involved in the project from the construction site to the end of the exploration. And it was during this first polar experience that I encountered my first big engine breakdown. Seawater had entered the cylinder head.” Loïc then turned to another environment: fishing. He embarked as second mechanic on a 35-meter trawler for 8 months.


IMG_7934© Tara Expéditions Foundation


Loïc always thought about working aboard Tara: “I wanted to continue to be on a work boat and to sail, which is, in my opinion the nicest way to navigate.” For the last 2 and a half years, the 30-year old has taken turns in the position of chief mechanic on the schooner. Daniel Cron, his alter ego on board explains: “In general, it’s a bit frustrating since we just cross paths on Tara. But just for a change, this time I embarked as deck officer. So we have the opportunity to sail together for a month to Fiji. And I’m very happy! We are opposites in character: he’s rather quiet and I’m rather extroverted. In fact Loic mentions from time to time that silence doesn’t bother him. At first, he plays the role of gruffy bear and it takes a little while to find the marshmallow inside. He’s a fake bad guy, but a real grumbler when it comes to the consumption of water and electricity on board. And he’s right!”




It must be said that Loïc is responsible for all of the schooner’s energy production. He understands how much each drop of water costs and knows every energy expenditure. Engines, generators, desalinator, electric circuits, water circuits for science and even sanitary. Loïc watches over Tara’s essential organs, and also over his teammates. He is always there to help.


After thinking about it, he probably makes a game out of being reluctant. Loïc displays a cynical sense of humor but he doesn’t lack responsiveness or general culture. His characteristic shrugging and eyebrow raising show that he participates in the teasing on board. You often have to listen carefully to hear him say a word. He doesn’t like being the center of attention, and when the on-board correspondent points a camera in his direction, the chief mechanic bends over and closes his eyes. When asked to open them, he answers at a glance, “You should take my picture only when I have them open! Maybe it’s time you found a real job.” Bursts of laughter follow.



Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noélie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

31 days of autonomy at sea

Tara has been traveling towards the South Pacific for the past few days, heading for Fiji, more precisely for Lautoka, …

Tara has been traveling towards the South Pacific for the past few days, heading for Fiji, more precisely for Lautoka, with arrival expected on the first of June.  6 sailors, 5 scientists and a journalist are aboard, living in complete autonomy for a whole month of sailing. On the high seas, Taranauts maintain a fast pace determined by the rhythm of sampling stations, daily tasks and night shifts. This leg is the longest of the Tara Pacific expedition.


744 hours of navigation. A unique experience for 13 people living in full autonomy aboard an oceanographic vessel. But what is “autonomy” at sea? The dictionary gives this definition of the word: “Time during which a device can function without outside intervention”. Regarding Tara, this definition is not limited to the supply of food and fuel.

Energy independence is indeed one of the main concerns of Captain Samuel Audrain: “Fuel oil is an important concern because we have to arrive on schedule. But fuel is expensive and weighs down the boat. So we have to make some calculations. We departed with 25,000 liters — the reservoir a little more than half full. And as soon as conditions are right, we hoist the sails and choose a direction to get maximum benefit from the wind. Being powered by the wind makes everyone feel happy, stabilizes the boat, and spares the motors. We move much faster, and of course our carbon footprint is much improved”.


All sails outside, the schooner advances at a speed of 7 knots © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Samuel continues: “Water autonomy is also a crucial point. We have a 6000-liter tank and a desalinator. In case of a problem with this machine, we have 390 liters of bottled water which, theoretically, would keep us going for a week”.

When embarking aboard the schooner, risks related to the remoteness of medical care must be considered. In the event of a problem, the Taranauts would not be lacking for care. The boat carries medical equipment labelled “Dotation A” consisting of materials and medicines determined by the type of navigation practiced, and the number and function of people on board. The letter “A” means that the schooner has a well-stocked pharmacy, and that sailors are trained to measure vital signs, and place sutures or perfusions if necessary.

When it comes to safety, the watchword is clear: “Forbidden to get hurt on board!” First mate Nicolas Bin repeats this rule to each newcomer during the security briefing. “Each person must take care of his own safety and that of his team”. We have to respect the sleep of the Taranauts who all take turns doing night watch. “We try to take into account the capacities of each person because we need to function well over a long period. Team members must find their own rhythm, balancing hours of sleep and work. Paying attention to the crew’s rest is an important aspect of safety on board”, remarks the Captain.


The crew simulated a man overboard exercise © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Interrupted sleep, hard work, extreme heat — this crossing is far from any romantic images one might have. Remember that Tara is a polar vessel currently sailing in a tropical zone. Crew and equipment are like coral, they suffer from high temperatures. Samuel Audrain explains: “Our navigation instruments could not withstand the temperatures that the sailors bear from time to time”. Air conditioning makes it possible to maintain a moderate temperature in the PC Com and also in the dry lab where essential instruments function 24 hours a day.

For Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, managing the food stocks is a real challenge. Her “little worry” is keeping things cool. “Aboard Tara we don’t have much space in the refrigerators. Another place partly reserved for food storage is the front hold, but it’s not insulated and varies according to the outside temperature — more than 30°C at the moment. Also, there’s a generator in this hold, but I negotiated with the chief mechanic so it’s not being used”. As for food stocks, there’s no worry! Marion knows very well the quantities consumed on board: “I multiply what we eat by the number of weeks and people. Coffee is about 250g per day, the same as butter. Flour is between 800 grams and 1 kilo per day.” For this leg, nothing will be lacking. The risk is being overweight!

Autonomy aboard Tara for such a long time requires a lot more than some bunches of bananas, a stock of preserves and a reservoir of fuel. This crossing requires a great deal of planning, precise logistics and a highly competent team.

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

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