27 September 2017
After 5 years of commitment and loyal services, Nicolas de la Brosse, Tara’s chief officer, decided to take a new direction. Nico disembarked in Noumea on September 22, after 3 major expeditions on the schooner. Native of Burgundy, Nico’s maritime career path has been rapid since he met Peter Blake, at 11.
VH: Nicolas, your history with the schooner began even before she was renamed Tara. How did you meet Peter Blake?
NDLB: “It’s a long story! I grew up in Dijon. At 11, I was selected, along with other youngsters, to cover stories aboard la Fleur de Lampaul, an old rigged barge, also described as the children’s oceanographic vessel. The idea was to raise public awareness on environmental issues through our eyes. In short, I was already passionate about sailing and adventure.
In November 1996, after returning from this year of expedition, we presented our reports to the International Festival of Adventure in my home town, Dijon. That’s where I met Peter Blake, sponsor of the festival. My idol. For me, he was a living god. I watched his exploits on VHS tapes (laughs).
© Fondation Tara Expéditions
I handed him a letter I had written in English. Peter took the letter, and after reading it, told me that we would stay in touch.
The following year, in 1997, Peter invited me to spend 3 weeks in the Mediterranean Sea on his family’s schooner, Archangel. Despite his success, Peter, this 2-meter high colossus, was easily accessible, straightforward and humble. After this cruise, he really took me under his wing. I’d become a member of his family”.
VH: What happened next, given Peter’s tragic death aboard the Seamaster?
NDLB: “Once I returned to Dijon, I went back to high school. I was still in contact with Peter. At 15, in 1999, I had the opportunity to embark on a boat transfer as a sailor and crew member from Panama to Polynesia. We took advantage of this trip to stop on our way back in New Zealand.
Peter welcomed me into his home – he was then preparing the America’s Cup. But he was already speaking about his reconversion after this competition. In Auckland, I met again with Sarah Jane and James, the 2 children of Peter and Pippa – his wife and my second mom.
Once Peter completed and won the Cup, he purchased Antarctica from Jean-Louis Etienne. After a period in dry dock, the schooner, renamed Seamaster, left for 5 years of expedition around the world.
© Vincent Hilaire / Fondation Tara Expéditions
As for me, I needed to pass my bachelor’s degree and finish my studies. Peter had already told me: “No worries, you’ll join us afterward”. The tragedy happened on the Amazon River 6 months before I rejoined Blake Expeditions. My idol disappeared brutally. For me, it was very hard to take.
When Etienne Bourgois bought the schooner in 2003, Pippa introduced us. I had passed my bachelor’s degree in 2002 and was in my 2nd year of DEUG in marine biology in Brest. I didn’t know yet that I wasn’t made to be a researcher, but my desire to sail was still there. It was the first time I set foot on Tara’s deck, in Camaret”.
VH: What was your first mission aboard Tara?
NDLB: “I embarked as a crew member to go to Greenland in 2004, with Céline Ferrier as captain. It gave me the opportunity to take a pause in my studies, but I didn’t give up. Later, I completed my bachelor degree in biology in Australia and a master of science in New Zealand, between 2008 and 2011.
In Auckland, my roommate was Sarah-Jane, Pippa’s and Peter’s daughter. I also worked from time to time in the maintenance shipyards of the America’s Cup. Then I came back to France with the desire to become a professional sailor. I contacted Romain Troublé, who was Tara Expeditions’ secretary general at the time.
© Nicolas de la Brosse / Fondation Tara Expéditions
VH: You were about to begin your second mission aboard Tara. What was its destination?
NDLB: Tara Oceans was continuing with the Polar Circle expedition. I joined the team in Paris in October 2012 where Tara was currently in port. I then participated in the schooner’s preparation and this new expedition in the Arctic Ocean. One thing followed another. I completed a Master 500 gross tonnage certificate then, after the Arctic circumnavigation, I participated in Tara Mediterranean in 2014 and Tara Pacific in 2016-17. This already represents 5 years of my life! (smiles).
VH: What is your new direction today? Does leaving Tara mean turning an important page in a sailor’s life?
NDLB: “I’ve lived a super rich, very intense period with Tara. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many interesting people, on board and ashore. The human component is very important during these expeditions. With Tara, we have access to privileged situations. These are exceptional journeys. For instance, during the Arctic circumnavigation, we sailed surrounded by ice. This may not be the case in a few years due to global warming. I’ll also treasure my memories of the Tuvalu Islands and Kiribati.
© Fondation Tara Expéditions
Besides this rich experience and passion, these projects are always very absorbing and now I want to have more time for myself and my personal life – to take a step back and stand on my own two feet.
I plan on working as a skipper on private sailboats, or for the charter market. Moreover, I could no longer evolve aboard Tara. I would have had to pass other diplomas to become a captain.
Tara is also a large family, to which I’ll always belong, even if I leave. This happens at sea where we live together and experience great cohesion through exceptional situations and moments. These are inextricable bonds.
Interview by Vincent Hilaire
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