Michel HOREAU, Bouvet Rames Guyane Race Director. He has great experience in the world of ocean racing. He has competed in many races (Whitbread, Ostar, Twostar, La Baule/Dakar, Québec/St Malo, Triangle Atlantique, etc), and has raised the profile of numerous others in the media, including Vendée Globe, Route du Rhum, Transat des Alizés, Trophée Jules Verne and many other exploits achieved by Florence Arthaud, Bruno Peyron, Gérard d’Aboville, Jo Le Guen, Paul Vatine, Laurent Bourgnon, Maud Fontenoy and Peggy Bouchet.
In a few words, what does the Argos beacon represent for you?
Two adjectives come to mind first and foremost to describe the Argos beacon: safety and positioning capabilities. It is a reliable and high-performance safety system and an extremely accurate satellite-based positioning system that is extremely useful since it has been used to locate and rescue dozens of people in all major races over the last thirty years. In my long race career, then as an ocean race operations organiser, I have been able to appreciate first-hand, and on several occasions, the Argos system’s capacity to warn coast guards if a skipper finds himself in a position of distress.
When was the last time that the Argos assistance request was of use to you?
The Argos adventure started with Roger Rolland in the 1980s. At the time he was Chief of Argos Operations at CLS. He completed much work on ocean races. He promoted the values of humanity and conviviality, but also efficiency and performance, in the image of CLS.
Since then, the Argos beacon has been of use to me in many different circumstances.
The last time that the Argos beacon was a great support was in 2006, during the first edition of the Bouvet Rames Guyane. At the time, fifteen boats were competing. Each boat was equipped with two Argos tracking beacons: one fastened to the outside of the boast and the other installed on the inside. Each rower was also provided with a Sarsat beacon which is designed for safety whereas the Argos beacon is more location-related. But the Sarsat beacon was never activated during capsize situations that occurred during the race, probably because they were less accessible in situations of distress.
It was the skipper Emmanuel Coindre who first had to trigger his Argos beacon. After ten days at sea, and when it was he who was leading the race, his boat capsized not far from the Cap Vert islands. At the time, the other race organizers and myself were at the Nautical Exhibition and we were greatly surprised to receive a call from the CLS monitoring station notifying us that the beacon had been triggered by one of the rowers. After confirming the information, less than thirty minutes later, everything went very quickly. We contacted CROSS (Centre Régional Opérationnel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage) who immediately searched for the presence of a vessel, preferably French, in the zone located by the Argos system and which was likely to be able to bring emergency aid to the shipwreck. As luck would have it, a frigate from the French Navy was located in proximity to Emmanuel Coindre and repatriated the skipper safe and sound a few days later in the military port in Brest. The vessel was even able to take Emmanuel Coindre’s boat and load it on its deck.
The Argos beacon also came in extremely useful just a few days after this first capsize situation. This time, it was Jacques Djeddi’s boat which capsized off the coast of Brazil. The skipper was forced to activated his Argos beacon and again we were notified of the capsize situation very quickly. As extra backup, the competitor had a VHF with which he tried to establish a connection with the coastguard. To our immense surprise, someone received his signal, transmitted in French, and replied – in French! A vessel from the French navy, located near the Guyane coast on a prawn fishing monitoring mission, then came to the rescue for the ill-rated rower. As for the boat, we let ourselves be guided by the second Argos beacon so we could continue to track its location and then recover it. The beacon unfortunately detached itself during the night and we lost the position of the boat. We were still able to find the latter a few days later as the currents had dragged it towards the finish line.