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Isabelle Autissier


Nineteen yachts raced in a southerly direction from Charleston, South Carolina, at the start of the 1994-95 Around Alone Race—and Isabelle Autissier, following a hunch about Atlantic weather patterns, sailed north and east. Her instincts were correct. Autissier easily triurnphed in the first leg of the race, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, five days before her nearest competitor. Race director Mark Schrader called her 1, 200-mile lead "incomprehensible."

Her luck would soon change, however. During the second leg, the Ecureuil Poitou Charentes 2 lost its 83-foot mast in a gale on the Indian Ocean. Autissier juryrigged a new mast, as she had four years earlier, and traveled to Kerguelen Islands. Repairs were made and she set out for Sydney, but halfway between Australia and the Antarctic her boat was hit by a monumental wave, rolled a full 360 degrees, and lost its rigging and part of its deck. The wave would have washed Autissier away had she been on deck when it hit. She activated her electronic positioning beacons, which signaled race officials in Charleston. The Australian Navy rescued Autissier from her listing ship four days later. The Ecureuil Poitou Charentes 2 was never recovered.

Autissier returned to France and built a new 60-foot racing ship for the 1996 Vendee Globe competition in which racers must sail around the world alone—and, unlike the Around Alone, without stopping. She was disqualified when the boat, named PRB after the French building-products company sponsoring her, lost a rudder and she needed help replacing it. Autissier completed the race anyway, her second solo trip around the planet.

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Famous Sports StarsOther SportsIsabelle Autissier Biography - Passion For The Sea, Around The World, Capsized, Averting Disaster—again, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments