A Different Tack for a Veteran French Singlehander

Philippe Poupon and his family raise environmental awareness as they sail Fleur Australe around the world.

Fleur Astrale Sail Green

©Expédition Fleur Australe-Geraldine Danon

If you happen to be cruising among the lush South Pacific islands of Vanuatu in the next few days, you may want to put in at Malakula, Éfaté, and Tanna to catch the latest in a series of publicized pit stops of Fleur Australe’s expedition to raise environmental awareness about the consequences of climate change.

The boat, whose French name means southern flower, is in the second phase of a voyage that began in 2009; later this month, Fleur Australe will head to New Caledonia; Antarctica and Brazil are landfalls planned through 2013 for this North-Pole-to-South-Pole adventure. The first part of the voyage, which started in La Rochelle, France, included a transatlantic crossing and transit of the Northwest Passage on the North American continent.

The high-performance, 60-foot ketch is crewed by renowned solo sailor Philippe Poupon, his wife, Géraldine Danon, and their four children. A range of government, industry, scientific, and media partners are involved, including energy company GDF Suez and Fleury Michon, longtime Poupon partner and food industry corporation.

“Phillou,” as Poupon is known in France—was one of the big-time French solo sailors in the 1980s and 1990s in events including the Vendee Globe, OSTAR, and Route du Rhum. He crewed for the legendary Eric Tabarly, the record-setting solo distance sailor who inspired countless others in their bluewater pursuits. Danon, an actress, model, and diver, is documenting the expedition.

Photo: © Expédition Fleur Australe-Geraldine Danon