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Prototype Sails 14,000 Nautical Miles in Nine Months

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Imagine setting
out under the hot tropical sun of Saint Barth and sailing south to the very tip
of South America where glacial winds and snow are there to greet you! That was
exactly the case for Marc de Rosny, Stanislas Defize and Yan van den Haute,
three men who met in Saint Barth and embarked on a seafaring adventure that
lasted nine months and covered 14,000 nautical miles.

On Sunday, May 21, 2005 their boat, a
14-meter sailboat called Prototype, returned to Saint Barth where it had
set sail on August 24, 2004, the patron saint day of Saint-Barthelemy. Many
friends were on the dock to meet them, while others set out in small sailboats
and motorboats to meet them in the harbor and accompany them into the port.

This unusual adventure was called
“Expedition Prototype,” and its destination was Patagonia, the southernmost
part of Argentina. "The boat was built 24 years ago by a naval architect
called Francis Martin," says de Rosny, who has owned the boat for the past
12 years. "It was called Prototype because it was in advance of its
time in terms of design. It is very wide in the back. It is the precursor of a
lot of modern boats." The hull of the boat is unpainted aluminum, giving
it an unusual look, but one that fits in nicely with the spirit of the

"I knew for a long time that Marc
wanted to leave for Patagonia," recalls Defize, who adds that the three
attributes of their expedition were to be "passionate, amusing, and
interesting." Another intention of the voyage was artistic, as both Defize
and de Rosny are artists. Before the trip got underway, Defize created 15 pairs
of "navigational sculptures."

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One sculpture in each pair was made of
aluminum to echo the unpainted aluminum hull of the boat, while its twin was
made of yellow fiberglass intended to float. The shape is an abstract of a boat
with a keel and a sail. The 15 aluminum sculptures were sold at the To B. Art
gallery in Gustavia last year. Each owner chose a spot along the expedition’s
itinerary where the yellow version with the same number would be thrown out to
sea, complete with a message rolled up inside, like the artistic version of a
message in a bottle.

As the expedition moved south, the weather
turned colder and the sailors were confronted with freezing temperatures. The
tropical islands gave way to glaciers. "The winds that swept down from the
mountains were surprisingly cold and often violent as they churned up the
sea," says Defize. "For Marc, as captain of the boat, this was quite
an adventure."

Expedition Prototype was just the first act
of an ongoing adventure. Young French filmmaker, Cedric Robion, who lives in
Saint Barth, spent 15 days aboard Prototype as it made its way south,
and has made nine short eight-minute films about the expedition (a tenth will
be completed soon) using his own footage as well as footage shot by Yan and
Marc. A feature film about Expedition Prototype is also in the planning stages,
and hopefully will be ready to premiere at the St. Barth Film Festival next

Two exhibits are also on the drawing
boards: one in Buenos Aires next November and one at the To B. Art Gallery (a
huge supporter of the project) in Saint Barth in the spring. Photos, drawings,
and a treasure trove of objects brought back aboard the boat will serve as an
artistic documentation of a 14-meter boat called Prototype and its
exceptional journey from Saint Barth to Patagonia and back!

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  1. I crossed Atlantic ocean in 1982 with Prototype. The skipper was Philippe Cauvat. We were four of us. No gps, no radio, no automatic pilot. We tore in pieces the main sail the first days. Winds were eastwards and powerful. It was a helluva trip but a so great souvenir. Fantastic boat ! So reliable. We found Faial and later Gibraltar only with sextant, directly. I am glad to know this boat is still alive…(2021 ..?)


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Ellen Lampert-Greaux
Ellen Lampert-Greaux
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine. She writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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