Yacht Club de Monaco member Oren Nataf is truly passionate about sailing. Having won the Bailli de Suffren four times and come 2nd in the last Transat Classique on his 1963 Stephens design Stiren, which led him to be nominated at the 2019 YCM Awards, he has now set himself another challenge: to compete in the 2022 Route du Rhum. At the end of July during a training session at night, sailing double-handed with the highly experienced Sidney Gavignet, he had the fright of his life.

They were sailing 60 nautical miles off Ouessant when the starboard beam on his Multi50 Gamin broke, dismasting the 50-foot trimaran.

“I’d just changed watch with Sidney at 00.30am, it was blowing 22-knots from the north-west, we had two reefs in the mainsail and had set the staysail, the centreboards were midway; the boat was light enough in the waves. The swell was big with at least 3m troughs. As we came down behind a wave, the leeward beam broke and the boat just lay down. I was alone on the bridge at the helm. It all happened so quickly. I was afraid the boat would give way. I was able to get into the centre hull by the main hatch, water was already coming in through the portholes, and then the mast broke. We had therefore lost our VHF. We switched on our two interior and exterior beacons, which emit a radio signal and flashes. We kept our grab bag containing flares close to hand,”  explains Oren Nataf.

He goes on: “It was a very, very long wait not knowing if anyone was picking up our distress signals. Around two hours later, a helicopter finally appeared but judged it to be too dangerous to rescue us in view of the waves. An English navy ship then came on the scene. We jumped into the water and swam to the boat which, with difficulty, hoisted us on board and dropped us off in the Scilly Isles”.

The next day, a boat chartered by the insurance company arrived to pick up the trimaran and take it back to Brittany. “With the mast and boom in the water, we couldn’t proceed very quickly. We had to tow it for 30 hours at 3 knots to avoid doing any more damage,” says Oren.

Given the boat’s pedigree, the Monegasque resident could not abandon the multi-hull, built in 1991 by Bruno Louit to a Jean-Pierre Brouns and Patrice Gaudry design, a feisty boat that has competed in no less than six Route du Rhum races and won it three times in the Rhum Multi category.

It seems the experience has only served to stiffen his resolve to be on the starting line of the Route du Rhum 2022.