A cup of tea in hand, Mike Birch is wedged in a corner of the cabin, leaving the pilot’s seat was very near. Outside, the noise of the crowd, come admire Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), the boats of the eleventh Route du Rhum. But the canadian navigator cares little. It came in the pirate city only to support his old friend Charlie Capelle, who will take the start of the event, Sunday, November 4, aboard Acapella, the boat’s twin (or sister ship) in the trimaran Olympus Photo, with which he won the first edition of the Route du Rhum in 1978.
It was here, aboard this small sailing vessel of twelve metres away, that The World has been able to meet the first winner of the Route du Rhum. “My father, I was never forced to do any business whatsoever. “So, Mike Birch was successively a miner, a laborer in the oil, and then a cowboy in British Columbia, before embarking as sailor on a freighter to England.
” Arrived there, I inquired about how to get me a boat. Then I met Peter Haward [a conveyor belt professional]. It is thus that I came to the sailing, shipping of boats, ” remembers the sailor who seems to regret not to have started as early as his childhood, as a number of riders.
another meeting will then be decisive, that of Walter Greene, a boat builder in Maine, in the United States, who became his friend. “For the first Rum, I asked Walter Greene if I could borrow a boat. He replied yes, we will share the prize money. “Mike Birch was happy.
” I was just a guy a little crazy. I had the chance, ”
The following, everybody knows it. On November 28, 1978, at the exit of the channel of the Saintes in Guadeloupe, Olympus Photo comes out of nowhere and Mike Birch wins with 98 seconds over Michel Malinovsky, whose victory was already announced. The Canadian between and in the legend of offshore racing.
Modest, the navigator shakes his head when he recalls that some saw as an outsider in 1978. “I never dreamed of winning the Route du Rhum. I was just a guy a little crazy. I had the chance. Everything is a matter of luck. It is this Route du Rhum-where he had to win, I am amused. “
Forty years later, Mike Birch, and always accompanies the race. It is the sponsor of the challenge, ” 98 seconds for eternity “, created to commemorate this episode legendary.
Three sailors will attempt to replicate the duel Olympus Photo – Kriter V. Two, Charlie Capelle and François Corre, will make the race on the sister ship of Olympus Photo. In the Face of them, the Malouin Bob Escoffier will try to beat them to the edge of the real Kriter V Michel Malinovsky.
Mike Birch is looking through the porthole. You can see Kriter V on the other side of the basin. His gaze azure blue sparkles with malice : “The boat here ? I’m sure they can beat it. Charlie Capelle leads his boat very well for a long time. It is a good thing that someone like him can keep the same boat for years, and from tomorrow for its fifth crossing with him, it is fantastic. There is still a real link between the rider and the boat. “
“Nobody knows about this race,”
Mike Birch look with pride at the inside of the small trimaran yellow, of which he is the sponsor. A computer made its appearance in the place of the card table, a few changes here and there compared to Olympus Photo. For the sailor, the trimarans of the type A Capella represent the boat ” really good “.
He admits, however : “Now, we wouldn’t be able to win with a boat like this and in these conditions. “”There are more and more very big boats are very technological, it is more expensive” is within it. For the lament : “It is a pity, but even if we can’t stop progress, we can regret that there is so much money in sailing ! “
the committee also regrets that the Route du Rhum remains a very franco-French. “For example, at home, in British Columbia, no one knows this race. In the east, it is already a little more, but finally, it is not very well known “, he laments.
Mike Birch talks about his book, I rode the oceans (march 2017), laid on the bench between us. The marine acknowledges, now, a little turned the page of the navigation. “I still have a boat in British Columbia, but I can’t sell it. It is sad. “
However, the question of whether he would choose today to run the Route du Rhum or the Golden Globe Race, the tour of the world, the old, the skippeur replied that he would go for the second. “It must be very hard. From like this without the modern means… ” He smiled. “You know, I’ve had to teach myself to use a sextant. “
also Read : Golden Globe Race : a world tour back in 1968
1st November, Mike Birch was celebrating his 87-year-old, just before the race that ushered in the legend of the veil celebrates its 40 years on Sunday with a record participation of 123 competitors.
Read also : Route du Rhum in 2018 : know it all (or almost) on the run