Movie Review--Yves Gélinas Singlehanded Round the World

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
As a Cape Horn vane full-retail customer, I received the DVD of Yves Gélinas' 1981 solo circumnavigation on his Alberg 30, Jean-du-Sur. I wasn't expecting much from an old movie, and I thought I'd seem them all, in grainy, washed-out color or black and white--history supplanted nowadays by innumerable YouTube vids documenting the current adventures of unnecessarily youthful and attractive crews with GoPros (and Protools and lighting and sophisticated NLEs and state-of-the-art camera drones).

Yeah, but, well--wrong about the expectation. Gélinas in fact created probably the best and most honest account of round-the-world-alone I've seen. It's now available remastered, in HD, and apparently as a download on Vimeo. The full information is here. (I'm not compensated in any way)

Gélinas had been an actor, a director, and apparently a boatyard worker, and all skills are on full exhibit, along with his personality and, uh, personhood (why wear pants when filming yourself offshore?). His story is a testament to the Alberg 30, and I think another example of 30 feet being suitable for solo (not too big). He was capsized and lost his mast*, and fixed it himself. He ate pretty much only seeds, which he ground for bread with a manual contraption that tired him out (one hour of cranking for a loaf of bread). He's a good narrator and a pro cameraman using ancient tape recorders and 16 mm cameras. The color saturation of restored film, compared to 4K video, is marvelous and emotional--nobody has emotions in 16mm nowadays.

What I appreciated the most, however, beyond the eccentricities and remarkable skill and perseverance, was the steady accumulation of honesty. To make a movie about yourself over the course of more than a year reveals the character of the filmmaker--whether he likes it or not. BS is obvious, posturing immediately apparent. It can't be edited out, it gets captured as accurately as a sunset or a breaking sea. Yet in it all, Gélinas reveals what seems to be necessary for this particular accomplishment, which is ego suppressed by commitment to a cause that is simply to keep going, to accommodate the unexpected, to be what you said you will be. He is an admirer of Bernard Moitessier, and it shows. Although a Québécois, there is a Frenchness--a particular brand of attitude and sense of self.

No doubt we often wonder, many of us here, what it might like to sail alone around the world. His movie is the answer in boat, gear, and commitment. The first two have changed, but not the third. It will leave you exhausted upon the couch such that your frozen fingers will hardly be able to grasp the DVD remote.

Yves Gélinas designed and sells the Cape Horn vane gear I just installed. It was interesting to see that the 1981 version much resembles the product of today, and that even as a prototype it got him around through storm and squall.

In sum, this is a heck of a good sailing-voyage movie, professional in every way, and well worth a look for anyone with interest. Viewable on Vimeo for $6 or so. The trailer:


*The Alberg 30 mast is deck-stepped. In a knockdown that put the rig under underwater, the recovery forces crushed the deck under the step, causing the stays to become somewhat slack and the forward hatch to no longer close properly. the damage wasn't immediately apparent. A second knockdown, 30 percent inverted, tore out the chainplates and broke the mast. The eventual repair included reinforcement of the mast support cross member and providing a temporary support post to be installed in threatening conditions.
 
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toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Thnx. Will add it to my queue for next winter. (Not enough dark to watch television ATM). The grain-grinding thing rings a bell. I may have read part of the story before.

It sort of reminds me of an (in)famous rat-lab experiment where you train a rat to run a maze to get a food pellet. Then you slowly decrease the caloric content of the food pellet until it’s just a bit less than the calories required to run the maze. The rat goes faster and faster until...

Oh wait. that wasn’t rat lab, it was my last corporate job. Or was It both? Hard to tell the difference.
 

Joliba

1988 E38-200 Contributing Member
Great suggestion, Christian. I spent a year aboard a 30 foot boat in 1976-7. I could never have pulled off the photography or the type of sailing that this guy did. It’s very impressive. He appears to have almost manic persistence, a quality that some Vendée Globe racers seem to share with him. I recently wrote a book about my voyage 5 years before Gélinas’. My exploits pale in comparison to those so well depicted in this video. However, I recognize the technology of that era very well.
Mike Jacker
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
As Mike points out, it takes a certain type of personality to be successful in such stressful offshore conditions. Risks and rewards in large measures.

I would surmise that such people go way beyond 'tolerating' it to almost reveling in the whole experience.

I still recall the time our YC arranged to watch the new movie (or video, I forget the format) of one of the Whitbread Round the World races. The footage, even taken in dim lighting, that they shot in the roaring 40's racing thru the darkness was amazing and scary.
Most memorable was the interview with one of the French crew where he was asked if he had been concerned with the real danger of crashing and dying while driving with a spinnaker thru the dark where ice bergs were known to be. He looked right at the camera and exclaimed: "When you are in zee meeddle of Sex, do you think of Dying!"
o_O

Concise Wisdom... !!
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
There seem to be a number of sailing books with that same title. I have a different one.
I seem to recall that it comes from a poem but cannot find confirmation. Google is singularly useless in serving up original sources. They suggest a Fleetwoodmac song.
 

Joliba

1988 E38-200 Contributing Member
Search using both my name “Mike Jacker” and the title “Taken by the Wind”. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and several other online sellers.
Mike
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Last edited:

goldenstate

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
An obvious take-away is that all of us who want to become better sailors need to remove our pants.
 

Touchrain

Member II
As a Cape Horn vane full-retail customer, I received the DVD of Yves Gélinas' 1981 solo circumnavigation on his Alberg 30, Jean-du-Sur. I wasn't expecting much from an old movie, and I thought I'd seem them all, in grainy, washed-out color or black and white--history supplanted nowadays by innumerable YouTube vids documenting the current adventures of unnecessarily youthful and attractive crews with GoPros (and Protools and lighting and sophisticated NLEs and state-of-the-art camera drones).

Yeah, but, well--wrong about the expectation. Gélinas in fact created probably the best and most honest account of round-the-world-alone I've seen. It's now available remastered, in HD, and apparently as a download on Vimeo. The full information is here. (I'm not compensated in any way)

Gélinas had been an actor, a director, and apparently a boatyard worker, and all skills are on full exhibit, along with his personality and, uh, personhood (why wear pants when filming yourself offshore?). His story is a testament to the Alberg 30, and I think another example of 30 feet being suitable for solo (not too big). He was capsized and lost his mast*, and fixed it himself. He ate pretty much only seeds, which he ground for bread with a manual contraption that tired him out (one hour of cranking for a loaf of bread). He's a good narrator and a pro cameraman using ancient tape recorders and 16 mm cameras. The color saturation of restored film, compared to 4K video, is marvelous and emotional--nobody has emotions in 16mm nowadays.

What I appreciated the most, however, beyond the eccentricities and remarkable skill and perseverance, was the steady accumulation of honesty. To make a movie about yourself over the course of more than a year reveals the character of the filmmaker--whether he likes it or not. BS is obvious, posturing immediately apparent. It can't be edited out, it gets captured as accurately as a sunset or a breaking sea. Yet in it all, Gélinas reveals what seems to be necessary for this particular accomplishment, which is ego suppressed by commitment to a cause that is simply to keep going, to accommodate the unexpected, to be what you said you will be. He is an admirer of Bernard Moitessier, and it shows. Although a Québécois, there is a Frenchness--a particular brand of attitude and sense of self.

No doubt we often wonder, many of us here, what it might like to sail alone around the world. His movie is the answer in boat, gear, and commitment. The first two have changed, but not the third. It will leave you exhausted upon the couch such that your frozen fingers will hardly be able to grasp the DVD remote.

Yves Gélinas designed and sells the Cape Horn vane gear I just installed. It was interesting to see that the 1981 version much resembles the product of today, and that even as a prototype it got him around through storm and squall.

In sum, this is a heck of a good sailing-voyage movie, professional in every way, and well worth a look for anyone with interest. Viewable on Vimeo for $6 or so. The trailer:


*The Alberg 30 mast is deck-stepped. In a knockdown that put the rig under underwater, the recovery forces crushed the deck under the step, causing the stays to become somewhat slack and the forward hatch to no longer close properly. the damage wasn't immediately apparent. A second knockdown, 30 percent inverted, tore out the chainplates and broke the mast. The eventual repair included reinforcement of the mast support cross member and providing a temporary support post to be installed in threatening conditions.
Great trailer. Thanks for posting.
 
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