She was probably the most famous yachting woman in France. «The little bride of the Atlantic», the only woman to win... Rum race.Florence Artaud has been by a thread in her life, but always came out victorious. Four years ago off the coast of Corsica, she slipped and fell overboard the 10m Argade II. Without a life jacket, but with her mobile phone in a waterproof case and headlamp, she helplessly walked in the dark waters of the Mediterranean, watching the yacht move away from her on autopilot, taking with her the hope of rescue and her beloved cat.
Florence was able to call her mother and ask for help. She spent more than two hours in the water before the helicopter could find her by mobile signal.
«I was completely unsure I was going to make it. But I survived - the devil didn't want»me," she said later.
Four years later, another helicopter interrupted her life. Florence Artaud was 57 years old when she crashed in the sky over Argentina along with nine other participants in the reality show Dropped.
«She was in love with the ocean and nature. And that love wasn't as ostentatious as many other advocates of nature. She always made me laugh. She was funny and open, and she regularly rebelled from the ashes, constantly trying to renew her projects. She was a wonderful, amazing person»," recalls Olivier de Carsason, a French offshore racing driver, friend and mentor of Artaud.
She was born on October 28, 1957 in Boulogne-Biancourt. Her parents ran a Parisian publishing house. From the age of 6 Florence sailed with famous French yachtsmen, among whom was the father of offshore racing, Eric Tabarli - his books were printed in her father's publishing house. At the age of 17 Artaud had a serious car accident and went into a coma for several months. It took her two years to recover. Her health problems didn't diminish Florence's attraction to sailing. At 21, she took part in the famous Route de Rhum single race for the first time. Her youngest competitor and the only woman, Artaud came in eleventh.
She made another attempt in 1982 and then in 1986. Then she changed course to come to the aid of the disaster-stricken Loïc Caradez and found his empty Royal II catamaran overturned. Loïc Caradetz was never found: he was 38. This tragedy did not force Florence to abandon his attempts to win the Rum race. She managed to persuade developer Christian Garrell to sponsor the construction of a Groupe Pierre 1er catamaran. In August 1990, Florence Artaud set a new record on this vessel, having managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone in just under 10 days.
On November 18, 1990, 33-year-old Florence Artaud took the nickname «Little Bride of the Atlantic»forever, winning the single transatlantic race Route de Rhum. On a 60-foot Groupe Pierre 1er trimaran, Artaud crossed the ocean in 14 days, 10 hours and 10 minutes, becoming the first ever woman to win a Rum race. Her journey was far from perfect: the autopilot and radio failed and the athlete suffered from spinal herniation.
«I remember as a little girl carving this stunning picture of Florence from a magazine and hanging it on the wall in my bedroom. It was her picture aboard the Groupe Pierre trimaran, and she looked so feminine on it. Her example proved to me that you can be a girl and go on great boats»," recalls Sam Davis, skipper of the only fully female Volvo Ocean Race team, Team SCA.
After such an enchanting victory, it seemed that Florence Artaud's career should go up. But the economic crisis in France in the early 90s made it difficult to find sponsors. In 1993, Florence gave birth to her daughter Marie and fell out of sailing for a while. Surprisingly, even after returning to yachting, sponsorship offers did not fall on the head of France's most famous yachtswoman. Although she managed to set several transoceanic records, particularly with Bruno Peyron to win the 1997 Trans Pacific Race, she always wanted more. However, it was not possible to find funding to participate in another Route de Rhum even in 2010, the 20th anniversary of her victory in this prestigious single. Plans to participate in the Vendee Globe around the world have also remained unrealized.
«Florence showed something extraordinary on the water, but on the ground she was uncontrollable, and it worked against her. She ate. She was drinking. She smoked at a time when her favourite expression was «unconstrained!»It was, no doubt, not to the taste of the sponsors. Look at the modern yachtsmen. They are calmer, more gloomy, better «boys»," says Isabelle Otistier, another famous French yachtswoman.
In 2004, Artaud moved to Marseille and opened the Flow Art Gallery there, and in 2009 she published her autobiography entitled The «Wind of Freedom».
«I don't really think the world of yachtsmen is a macho world. I think it's a world where people respect each other for their talents. But sailing isn't easy for a woman. It's a tough, hard world. It's been a long time since I've had a home. I lived on a boat. I was 36 when I gave birth to my only daughter. Of course, I didn't follow the traditional path. I lived the life of an adventurer. I lived a life full of free spirit and adventure»," Florence Artaud admitted.