'You have to live your dreams, not dream your life away' - was the maxim that drove Manuel Cousin to leave his life as an executive selling forklift trucks to major accounts with Toyota, to move from his native Normandy to Les Sables d'Olonne and pursue new goals ocean racing.
Cousin, 53, reached the pinnacle of that new life today when he completed the 24,365 nautical mile Vendée Globe, crossing the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne at 07:35:40 hrs UTC this morning in 23rd position.
After struggling at times with a cracked rudder and more recently keel ram damage, Cousin's elapsed time on Groupe Setin is 103d 18hrs 15m. He sailed an actual course of 29,116 nautical miles at an average of 11.69kts.
Having acquired a lot of technical knowledge after working in the automobile sector for 20 years, Cousin, a keen sailor since he was young, decided to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional sailor at a late age.
Since the start of the race, the Frenchman’s aim has been to complete the round the world voyage. And throughout the adventure, the skipper of Groupe Sétin has shown determination, dealing with each difficulty he encountered.
Cousin set off on 8 November at a fairly fast pace, but the Doldrums were not kind to him. Despite this, Manu always had a smile on his face.
"Before the start, I was worried about time dragging, but in fact, everything happens quickly," he declared on his way down the Atlantic. He looked forward to dealing with the low-pressure systems in the South Atlantic and showed almost child-like amazement when he saw his first albatross.
Couisn kept pushing hard during the first few weeks, but was forced to slow down when faced with a series of problems.
"We quickly go from a feeling of total satisfaction to the impression that the world is about to fall in."
Incidents would in fact mar his performance in the race. On 11 December after passing the Cape of Good Hope, Cousin noticed a huge crack on the top of his port rudder, which forced him to carry out repairs during the night. He would not give up and attempted to set off again as quickly as possible, although at reduced speed.
In early January, his autopilot failed, causing the boat to broach and leading to a lot of damage, in particular to his mainsail.
On 8 February, his keel ram rod gave up the ghost. He spent 48 hours carrying out repairs day and night, always with the lure of the harbour in Les Sables to motivate him. His race has been characterised by his tenacity in the face of such adversity. His goal has been to complete the voyage, and he has regularly expressed his satisfaction at what he has achieved.
The Vendée Globe may not have been everything he imagined or dreamt of, but the memories of an extraordinary adventure will surely remain with him.
"When times get tough, you wonder what you are doing here, but once you get back, you want to do it all over again. I have enjoyed myself so much. I never thought about giving up and always tried to find solutions to ensure I could sail all the way."
Two competitors remain at sea - Alexia Barrier and Ari Huusela, while eight entries have retired.
Full information at: www.vendeeglobe.org