Athletics Sports

A Liège born with sea legs

Jonas Gerckens

Solozeiler Jonas Gerckens hit as a six-year-old inspired by the Route du Rhum. At the age of 38 he finally got his debut.

A Liège born with sea legs

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Jonas Gerckens sail Sunday in Saint-Malo, for a solotocht across the Atlantic to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Alain Colard

Jonas Gerckens

Solozeiler Jonas Gerckens hit as a six-year-old inspired by the Route du Rhum. At the age of 38 he finally got his debut.

A Liège born with sea legs

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Route du Rhum

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Sailing

Thijs Roelen

Brussels Thousands of sailing enthusiasts strolling the whole week all on the quay of the harbour of the Breton Saint-Malo. All hotel rooms at the far perimeter of the French port city, sitting all day is full. That has everything to do with the start of the Route du Rhum, Sunday to 14 hours.

The participants to the extreme solozeilwedstrijd between Saint-Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe is located with Jonas Gerckens, a Belgian who has been for years dreaming of this challenge. At the age of six he made, after he with his parents and sister from his second to sixth in Europe had traveled on a boat for the first time, the start of the competition. From that moment on, he is inspired by the transatlantic crossing.

“The Route du Rhum is for me, above all, a dream come true’, says Gerckens on the eve of the match. These last days must be for him, nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. ‘In addition, it is an extreme challenge and one of the three largest sporting events on the sea.’

‘I can the boat not to long uncontrolled abandon. Sleep I do up to 30 minutes at a stretch’

Although he has a lot of experience at sea, he is looking in Saint-Malo his eyes. A competition of this caliber he had not yet. ‘The media, supporters and partners; I have not forgotten me in my planning to keep. I need the weather to follow, the boat and myself in top condition and plenty of rest pack.’

Because a lot of the rest is not there during the race. When you only the Atlantic Ocean overzeilt, are you anywhere responsible for. “I can so about 5 of the 24 hours of sleep,” explains Gerckens. But not 5 hours at a stretch. ‘I can the boat not to long uncontrolled abandon. Sleep I do up to 30 minutes at a time. Those short moments of peace divide, I on the day.”

Very tough, but Gerckens will get the most satisfaction from solozeilen. “I love to navigate in a team, but solozeilen asks a specific rhythm, which I love. You have to make yourself constantly overachieving, versatile and mistakes you do not pass the buck. I also have no problem with it in order to be alone for long.’

That Gerckens here at all can participate in, was for a long time cannot be taken for granted. He stayed as a child for several years at sea, after which four-year tour, he moved back to Liege, far from his beloved ocean. Only after his secondary school, he picked up the sport of sailing. He moved to Lorient, where many sailors stay. There he did various small jobs for his passion to be able to pay.

A lot of money

Just like in racing, you come there in the sailing, not with talent alone; there is a lot of money. Only after he had contact with his current sponsor, Volvo, in 2016, proved to be participation in the Route du Rhum feasible for Gerckens. With the help of the sponsor, he bought his second-hand Class40 boat. ‘This boat was in 2011 lowered into the water, ” says Gerckens. ‘At the time it was the best of his generation. After he in 2014 the Route du Rhum was completed, he has three years on a pallet stood without being used. I knew the story and the potential of the boat and snapped him in three months. Now it is a solid boat. Maybe not good enough to get the race win, but a top ten should be achievable.’

That is Gerckens’ sporting objective. But above all, it is that dream that finally in fulfillment. “I love the tactics, the constant pushing of your own boundaries and the beauty of the raw nature of the ocean. All alone in the middle of the ocean makes you feel free and in balance with the sea. During the race I will maybe desire to the country, but I now know that when I’m back, I as soon as possible back on the water wants to go.’

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Route du Rhum

The Route du Rhum is a solozeilwedstrijd between the French Saint-Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The competition is every four years organized and is on its eleventh edition. ‘Call it our world championship, ” says Jonas Gerckens.

The fastest boats in the ULTIMATE class, are characterized by their three hulls, the more than 6000 kilometres is expected to be finished within a week. The winner in Class40, where Gerckens participate in, will certainly be two weeks on the transatlantic crossing. Except Gerckens also take the Belgians Gérald Bibot and Gilles Buekenhout part, both in the category RhumMulti. Last year brought the sailing race, spread over all the places where the boats were to be seen, around 2.2 million spectators on the streets.

www.routedurhum.com

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