Claims for the title of ‘best sailor on the planet’ could be debated long into the night. I could make a compelling, reasoned, rounded argument for any number of sailors right now but my trump card that would be almost impossible to argue against on a cold winter’s evening is a split between Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas. What these two have done, and continue to do, with the quite astonishing Gitana programme is something for the record books. I’m an unashamed fan. It’s almost something from the pages of the fiction shelves or sci-fi fantasy with a romance amplified by the sheer Gallic charm and ‘Joie de vivre’ that these ocean gypsy’s display every time they race or pit themselves against the clock. They are the Gypsy Kings – make no mistake.
Having the opportunity to peer into a top class ocean programme is something not to be passed up and their superb dedicated media man, Yann Riou, has collated the most remarkable series that is worthy of a Netflix billing. It’s a dive into what the team call the “joys and disillusions” of trying to set the outright Jules Verne record and documents the journey from launch in 2017, the highs and lows, the peaks and troughs, and the curation of the ultimate money-no-object tilt at the world’s greatest races and records.
Front and centre are the mercurial duo of Caudrelier and Cammas who are a truly fascinating watch. On paper this doesn’t work but in reality it’s gold-dust. Cammas is the model professional with a sailing palmares that is virtually unquestionable. He’s a household name in France and around the sailing world he’s utterly peerless. Franck looks like an aged Formula 1 driver on the Indycar circuit, fit as a fiddle, cut from the Eric Tabarly cloth with a touch of the Loick Peyron about him and an aura of being the modern-day reference point for French Offshore sailing. Everyone deeply respects Franck. He’s the gold standard.
So pairing him in the co-skipper role with Charles Caudrelier, a much lesser known but deeply hard-driving bundle of forceful energy, unafraid to fight his corner, lay the blame or challenge on an equal footing sounds like a recipe for fireworks. But it works and it works beautifully. The docu-series, that I’ve posted below in in its entirety, is worth a watch just to witness the extraordinary chemistry between the two but it is also so much more.
‘Flying Offshore’ is a masterpiece broken into bite-size, easily watchable, deeply addictive segments with the most beautiful cinematography, interviews and behind-the-scenes documentary depicting an almost unbelievable set of challenges and set-backs with more than a sprinkling of unadulterated success. It brings to life the desolation and downright terror of offshore racing at full tilt. I shudder at the danger they confront but marvel at their skill and simply take my hat off to the outstanding crews they assemble and their sheer brilliance. It’s everything.
The breathtaking audacity to build a boat that’s capable of foiling around the world and hit that magical sub-40 day target is something of wonder and it’s couched in the very essence, the DNA, of French offshore sailing. You are literally willing them on as the series progresses and the sheer scale of the programme is the blueprint that all others will be judged by in the future. The human element is magnificently captured and when it’s all boiled-down, it’s the people, the characters, their character and their determination to succeed that makes this just so compelling.
I’ll shut up now and let you dive into it. It’s the best thing you’ll see this year in sailing, anywhere on our airwaves. Congratulations to the Gitana Team on bringing this to our screens.
It’s the rarest of rare documentaries and an absolute triumph all round.