Forty years ago Emmanuel and Maximilien Berque would have been pushing the limits of their surfing skills on the beach at Contis-Plage, in the southern part of the Bay of Biscay. Today, rather heavier but still fit and adventurous, they are waiting for the swell to die down so that they can get their latest boat out of the tiny harbour and sail her 100-odd Km down the coast to Hendaye.
I was lucky enough to be around on the day they pulled her out of the water earlier this year and started preparing her for their latest self-imposed challenge. At 4.96 metres overall (a handspan longer than a Laser), Micromégas V is small – but they plan to sail her across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean, making a film and writing two books as they go.
Micromégas V is a catamaran with a shallow cockpit in a central pod.
Here, she has been dismantled and packed onto a trailer. It took two 4x4s in tandem to get this rig through the soft sand to the concrete slipway a few metres away.
About 17 years ago Max and Man crossed the Atlantic in another small craft – a proa this time – with no navigation instruments, and no contact with the outside world at all (other than an automatic tracking beacon so that they could analyse their route after they got back to dry land). They just used their eyes and the knowledge of where the stars would be once they were far enough south to be on the latitude of the island they were aiming for – which was fine until they had several consecutive days of thick cloud.
There was no way they could have obtained permission to take this craft offshore, so they even had to set off in the dark. Take time out to view this 9-minute extract from their award-winning film:
The DVD (with English subtitles) and a very entertaining autobiography are normally obtainable from their website, but they won’t be around to take orders for about a year. You can get the book from amazon.fr (and, at the time of writing, a bookshop in the US was demanding more than twice the list price for a secondhand copy!). If you contact me in the comments below, I may be able to find a way to get the DVD for you while they are away.
This time, Max and Man are fully equipped (they’re carrying two 100Ah batteries to power all the kit, and will update their blog as they go).