The ChronicleHarald.ca: Atlantic Odyssey Begins.

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Atlantic odyssey begins
Trio of women out to cross ocean on a paddleboard


Stephanie Geyer-Barneix, 34, and Flora Manciet, 25, cheer on their teammate as she takes her first few strokes Sunday morning.



Alexandra Lux, 23, took the first leg of the 5,000-kilometre trek across the Atlantic Ocean that she and two friends will be making by paddleboard. The three French women left Petit-de-Grat in Cape Breton on Sunday morning. They hope to pull into Capbreton, France, in two months. (Photos by LAURA FRASER / Cape Breton Bureau)

 


PETIT DE GRAT — The sun cracked through the storm clouds that have blanketed this Acadian village for two weeks as Alexandra Lux lowered herself onto her paddleboard Sunday morning.

Everyone gathered to bid Ms. Lux — and her teammates — farewell agreed that Mother Nature had given the group her blessing.

At that, the 23-year-old lifeguard slithered forward on her belly and dipped both arms into the 5,000 kilometres of salt water that separated her from her goal: Capbreton, France.

The thermometer had only climbed to about 15 Celsius, but the paddleboarder steadily pulled herself through the sunshine-speckled bay, heading toward the set of buoys that marked the start of Ucar Cap Odyssee’s journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

Capt. Yves Parlier leaned on the catamaran’s horn as the paddleboard moved past the green marker. It was 8:35 a.m.

And they were off.

It took nearly two years of planning, however, to get to that point. Stephanie Geyer-Barneix, 34, came up with the "crazy idea" in 2007, two years after she recovered from an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"When I was sick, I was thinking about after," she said. "I think people just have to have something for after, if not paddling across the Atlantic, something else, like holidays or a professional plan. You need something to look forward to."

She has competed in seven world life-saving championships but said that she needed something even bigger.

"For the worlds, I would like to make top three or win. Now, I don’t want to be top — I just want to finish. And it will be a long, long, long emotional endurance."

She, Ms. Lux, and Flora Manciet will paddle night and day, swapping shifts every two hours, until they reach France.

They expect to cover about 100 kilometres each day, which will get them home in about two months. It will be the first time that anyone has crossed the Atlantic Ocean by paddleboard.

The enormity of the challenge seemed to hit Ms. Lux as she pulled her waterproof boots on Sunday morning.

"I’m happy to leave because we’ve waited a long time to get going," she said in French. "But there’s stress, I’ve got a stomach ache because we’re going to be at sea for two months and we don’t know what’s going to happen out there."

During the five-day test run in April, Ms. Lux became extremely weak and seasick.

"I’m hoping that phase will be a lot shorter this time around," she said, laughing nervously.

But once in the water, her nervousness seemed to disappear. She joked around with those on board the catamaran, even after she took a spill into the water.

"It’s not too cold," she said, flashing a grin and pushing the wet hair out of her face.

The catamaran that will be following the women will be their home and a floating research station.

The women will be taking regular blood tests and sending other medical data to researchers in France. They hope to study the effect that the continuous exercise has on bone and muscle mass and on their posture.

The women found during their test that they had trouble sleeping in the short bursts allotted between their shifts on the water.

That’s just one of the challenges they expect to face for the next two months.

Their main worry, however, is the weather, Ms. Geyer-Barneix said.

Fog, wind, swells and the cold could all present serious hurdles for the paddleboarders, and to the boat trying to the follow them.

The paddleboards have been equipped with a safety flare in case it gets separated from the catamaran. It also has a global positioning system so that people around the world can follow the journey using Google Earth.

Members of the Ucar Cap Odyssee "land team" will be returning to France today, which led to an emotional goodbye Sunday morning.

"Bon courage, les filles. Bon courage."

( lfraser@herald.ca)

 

 

 
 
COMMENTS 
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shakyweebles wrote:
I hope they have insurance to pay for their rescues if needed. Anyone who attempts to set out from our shores in things like this should be stopped, as we the taxpayers, have to pay through the nose to rescue them.They all should be made to provide bona fide proof that they have enough insurance or provide the cash money,refundable upon success, to cover all potential costs assoicated with their resuce if it is needed.
beejay wrote:
I wish them luck but as they themselves have said, "it's a crazy idea"! I often wonder when people do this kind of thing, who pays for the search and rescue when things go wrong, and invariably, they do go wrong. Well, I guess that question was redundant as we all know, the government/taxpayer pays the bill for these people to have their adventure. At least when I go on vacation, I pay my own way !
GEORGE PETERS wrote:
while this might be an interesting endeavour,it seems to me,kinda stupid.there are a lot of big,and i do mean big water out there.and let me tell you from my days at sea,you would never catch me on one of those things,in a million years,that far out.if they get hit with even a 10 foot wave,it is like slamming into a brick wall.and trust me again,weather changes so quick on the ocean,you don't have time to get prepared.ask any fisherman what a high sea is like.any navy people like to take it from here on out,go for it.again,it is a nice idea,but foolhardy.
joe_x wrote:
To the first three posters: your glass-half-empty attitude is sad and pathetic. I feel sorry for you.
Kiltedone wrote:
As much as I'd like to see them make it, they're not going to. They'll be lucky if they're not killed.
Graeme10 wrote:
I hope these "adventurers" have posted a $500,000 bond to pay for their eventual rescue mission. Even when these "events" are done to raise money for a cause the net amount of funds raised usually pales in comparison to the amount "donated" by the taxpayers to pay for the Coast Guard, civilian, and Canadian Forces equipment / fuel / personnel that are required in their inevitable rescue mission. I commend the determination of these women. However, the North Atlantic has claimed thousands of lives over the years and most of those in "vessels" much better equipped than this expedition. One can only hope that the next headline we see regarding this story is safe return of these individuals (most likely 7-10 days into their adventure via their support vessel) rather than coverage of search and rescue mission that has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
lobster1970ca wrote:
Well Joe X you must not pay taxes,9/10 chances they will have to be rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard and with God's grace while the Coast guard is rescuing these them there is not a another that needs them that is not on a fools erand not to mention the money it cost to rescue people it is one thing to make or break records but quite another for us to pay for them
GEORGE PETERS wrote:
joe_x,bud,have you ever been on the ocean,even on a nice day,those waves get damn high.when you decide to go and do this yourself,i will be the first one there,with a boat to pull you out,and ask you then,if it was fun.
Ivehadenuff wrote:
I can understand how someone with a life or death battle with cancer would want to do something totally off the wall to prove they are ok. I can understand this trip "in a way" What I would rather see though is people exerting this much time energy and expense into helping humanity. Feed the hungry, help the aged, set about to do something to assist our planet to recover from the cancer it now suffers from all around the globe this very minute. We will not be here for long if we keep on the path now taken. If all these well meaning people would include in thier hair brained schemes some energy for the planet instead of just satisfying their own personal sense of accomplishment we might stand of chance of recovering as a world.
Antonious wrote:
I suppose that this is an attempt to give a shallow life some greater meaning? Well there's nothing shallow about the North Atlantic, and on a paddle board? We'll be paying for the search and/or rescue, using resources that could be used for those in a real, not self-inflicted, emergency. Nothing romantic about this, just stupid... I hope that they have taken out insurance to cover rescue or recovery efforts. Still, they would be using resources better used elsewhere. Yet another point for natural selection...
Tank wrote:
Pure insanity no matter what the cause.
Chas wrote:
I wish the paddlers well. Some good may come of their plan to send blood tests and other medical data back to France. And there is little fear of taxpayers being asked to cough up. If you read the story, first four or five posters, you'll learn the women will be closely accompanied by a catamaran which they can board if things get rough. Also, the board is equipped with a GPS and flares.
beejay wrote:
joe_x ...please let me know when you plan your adventure so that I can remind you to take out your insurance policy to cover the rescue costs. The only thing sad and pathetic is people like you who think everyone else should pay for their stupid, ill-conceived adventures.
eastcoaster wrote:
Actually joe_x, the first posters have some pretty valid points. I commend them on the intentions in this endeavour and especially the way they want to do something memorable after such a traumatizing thing as breast cancer, but I have to say I truly feel this is a foolish trip to take. Calling it crazy is an understatement. Make no mistake, conducting a trip like this on something as small as a paddleboard in the North Atlantic is extremely dangerous. GEORGE PETERS mentions encountering 10 foot waves, being in the Navy and conducting a number of transits on warships across the Atlantic, I feel they'll be lucky to encounter waves that are only 10 feet high. I've been in the Atlantic during this time of year and I wouldn't be surprised if they run into 20 to 30 foot waves. When the conditions are like that, even their catamaran won't be able to help them because it'll be at risk as well. I can understand the emotional and passionate belief in this trip, but there is a time when a realistic outlook has to be taken. In my opinion, I really don't like this risk and I also really don't want to read about their disappearance later on this summer.
Forward Thinker wrote:
This comment has been edited.


This is a stupid idea. Even if they make it (which they won't) what have they accomplished? Anyone want to make a bet on how far they make it before we send the coast guard out to rescue their selfish butts?
eastcoaster wrote:
Chas, when you start hitting 20 to 30 foot waves in the middle of an unforgiving Atlantic Ocean and you're roughly 1500 miles from land, even a catamaran won't be effective in those conditions. All the GPS is going to give us is a last known position to start the search. I've had times on a warship where the weather is so rough it's difficult maintaining a steady course. Now imagine that on a paddleboard, or even the catamaran. Like I've said before, passion is fine, but a realistic assessment of the potential outcome has to be considered as well. In all honesty, it's sheer lunacy to do this on a vessel so small.
beejay wrote:
Chas......if inded, you read the story, you will see that even the adventuters had some concerns as this statement indicates:"Fog, wind, swells and the cold could all present serious hurdles for the paddleboarders, and to the boat trying to the follow them". This is the middle of the ocean and even the catamaran could be in trouble if a bad storm develops.
Portland wrote:
Holy negative Nancy's ! You Go Girls, if that's what they want to do, I think it would be amazing to have accomplished this trip... they will proove you all wrong. GOODLUCK LADIES!! Negative Nancy's & Norman's : I hope if your amazing travel plans ever make it to the paper, I hope you enjoy people crapping on your idea.
Hunkered in Halifax wrote:
paddle boards have yet to cross an ocean. Many, many Catamaran's have crossed oceans, many times. Not sure how big the Cat is, but it is a research Cat, which likely means it is used to cross and navigate oceans all the time. Does anyone rescued from the ocean have to pay for services? Some would say that going out to 'lobster' fish this year, was insane. Should we make those idiots pay for rescue? Shouldn't we celebrate humanities spirit of adventure? These three have taken reasonable steps to safeguard their quest...they have a 'research' support ship to back them up. Truth is, anyone and anything on the ocean is risking the need for rescuing. Seeing as hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed to fund the vessel, by the French, it would seem to me that if the request for reimbursement was needed, it could certainly be found. And yes, the fact that most posts here seem all about the money, and who's going to be accountable for anything that 'goes wrong', is saddening. Petty and small, lacking imagination.....maybe that's why our young people leave...maybe it isn't about the money....
eastcoaster wrote:
Portland, have you ever been out in the middle of the North Atlantic? I'm not being negative just for the sake of shooting it down. I've experienced the North Atlantic many times on a vessel as big as a warship and I've seen what it is like when you're a long way from land and the weather is less than desirable. Consider this, a 500 foot warship can get tossed about in seas that have waves as high as 30 feet. These are not extreme conditions in the Atlantic, this is commonplace throughout the year. Even the catamaran will be at a serious risk in sea conditions like this. I'm looking at this with a realistic perspective and, try as I might, I truly cannot see it being successful. This trip, regardless of the background and the intent, has bad written all over it.
twilighthours wrote:
These Herald forums have degenerated into grump-fests (or maybe they always were). 20 comments and 18 of them are bashing the girls and complaining about who will pick up the tab on their rescue, if it becomes necessary. The article mentioned nothing about these ladies asking for Canadian Coast Guard support - so why jump to conclusions? There is also no picture of their catamaran - which might be a very large and ocean-worthy vessel. Finally, lots of adventurers head across the Atlantic under their own power (Colin Angus perhaps most famously), and most make arrangements with authorities should a rescue become necessary. I suppose it's hard to remember your sense of adventure as you sit in your cubicle or your wheelchair or wherever you are, but if you can't be excited about such an inspiring athletic endeavour, then please save even the minimal effort required to post a response - and save us from your mindless negativity. Man, these message boards are exhausting. Good luck, ladies.
Chas wrote:
While I respect your Navy experience, Eastcoaster, I think you may be over emphasing the danger. I believe the women and their backers are behaving responsibly. The odyssey took two years to plan and clearly everyone concerned is aware "fog, wind, swells and the cold could all present serious hurdles..." I do not know the size of the support catamaran but I'm assuming it has been judged equal to the task. Hell, any number of yachts cross the pond every year. I'm surprised at you beejay. Usually your posts celebrate triumphs of the human spirit. Whether or not they fail is not the point. They're giving it a go.
MissFlip wrote:
Dear twilighthours - there's only one 'feel good' story per day, and today is Sid Crosby's turn - therefore, we have to focus our grumpiness on some other story. Since there's nothing about the sewage plant in here today, we're picking on les girls instead ...
beejay wrote:
Chas...sorry to let you down but the idea of anyone, not just these ladies embarking on a dangerous journey that may require the necessity for Search and Rescue to get involved has always been something that doesn't sit right with me. If a bond is put up to cover the cost of Search and Rescue then I say go for it and enjoy the adventure. And perhaps, in this case there may have been one, although no mention of it was made in the story. I am all for triumphs of the human spirit and I wish the ladies a safe journey.
MissFlip wrote:
PS for more grumpiness see the board on the article about the mayor of Liverpool's invitation to Paul McCartney to come down for some fish'n'chips ...
baddogbob wrote:
Hopefully they make it to the other side without problem. However if these ladies ever get into trouble & the navy/coast guard don't come to their rescue soon enough, will we, the taxpayers, be sued? Looney ideas should be called exactly that. Loonie ideas.
 
   

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Mike Turney 22/07/2009 13:21

Just a small point to those complaining about "taxpayers" etc. Yes, there is the issue of rescue, and yes, there is a lot of feeling bout people that set off on pushing the envelope sort of adventures. Most of them are the folks that try to row across the Atlantic or Pacific in ocean going row boats. When tey get in trouble they call for help from the Rescue Coordination Centres and boom there goes the tax dollars. These ladies have their own support and rescue following them, remember. If something happens they should have an ocean crossing cat skipper and crewed by some very experienced people that they can climb aboard, People cross the Atlantic every day in these kinds of cats. Personally I think that they are remarkably well prepared and supported. Not to say that their sauccess is guarenteed, but I do feel that they have made every reasonable attempt to mitigate problems.

I met them in Halifax and watched them prepare for the adventure and was very favourably impressed with the enterprise.

Bon chance, mesdammes, et bon voyage

Félix 08/07/2009 22:37

I'm quiet surprised about all those comments on tax payers, funny people it seems to me. You should be aware that the girls will have a look on your comments and will feel the real concern tax payers have for their lifes, if crossing the atlantic ocean is that dangerous...
If I was deseagrying on their quest I would try to warn them and simply try to change treir minds.
Allez les filles courage et détermination, du beau temps c'est ce que je vous souhaite.