Take two Frenchmen and put them in a rowboat with a generous supply of wine, point them towards Hawaii, and they are almost bound to have a good time.
Clement Heliot (aged 25), and Christophe Papillon (27) are first cousins, Christophe’s mother being the sister of Clement’s father. They remember childhood summers when their grandfather would hold pretend Olympics for them and the other ten of their cousins, and they have relatives who have cycled from France to Madagascar and walked across Greenland, so maybe adventure and athleticism run in their genes.
Their first adventure was 4 years ago, when – despite the doubts of their parents – they cycled from Paris to St Petersburg, a journey that took them 4,000km in two months through 9 countries. Even as they rode their bikes, they were already planning their next adventure. Inspired by their countryman Gerard d’Aboville, they set their sights on the Pacific. This time their parents took them more seriously, maybe because the two young men had already spent 6 months making their preparations before they announced the project to their families, so their commitment to the goal was clear to see. They describe their parents as being “scared but supportive”.
The biggest challenge so far has been geographical distance – Clement is a student at business school in France, while Christophe has been setting up a sales and distribution network for safety shoes in the UAE – but somehow they managed, although Clement ended up doing the lion’s share of work on the boat. Christophe comments that he spent more time talking with Clement than he did with his mother, as they discussed every aspect of their race preparation at length.
They called their crew CC4Pacific (Christophe and Clement 4 the Pacific), and their boat La Cigogne, or The Stork, as a reference to the street where they lived in their grandparents’ house for a while.
They were fortunate to find a great friend and mentor in Pierre Mastalski, who rowed across the Atlantic in 2012, and who they describe as being their “godfather in adventure”.
They also tapped into the expertise of the doctors in the La Mondiale ocean rowing crew, who advised them to look after their hands and butts, and take wine. Sounds like a good prescription for a happy ocean row.
As with their cycle ride, they intend to make a documentary about their voyage because (according to their website), “We also would like to share that project and our experience with young people. We hope we will find opportunities to explain to them that with determination and tenacity we all can achieve our wildest dreams. Being an example for those who doubt or do not dare, is our ambition.”
It sounds to us like these two Frenchmen may well become, in turn, godfathers in adventure to a new generation of ocean rowers.