The whole story started on a rainy Sunday afternoon in October. Not the kind of day anyone remembers fondly: “Guys, I’ve just been diagnosed with advanced type B lymphoma. The tumor is the size of a volleyball. The good news is chemo starts next week”
I hang up. That was Paul Gallet. My wife introduced us ten years ago when we were students at Southampton University, we’ve been true friends ever since. Same guy who just a month ago had shared his dream with me of crossing the Atlantic solo by running the Mini-Transat.
Chemo starts and as Paul turns bald, his dream fades away: no offshore sailing, racing or adventure for him. He’s 26, a dedicated athlete, never smoked, no family history of cancer… just a lot of bad luck.
A few weeks later, I stop by the hospital to say hi. In spite of his last two chemos, Paul’s eyes are as sparkling as ever and his voice full of energy. He’s super excited about François Gabart’s recent round-the-world record onboard his trimaran, Macif. But for Paul, the offshore dream is over… one day maybe, but for now, way too dangerous.
I get it. Having raced the Mini-Transat 2015 edition, I know it took all my physical and mental resources, and then some, to get to the Caribbean on my 6.5m bullet. For a guy recovering from cancer, with no communication links? No way! Something starts to click in my mind. The cancer, the stillborn transatlantic adventure, my buddy in his hospital bed, all his energy, our friendship… What about me? I can’t wait to go back out there. I miss the ocean, but I can do without the solo-sailing. Early January, I’ve got a clear plan in mind : “Paul, if you can’t go alone, let’s go together. On a mythical race, with a challenging project, but within our combined capacities. We have two years. Two years to get you back on track, to train, and to qualify. Let’s race the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2019, aboard a Class 40”. Paul agrees immediately.
Everything starts to fall into place. Through his chemo treatments, his painful autograft, and later his radiation therapy, we work hard to get our project on track. A year after his diagnosis, he officially enters the remission phase. He receives the ok from his medical team to launch the project. We’re on! We know for sure that when we sail from Le Havre towards Salvador de Bahia in November 2019, we’ll be driven in no small part by our firm belief that so much is achievable with a strong and positive mindset. So much, including a month-long double-handed transatlantic crossing, requiring top-notch technical capabilities and physical fitness.
And Paul will be our beacon of hope.
Yesterday Paul got back to his doctor for a 6 months check. And he got out the the best news : he’s now officially back on track and got the GO from the medical institute to race the Transat Jacques Vabre !