Florence Arthaud 1957-2015

Death of Florence Arthaud, forever “la petite fiancée de l'Atlantique”. One of the true greats of French offshore sailing, Florence Arthaud, 57, has died on Monday March 9, 2015 in a helicopter crash while filming a TV show in Argentina.  The tragedy claimed the lives of 10 people, including two French athletes, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and boxer Alexis Vastine.

News MAR 10, 2015 09:51

The entire Barcelona World Race organisation is deeply saddened by the tragedy, and would like to extend their sincere condolences to the families and friends of Florence Arthaud and all those affected.

On November 18, 1990, Florence Arthaud forever earned her nickname as the “Little Bride of the Atlantic” when, aged 33, she arrived in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, as winner of the fourth edition of the Route du Rhum. Arthaud completed the prestigious transatlantic solo race in 14 days, 10 hours and 10 minutes onboard the trimaran ‘Pierre 1’. The journey was far from smooth – the autopilot and radio failed, and she had suffered a hernia during the race. But the victory made her famous across France and earned her accolade of ‘Champion of Champions’ by the French newspaper L'Equipe. Later that year she went on to set a new transatlantic record on the same trimaran.

Florence was the daughter of Jacques Arthaud, director of the Arthaud publishing house, which specialised in publishing the stories of adventurers, including mountaineers and great sailors. A serious car accident when she was 17 left her in a coma.

In 1986 whilst competing in the Route du Rhum, Florence Arthaud was diverted to provide assistance to Loïc Caradec. In storm conditions she was the first to locate Caradec’s catamaran Royale II, but with no signs of life onboard. Despite her grief, she resumed sailing and was able to complete the course.

Florence herself almost disappeared at sea on October 29, 2011. Sailing alone off Corsica, she fell into the water at night but managed to hold onto her mobile phone and call her mother, who raised the alarm. She was found and rescued around two hours later, conscious but suffering from hypothermia.

Florence Arthaud had sailed with many legendary French sailors such as Bruno Peyron. She had raced doublehanded with Barcelona World Race competitor Jean Le Cam, together taking second place in the Transat AG2R in 1996.

In recent years she divided her time between Paris and Marseille, but still could still be found passionately supporting ocean sailors on the pontoons. Describing herself she said, “I’ve lived the life of a free spirit and adventurer” while in Le Monde in 2009, Le Cam commented that: “She is still a monument.”