French sailor with a green mission docks at Salalah
MUSCAT: Oman has become the latest destination for an epic family expedition that has spent seven years criss-crossing the planet to highlight and raise awareness of climate change and marine pollution issues. The renowned French single-handed sailor Philippe Poupon, his wife Géraldine Danon, and their children, arrived in Oman aboard their 60-foot ketch Fleur Australe last week from Djibouti, after travelling through the Suez Canal and across the Gulf of Aden. Their first port of call was Salalah where they were greeted by representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, which has arranged an extensive tour programme to allow the family to fully explore Oman’s cultural and natural attractions.
During their stay – which will last until May 4 – Poupon, Danon and their children will also spend time in Duqm, Masirah Island, Ras al Jinz, Muscat, Damaniyat Island, Nizwa and Musandam. Planned activities include a beach clean-up event and environmental awareness festival organised by the Environmental Society of Oman on Masirah Island and a presentation to Oman Sail’s promising sailing stars from the Omantel Youth Sailing Programme who are now the most successful youth squad in the GCC.
Also on the itinerary are visits to the Wadi Shab Turtle Reserve, Baleed archaeological site, frankincense tree reserve, Misfat Al Abreen, Al Khaluf Sugar Dunes, the National Museum and the Grand Mosque among other destinations. Many of the venues reflect the shared vision of maritime heritage and marine conservancy held by Oman and the Fleur Australe project. Ahmed bin Nasser al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism said: “The Ministry of Tourism and its office in France are very proud to have organized the expedition of the French Sailing ship Fleur Australe to Oman. We warmly welcome the French family Poupons and their children to our country, to experience our seas and our lands, our culture and our values. And as they say in France “ Bon Vent”.
The French-flagged yacht left Alaska in 2010 on a long-term expedition to raise awareness about the effects of climate change and provide real-time observations on the state of the oceans. So far its travels have taken it across the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, into the Southern Ocean, and to both Polar regions. The vessel also went through the Northwest Passage during an earlier voyage. Poupon, 62, who is widely known as ‘Philou’ in France, was a member of the legendary Eric Tabarly’s crew in the 1977-78 Whitbread round-the-world race, and went on to build his own reputation as a solo sailing star in the Vendee Globe, Route du Rhum and Solitaire du Figaro, which he won three times. His wife Géraldine is a well-known film and theatre actress in France, as well as a stage director and producer. She is responsible for the steady output of films and daily ship’s log reports which have spread the expedition’s message, as well as the distance education of the couple’s children – Nina, Loup, Laura and Marion. Danon’s log of 13 April, shortly after arriving in Salalah, recorded swimming with dolphins at the Al Hallaniyah Islands on Marion’s ninth birthday.
“This project grew out of our shared desire for a journey that would allow us to take the pulse of the planet and report our observations of the world,” said Poupon. “With our commitment to the same goal, we wanted very much to pool our skills to try to raise everyone’s awareness concerning the need to protect our environment.”