The death of Mike Birch, Canadian navigator, first winner of the Route du rhum
Winner in 1978 of the first edition of the Route du rhum, 98 seconds ahead of Michel Malinovsky, after twenty-three days of racing, Mike Birch died on Wednesday, October 26, at the age of 90, at his home in Brec’h, Morbihan.
The disappearance of the Canadian sailor, a few days before the start of the twelfth edition of this regatta that has built his legend, is that of an immense pioneer of offshore crossings. Mike Birch estimated that he crossed the Atlantic at least sixty times: “I stopped counting”, He said. But above all without ever overturning.
We haven’t said ocean racer yet but “adventurous navigator”, recalls Charlie Cappelle. The latter, builder and navigator, will leave for his seventh Route du rhum aboard one of the four twin boats (sister ships) ofOlympus photos, the small yellow trimaran aboard which Mike Birch, forty-four years ago, demonstrated the superiority of a small 11-meter multihull glued to a 21-meter plywood monohull. Michel Malinovsky will have this historic word on the pontoon to greet his opponent: “Victory alone is beautiful. “
Mike Birch’s success in 1978 paved the way for today’s multihulls. Designed by the American architect Walter Greene, Olympus was the first in the series of A’Capella. Olympus it was abandoned at sea by its new owner during a delivery voyage between the United States and Europe, two years after Mike Birch’s victory.
“The anti-Eric Tabarly”
Blue-eyed, silent, Birch could sometimes have a pastoral or military stiffness in his face. He would then respond with ” can be “ or ” perhaps “. Or he didn’t answer. Or with very thin and razor sharp sentences. Such was this man, with lean and long muscles, remarried in France for forty years. The couple shared their life between Morbihan and the mouth of the Saint-Laurent. In Brittany he has never been far from the shipyards that brought back to life the sister ships born from the series designed by Walter Greene.
“It was balance at sea: going fast without breaking. I called him Jedi Master ”, Loïck Peyron, navigator
“I’ve always had a bit of the impression that Mike was coming out of the cellar. He unfolded and suddenly regained his vertical shape, says Loïck Peyron, with whom he competed in Lorient-Bermuda-Lorient in 1983 on a small catamaran. Mike bent down, bent down when the weather got rough. Mike was the school of absolute flexibility, in a sense the anti-Eric Tabarly, who thought that if he didn’t hold up, it was because the calculations were wrong. If bullshit had happened aboard, Mike said nothing, but he stared at the candidate with that Clint Eastwood look in Inspector Harry. She was balanced in the sea: she went fast without breaking. I called him Jedi Master. “
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