The 43rd edition of the Spi Ouest-France Banque Populaire Grand Ouest regatta took place from October 7 to 10, starting from La Trinité-sur-Mer, in Brittany (France). This annual maritime event, postponed for the second consecutive time due to COVID-19, brought together nearly 350 boats, as many as for previous editions.

Among them, “The Lift” and the “Diplodocus”, two ships in the Grand Surprise category, whose crews were made up exclusively of women working in the health sector. This initiative originates from Isabelle Joschke, a Vendée Globe participant, and was organised by Horizon Mixité, an association that promotes gender equality, particularly in the sailing field, in partnership with the MACSF, insurance for health professionals.

A call for applications has been launched on social networks in order to compose the crews, with diversity as main selection criterion: the women selected had to come from various geographical areas, have diverse professional backgrounds and be from different generations. This is how 14 women aged from 21 to 59, working as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists or anaesthesiologists, from all over France, have had the opportunity to participate in this regatta.

14 lucky women selected over 65 applications. And among them, Céline Duval, pharmacist at Diaverum Mulhouse for 11 years: “I come from Reims, which is not much closer to the sea than Mulhouse. But I have been sailing since I was a child. When I was 10, I participated to a school trip to Île de Ré (an island off the coast of La Rochelle, in France) to do a sailing course on Optimist, then I sailed with my father in a dinghy during the holidays, and then I became a sailing instructor to share my passion. My husband also loves sailing, we continue to sail as a family every summer” reveals Céline.

As the participants did not know each other, they had the occasion to meet, to train, to learn to sail together, and for some of them, even discover sailing, during a training course prior to the regatta. They had thus the chance to meet Isabelle Joschke, the initiator of the project. This training course allowed everyone to review their objectives and those of their teammates: “For my crew, the goal was not just to compete, we were keen to be well ranked. But we also participated to surpass ourselves, and to progress together”, Céline confides to us. “In our professions, we have no room for error. Here I found out that if I make a mistake without interfering with the smooth running of the boat, I can move on with the support of the whole crew.” Céline occupied the position of Number 1, it means that she was in charge of the spinnaker, the sail at the front of the boat: “I had a lot of fun in this position, you have to coordinate with the rest of the crew and be attentive to everything that is happening around, the manoeuvres are intense and the atmosphere at the start of the rounds is exhilarating.”

During the regatta, after the parade of the 350 boats, a moment described by Céline as “grandiose, magical, enchanting, that blows you away” (to see at least once, thus), she and her crew had to face up a first challenge: the change of the skipper compared to the training. It was therefore necessary that all of them find their bearings again, and their feet on the boat. As the sailors knew very little about each other, communication was a key element. Thanks to this, they were able to work as a team, in cohesion: “Each of us had a specific position, we all had to move the boat forward, and coordinate well. Once again, we had the right to make mistakes, and could learn from them. This allowed us to gain self-confidence and take risks” explains Céline.

Even though the trials went well overall, Celine still expresses a slight regret: “All the goals we set for ourselves were met, although we could have been better ranked in the end. We never finished last in the trials, but we never finished first either, unlike the other crew. We are part of the first third of the final rankings, which is satisfactory for a first participation.”

When we ask her if she wants to participate again in this event, Céline replies: “You can only participate once in the MACSF crew, to allow others to experience this sport, which is in my opinion a great approach. By the way, all the women within Diaverum can participate, even if they have never been on a boat! The key is to have a good physical condition and above all the desire to surpass oneself. The MASCF does not put pressure at all to achieve good results, it is really about offering women the opportunity to sail. You have to dare to go there, not be afraid, try your luck! Personally, I really want to go back, perhaps with my family, as we all sail” Céline concludes.

Congratulations to Céline and her teammates for their courageous participation in this regatta, and we hope to have the opportunity to follow the adventures of other Diaverum employees in future editions!

The next edition of the Spi Ouest-France will be organised on Easter week-end, from 14 to 18 April 2022. If you are interested in participating in this regatta, please go to www.spi-ouestfrance.com, applications are opened!

"In our professions, we have no room for error. Here I found out that if I make a mistake without interfering with the smooth running of the boat, I can move on with the support of the whole crew."

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