Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sarah Hebert: Transatlantic ambition

It was during a stress test physical that Sarah Hebert's heart began to race super fast: 400 beats per minute. The life threatening tachycardia episode led to the implanting of a defibrillator which will shock the heart back into normal rhythm. Because of the device, Hebert was denied the certification to compete as an athelete in France by the governing sports authority. Her Olympic dreams were crushed.

Fortunately, in stepped Armenia, who offered her dual citizenship and a chance to compete in the next 2008 Olympics. First, Hebert had to qualify her new country for an Olympic berth at the 2008 RS:X Worlds in Takapuna, New Zealand. This is when I first crossed paths with her, while I was reporting on the U.S. effort to qualify for one of the six remaining slots for women's Olympic windsurfing. The U.S. qualified and Armenia did not.

The 2009 Calema Midwinters in Florida was Hebert's first time competing in the U.S. and my first time meeting her face to face. We both use cardiac devices made by Boston Scientific who have become one of her major sponsors. Her device is only activated if her heart races out of control: it's never been used.

She continues to race for her adopted country, Armenia, but not in the RS:X class. She finished 3rd over all in the 2009 PWA Women's Slalom. With only the PWA Almanarre, Hyeres Women's Slalom Final left, Hebert is currently ranked 4th over all for 2010.

Paul Griffiths, PWA media man, had a chance to chat with Sarah at the just completed 2010 Alacati, Turkey event.

I've just bumped into French racer Sarah Hebert who is having a great week of racing and is currently lying in 3rd overall (at this event). But, this isn't her main project this year! Outside of the PWA competitions she's been planning a transatlantic trip! Over to Sarah to describe what she's dedicating her time to.

Sarah "I'm planning to start my trip in Dakar in December, but I have a four month waiting period, and land in Guadaloupe after 20-25 days! I've been dreaming about it for years, and every time I go out on the water I imagine heading off over the horizon!"

That sounds amazing. What gear will you be using?

Sarah  "I'm going to be using some Naish freeride gear. I'll probably take sails from 4.7 up to 9.0, and an 80L wave board up to a light wind raceboard."

So you'll have a support boat with you then?

Sarah  "Definitely. It's a 35 meter trimaran! There will be six crew onboard, one camera man, one for the logistics, three crew, and a cardiologist."

Why a cardiologist?

Sarah  "Because I have a defibrillator implant, which is normally used by older people. But, I want to do some research, along with my cardiologist, to find out if we can make it better for active people."

Is that the only reason?

Sarah  "I used to live on a boat when I was a child, and I love the deep ocean. I want to re-live that experience on a windsurf board. I feel at my best when I'm in the middle of the ocean with no land on the horizon!"

Are you afraid?

Sarah  "Before I announced the project I wasn't scared at all, but as soon as I announced the project, I had three days when I was overwhelmed with fear. But, this just taught me to prepare myself better, and to make sure I've done everything I need to do in order to be as safe as possible."

How are you financing the trip?

Sarah  "I have a few sponsors but I need to raise another 120,000 euros. I have raised equal to that already, so I'm already halfway there. The main expenses are the support boat and crew, and the media agency. Naish have offered all of the gear, but I need some more financial support really."

How are you physically preparing for the trip?

Sarah  "I'm doing a lot of cardiovascular work on my bike, my stand up paddle board, and my windsurf board obviously. It's quite difficult to fit it all in, with all of my other commitments, which include the tour, and the work I do for!"

What really motivates you ?

Sarah  "I love to be as close to nature as possible, and this adventure will bring that, as well as getting some important research for the defibrillators."

What do you think your biggest problem will be ?

Sarah  "I've spoken to almost everyone that has crossed the Atlantic by different forms of craft, and they say my main problem will be my feet. If I get any cuts they say it'll be absolute hell, so I think I'll have to wear boots! I'm constantly contacting these people though and they're giving me tips."

Where can we find out more about your trip? (and perhaps donate some money? or sponsor you?)

Sarah  "I have a website which is dedicated to the trip in both English and French. As soon as I begin the trip there will be daily updates with videos of my progress, and GPS tracking pin pointing exactly where I am. Take a look at the site"

Thanks for your time Sarah, and good luck with the trip!

The first and last 2 photos taken by John Carter, courtesy of the PWA

1 comment:

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