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Prototype Sails 14,000 Nautical Miles in Nine Months

Imagine setting out under the hot tropical sun of Saint Barth and sailing south to the very tip of South America where glacial winds and snow are there to greet you! That was exactly the case for Marc de Rosny, Stanislas Defize and Yan van den Haute, three men who met in Saint Barth and embarked on a seafaring adventure that lasted nine months and covered 14,000 nautical miles.

On Sunday, May 21, 2005 their boat, a 14-meter sailboat called Prototype, returned to Saint Barth where it had set sail on August 24, 2004, the patron saint day of Saint-Barthelemy. Many friends were on the dock to meet them, while others set out in small sailboats and motorboats to meet them in the harbor and accompany them into the port.

This unusual adventure was called “Expedition Prototype,” and its destination was Patagonia, the southernmost part of Argentina. "The boat was built 24 years ago by a naval architect called Francis Martin," says de Rosny, who has owned the boat for the past 12 years. "It was called Prototype because it was in advance of its time in terms of design. It is very wide in the back. It is the precursor of a lot of modern boats." The hull of the boat is unpainted aluminum, giving it an unusual look, but one that fits in nicely with the spirit of the expedition.

"I knew for a long time that Marc wanted to leave for Patagonia," recalls Defize, who adds that the three attributes of their expedition were to be "passionate, amusing, and interesting." Another intention of the voyage was artistic, as both Defize and de Rosny are artists. Before the trip got underway, Defize created 15 pairs of "navigational sculptures."

One sculpture in each pair was made of aluminum to echo the unpainted aluminum hull of the boat, while its twin was made of yellow fiberglass intended to float. The shape is an abstract of a boat with a keel and a sail. The 15 aluminum sculptures were sold at the To B. Art gallery in Gustavia last year. Each owner chose a spot along the expedition's itinerary where the yellow version with the same number would be thrown out to sea, complete with a message rolled up inside, like the artistic version of a message in a bottle.

As the expedition moved south, the weather turned colder and the sailors were confronted with freezing temperatures. The tropical islands gave way to glaciers. "The winds that swept down from the mountains were surprisingly cold and often violent as they churned up the sea," says Defize. "For Marc, as captain of the boat, this was quite an adventure."

Expedition Prototype was just the first act of an ongoing adventure. Young French filmmaker, Cedric Robion, who lives in Saint Barth, spent 15 days aboard Prototype as it made its way south, and has made nine short eight-minute films about the expedition (a tenth will be completed soon) using his own footage as well as footage shot by Yan and Marc. A feature film about Expedition Prototype is also in the planning stages, and hopefully will be ready to premiere at the St. Barth Film Festival next April.

Two exhibits are also on the drawing boards: one in Buenos Aires next November and one at the To B. Art Gallery (a huge supporter of the project) in Saint Barth in the spring. Photos, drawings, and a treasure trove of objects brought back aboard the boat will serve as an artistic documentation of a 14-meter boat called Prototype and its exceptional journey from Saint Barth to Patagonia and back!

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