By Dona Bertarelli
My ‘Everest’ was the extraordinary journey which is the Jules Verne Trophy.
For three years, I prepared myself for this. I lived the adventure, a day at a time, fully, intensely, full of excitement, looking wide-eyed at the world, at myself, at those I love, among whom Yann, who opened up the doors to offshore sailing to me. My greatest joy was being able to share this adventure with the school children who were following us as part of our Spindrift for Schools programme. Throughout the 47 days onboard Spindrift 2, I wrote a series of articles titled ‘Out of the Classroom’ inspired by our encounters with marine life, the weather we experienced and the incredible places we passed as we sailed around the world. We didn’t beat the record, but what better present than to have been able to share what we learned from sailing around the world, and share a modern-day experience of Phileas Fogg’s adventures.
Spindrift 2 set off on January 16th, 2019, on another attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy. And it is with a touch of nostalgia that I would like to share my articles again, to give you a glimpse of this wonderful adventure.
ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA
“Isn’t it strange that we still haven’t seen any flying fish?” I ask Seb Audigane, who is at his post at the traveller, ready to ease off the sail immediately if the wind picks up. “It won’t be long,” he replies.
The water temperature indicator shows 22 degrees Celsius. Is it too hot or too cold for these small fish, whose wings allow them to leap out of the crest of the waves and fly several hundred metres on the water’s surface?
We’ve not seen many animals since we set off.
“We’ve not even seen any dolphins, yet we saw some at every training session on Spindrift 2,” I tell Seb.
“We’re going too fast for the dolphins,” he replies. “Only bluefin tuna can swim this fast.”
But unfortunately there aren’t many bluefin tuna, so they are a rare sight indeed. The bluefin tuna are currently listed as endangered species, so protecting them should be everyone’s responsibility. We should stop eating them to help stocks recover so that our grandchildren can see them, and perhaps also eat them.
At the current rate of consumption, there’ll be none left. Not even in aquariums, because these migratory fish travel hundreds of miles, crossing oceans at speeds of 50 mph.
The word tuna is derived from the Greek thuno, meaning to rush.
With torpedo-shaped streamlined bodies, Atlantic bluefin tuna are built for speed and endurance. They can even retract their fins to reduce drag, enabling them to swim through the water at incredibly high speeds. They are top ocean predators and voracious feeders, eating herring, mackerel, hake, squid and crustaceans. Unlike most fish they are warm-blooded and can regulate their temperature to keep core muscles warm during ocean crossings.
Their incredibly beautiful metallic blue topside and silver-white bottom help camouflage them from above and below, protecting them from killer whales and sharks, their main predators.
At 2-3 metres long, the Atlantic Bluefin is the largest species of tuna. One was reported to be 6 metres long! It’s incredible to think that they can dive deeper than 1 km.
When Bluefin is prepared as sushi it is one of the most valuable forms of seafood in the world. The species is listed as ‘near threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list. So let’s all think twice before buying some at our local markets. They might not be as cute as dolphins, but they are worth protecting!