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Happy, happy. Joy, joy!

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 13 Sep 05:00 UTC
Jacky with Yassine ahead of the World Record attempt of over 300nm - in a Laser! © Yassine Drk

There are definitely some serious perks to this gig. Yet without doubt, the best is the reach and connection with sailors far and wide. The emails, calls, and chats on the quay (wow that's from another era) still come in, and continue to inspire the entire Sail-World and YachtsAndYachting.com team. So a big thank you from all of us to all of you. Cheers!

Case in point, and just earlier this month we received a wonderful note from Yassine Drk (aka Yassine Darkaoui) in Morocco. Now Yassine is known to us, because we've been following and supporting him from all the way back in December of 2012. He's been sailing for decades, represented Morocco at Laser/ILCA World Championships, a qualified sailing instructor, and an IT and Science graduate as well.

Now the only problem was an eight-year stint addicted to heroin. Since coming clean, he's been on a big mission to show people that there are better ways to get high. Yassine's used massive stints in the Laser to not only push himself, but also categorically demonstrate exactly what he stands for. He's just about to set off again, to do 450nm in the dinghy, solo, and totally unassisted. Respect or what?

Yassine has previously completed 212nm in 77 hours and 150nm in 30 hours, and believe it or not, there is a record, which Robert Suhay set at 280nm. After living in Thailand and Asia for a decade, Yassine's moved back to his native Morocco to continue preparing for the assault, and said, "I am looking for better winds than I had for the last challenges, as the weather and sea conditions didn't help at all."

"The weekend here was windy; a beautiful warm easterly wind in Tangier," said Yassine, happy that there is significant breeze around. "My first campaign in the Andaman Sea was about sailing as much as possible. It was a personal challenge, and it became the longest distance sailed in a dinghy single-handed, with no assistance, no break. I covered 220nm in 77 hours, and almost got killed by lightning during the second evening at sea.

"Soon after that, Robert Suhay sailed a longer distance and spent more time on board. I was disappointed at that, as it took me a lot of work to achieve what I had. I decided then to attempt to sail further that that. It's not a need to beat someone else's achievement, but just challenging myself by comparing my sailing achievement to someone else's.

"In 2019 I took on the Gulf of Thailand. I moved to Huan Hin (200km south of Bangkok), and after three weeks of training (sailing mostly, as my physical conditioning had been done prior to that when I was in Phuket) I started my journey at a midday with a gentle breeze. That first afternoon went kind of well, even if I got hit on the chest by a fish jumping out of the water. By 8pm the wind got stronger and the waves much bigger."

"I almost crashed with three fishing boats. It was hard to see them, as they hit me with a super strong light and told me to change my course immediately. The visibility was just a few metres, and I didn't see any of them (see the video).

"The next day I decided to stop after sailing 150nm in 30 hours. Half of the time it was flat, no wind at al, very frustrating and tiring. It was like being in a microwave from 7am to 5pm. As no fishing boat had lights it became dangerous to stay there for a second night. It was literally like a minefield. Alas I didn't reach my first goal, and that's how I ended in my current situation."

Morocco

"I moved here a month and a half ago, keen to have all the luck on my side, so I can establish a world record, and keep it for many years. The goal is to sail from a city located at the north of the country in front of Spain (Strait of Gibraltar) to the city of Agadir located on the Atlantic coast, 950 kilometres away. At the time I started to prepare myself for this journey I was in Bali (around May).

"By mid-May I started to plan my trip to Morocco and the project. By mid-May I started to get in touch with people and businesses in order to find sponsors. A month ago I had secured two already. I got my flight and came here to Tangier, which is my home town. Ten years in Asia mostly by the sea or sailing can change ones perspectives, and I am rediscovering my home country, the sounds, the culture..."

Yassine has been sailing, working out, and trying to just keep calm. The latter no doubt a result of the previous two experiences, where he no doubt learned that the unexpected can happen any time even when we think that things are under control. Here's a recent video of some of the training, as seen by a friend of his from the US.

The voyage itself

Yassine reports that the Moroccan coast seems pretty quiet. He will stay around five kilometres from the coast in some areas, and around ten in others. It will be dark for around ten of the 24 hours in a day, so when it's light, he'll have to "go crazy and sail as fast as possible."

He does not keep his lights on when sailing in the dark, as it hurts his eyes, but does have a torch at hand to investigate things: "...boat, big fish, wood, hallucination!" On the latter point, he cannot sleep on board too well, as he is quite tall, but acknowledges he'll need to, otherwise after a day and a half with no rest that's all he will see.

Showing experience with it all, Yassine commented, "I've already seen giants in the sea, horses, and I had once a phone ringing in my mind for 12 hours or more. Of course reading a GPS under hallucinations is not OK - hahaha. Let's see how I manage that."

Hiking is a problem, not so much for his legs, "...as they kind of die and its not tiring any more, but for my butt, as hiking too much takes the skin away. I'm still looking for a solution to that."

It's about 20 degrees C at night, so it is cold on the Laser where you get splashed all the time. Clothing selection is critical, and Yassine picks sailing shorts, leggings, jacket, and some extras for when it gets really cold. With no support boat, if he capsizes wearing too much can make it crucially difficult to get back on.

Naturally, he's on a mission not to capsize, for the extra 20 kilos of gear would be hard to find and gather, especially in the dark. "In the South, around the famous windsurfing city of Essaouira, the swell can get to 20ft. They advise me to reach instead of sailing downwind, in case the wind turns more North. After a few days of sailing, and if I can get to this point, which is almost the end of the trip, I really don't want to have to face that!"

Supplies consist of 15 litres of water in three containers, a small bag with a mix of different nuts mixed with olive oil, Turmeric powder, Moringa powder, energy gel, and a pipe with some good Indonesian tobacco. "It's important to enjoy the journey, even if there are times when I ask myself why I am doing this."

Yassine has a tracker, GPS unit, and a phone, preferring not to check the handheld compass or GPS at night all the time, and rely on his other senses. "There's the balance of the boat, and the angle the waves crash at; I will know for example that in a certain area the swell will change a bit in direction, so I will have that as a metric to adjust my sail. I don't use gloves for sailing, in the dark the mainsheet can say a lot of stuff, and a bare hand will feel it more.

"It's also important to have daylight when crossing Casablanca and Safi, as there are a lot of big vessels in those areas. I have to think how to get there in daylight, as they cannot see me in their radar. Equally, some areas are foggy, which is also a bad thing. I will meet with friends from the port authority (who are also my sponsors) and talk in depth about how and when to start, to achieve the ideal timing."

The dark side

Acknowledging that this sort of thing can be scary, Yassine does reflect on problems in the past, like losing teeth, breaking his jaw, dislocations, nearly hit directly by lightning, and fishing boats, but had the fortune to speak with a big waves surfer recently about how he overcomes the dark side.

"His answer was that he just focuses on what he wants to experience during the session. In my case, if I feel stressed I focus on the 3-5 days of reaching, and surfing the Atlantic. I think to all those sailors who sailed that coast for thousands of years, the legends come to my mind, lost civilizations..."

"I design brain wave stimulation frequencies for my clients, so I use this same technology to meditate, stay focussed, and in the present moment. Same for sleeping, I use this technology to have less need for sleeping. Also, when I get injured in my training I use brain stimulation sounds. I learned how to listen to my fears. The biggest one was the fear of 'dying alone in the dark ocean'. This one was challenging to work on."

Almost like it was a question from a young school kid, Yassine divulged, "Before the big departure I will clean my belly, because I don't want to do #2 in the sea. I mean it's a weird detail, but I'm sharing it here. We are sailors and we know that it can be very difficult accomplish this process at sea. In a Laser I need to put my butt out of the boat, and doing that while hiking is not good. If my butt skin gets wet I will get irritations. So I need to stay dry."

Talking about taking a moment, Yassine said, "It's nice to stop the boat in the middle of nowhere and have a break with some good tobacco, and this one I got from Indonesia."

As for the overall mission, well he plans to start with the wind out of the East, and get to the Strait of Gibraltar, thence on to Larache city where it will shift to Nor'west. The record is set at El Jadida city (520 kilometres), and the rest is extra, as Yassine puts it. He's presently settled in at a fishing village called Dalia beach, which is also where he'll actually start.

As to what he knows from this side of the mark, "Sailing long distances with a dinghy teaches you a lot of things. It's a form of meditation, and it's also an inner trip. To a certain degree it's pleasant, but it can also hurt a lot," and you can follow the magic from his website at yassinedrk.com

As for the sailing news across the rest of the world, please avail yourself of the plethora of information on our group's websites when you can.

Equally, if your class or association is generating material, please submit your material. Want to subscribe? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. You can also register for other editions from the pull-down menu.

Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and enjoy your time on the water.

John Curnow Editor, Sail-World AUS

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