Embark on the convoying of a Leopard Catamarans fleet

Multicoque déchargé d'un cargo à l'aide d'un treuil

Embark on the convoying of a Leopard Catamarans fleet

Find out how a convoying mission of 16 Leopard catamarans unfolds with Cédrik, professional deckhand on Capt’n Boat.

Briefing, meeting the teams, unloading cargo, convoying, then preparing the boats and finalising the rigging, Cédrik takes us on board for this unusual mission!

See also: Backstage of a Neel 43’s delivery – The captivating story of Benoît, pro skipper

1. The mission: convoying and preparing the Leopard catamarans

The mission, named Medship 1, was to receive 16 Leopard Catamarans boats arriving by cargo at Fos-sur-Mer (France). They were then convoyed to Port Saint Louis du Rhône to finish preparing them for distribution to various European destinations. The catamarans ranged in size from 40 to 53 feet, both power and sail.

Leopard Catamarans called on Capt’n Boat to find 4 crews composed of a captain and a deckhand. Among them, Cédrik was selected to carry out this mission.

A sailboat owner himself, Cédrik became a professional sailor a few years ago. A skilled mechanic, he renovated his boat himself, and counts to his credit a number of sailing trips, a wintering season and a delivery trip from Tunisia to Toulon. This new mission matched perfectly with his profile as a sailor. 

preview of cedrik's captnboat profile

2. Meeting and briefing with the crews

« It was early in the afternoon at the harbour master’s office in Port Saint Louis du Rhône that the appointment was made to begin the Medship 1 mission.The Leopard Catamarans managers were waiting for the 8 sailors recruited through Capt’n Boat to present the details of the mission. For the occasion, the company’s global head of logistics had travelled from the USA to oversee the operation.

During this first hour of briefing and introduction, pairs of skipper and deckhand were formed, and a reminder of the safety rules and the programme for the mission were set out. »

« The first day will be devoted to unloading the cargo ship Amélie moored in Fos-sur-Mer and convoying the catamarans nearly 2.5 miles to the quayside along the Canal Saint Louis.

The next 5 days will be devoted to preparing the boats, with meticulous inventories and technical checks by the Leopard Catamarans teams, removal of the travel protection, filling the tanks and finalising the rigging¹ by the 8 sailors (running rigging, lazy bag², sails….).

The afternoon presentation ended with a tour of the docks where the next day’s convoy was to be based, and a presentation of a Leopard Powercat already on the tarmac at the Port Navy Service yard.

In the evening, we (the crews) returned to the hotel and the comfortable cottage reserved by the shipowner for this first night. »

Visite d'un Leopard Catamaran Powercat
Presentation of a Leopard Catamaran Powercat to Capt'n Boat sailors

3. Unloading the cargo and relaunching the catamarans

« At 7am, we were on the quay, ready to join the cargo ship using the new zodiac launched the day before for the mission. As soon as the order was given, we joined the Leopard Catamarans managers already stationed on the cargo ship to supervise the winches, pre-install the fenders and connect the batteries to get the ships up and running once they were on the water. »

Marins sur un zodiac à l'aube
We join the cargo ship by zodiac

« “The weather, although finally dry, offered a wind sometimes in excess of 20 knots and oriented perpendicular to the cargo ship, so that it brought towards the sides of the iron monster, the almost frail hulls of the 16, 50-foot catamarans suspended at the end of the slings of the ship’s crane.

The dockers alternately pulled on long straps attached to the catamarans so that the port side of the catamarans remained parallel to the freighter as they descended into the sea. »

Cargo avec catamarans
Cargo Amélie carrying the 16 Leopard Catamarans
Multicoque déchargé d'un cargo à l'aide d'un treuil
The multihulls are winched back into the water
catamaran se faisant décharger d'un cargo
The boats are unloaded from the cargo ship.

« On the zodiac, we were ready to jump aboard once the catamarans were in the water.

The deckhands then quickly went around the boat to free all the handling straps, to avoid the risk of them getting tangled up in the propellers. The skippers, for their part, returned to the cockpit to start the engines and free themselves from the cargo to reach the more sheltered waters of the canal…

The wind-driven chop was struggling to frustrate the manoeuvre and the zodiac pilot had to take part in the clearing, towing the ships by their starboard bows. »

Les catamarans sont remis à l'eau
The catamarans are back in the water

« Three pairs of sailors completed a series of convoys to the storage docks, where one of the sailors in charge of welcoming them and optimising parking during the rotations was waiting for them.

The last boat was launched at nightfall, leaving the imposing trimaran SVR Lazartigue, skippered by François Gabart, alone on board for the final leg of her journey back to Lorient. »

Multicoques Leopard Catamarans Powercat
Leopard Catamarans Powercat
Leopard Catamarans aux côtés de SVR Lazartigue skippé par François Gabart
Leopard Catamarans alongside the SVR Lazartigue trimaran

« This first day of high intensity ended with a time of conviviality shared with all those involved in the operation. In the evening, each pair left to spend the night on board the freshly unloaded boats: a double cabin with individual shower and WC for each sailor »

4. Preparing the Leopard catamarans and rigging

« The next day saw the second phase of the mission, i.e. the preparation of the boats. Following instructions from the technical team, the boats were fitted and installed with varying degrees of ease, including genoas, mainsail travellers and automatic ris⁷.

Although the wind was still present on this second day, preventing the mainsails from being set, it didn’t stop the first climbs to the top of the mast, to install the wind vanes, connect the electronics and lower the halyards. »

photo d'un mât de catamaran
Installing the wind vanes at the top of the mast
skippers en train d'installer les drisses
Fitting and installing halyards, genoas, reefs...

« It was a little stressful when, lying flat on the zodiac’s bladder, you had to hit the “shrouds” with the outboard end, on the inner bow 30 cm above the water. The finger in the ring to stabilise the distance from the dinghy, the shackle and cable in what was left of the hand, to seal the whole thing with a screw… And avoid the inconvenience of a premature dip in March! Fortunately, everyone stayed dry. »

« Finally, in cooperation with the cleaning team that had swelled the ranks, we went back and forth to the port service station to fill up the almost ten thousand litres of diesel needed to level the tanks of the entire fleet.

With the mission over, it was with general satisfaction that the final debriefing took place. Many of us had never been on a mission like this before! »

Catamaran dans une station essence en train de faire le plein de gasoil
The fuel tanks are full!

5. Words from a sailor: a technically and humanly rewarding experience

« It was the first time I’d been involved in a mission where I was participating in the unloading of ships from a cargo ship, with the frequency of rotation and the logistical management involved.

The first unloading of the catamaran was a tad stressful, with all those slings in the water to secure, keeping an eye on the distance between the boat and the cargo, and so on. But in the end it was a positive adrenaline rush. »

Marins Capt'n Boat posent devant les Leopards Catamarans
The 8 Capt'n Boat sailors hired for the mission, accompanied by the Leopard Catamarans managers.

« I particularly enjoyed working with all these skippers (6 Capitaine 200 Voile out of the 8 sailors recruited). Working on a boat is often, for good reason, a fairly vertical organisation. But here, everyone with their own experience and character, in a rather unprecedented situation, gradually found their place in a shared benevolence.

For me personally, as a new professional sailor who was the director of an organisation for ten years, it was a particularly interesting experience of positioning, listening and taking a step back.

As for the rest, I’m still a sports instructor with a passion for craft: as soon as the physical commitment kicks in and I can get my hands on a ratchet and a pair of pliers, I’m in the passion business. And unlike renovating my sailboat or building my own house, I could share this pleasure with my peers!

In conclusion, whether it’s directly at sea or to prepare for sailing, I’d be delighted to experience this type of mission again. »

 – Narrated by Cédrik B., photos by Cédrik B. and Samuel B. –

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