Pioneering French sailor Florence Arthaud, 57, died this past March in a helicopter crash in Argentina along with nine others—two of them Olympic athletes—while on their way to film a reality television show.
Arthaud was best known as the only woman to have won the grueling Route du Rhum transatlantic race, a feat she achieved in 1990 aboard the 60ft trimaran Groupe Pierre. Although born just outside of Paris, Arthaud grew up sailing, eventually rubbing shoulders with such sailors as the iconic Eric Tabarly, father of France’s ongoing offshore sailing craze. At one time she was also the holder of the world record for the fastest solo crossing of the Atlantic.
“I raced against and partied with Florence. She was a force and a crazy woman who lived 10 lives in her 57 years,” says Whitbread Ocean Race and America’s Cup veteran Dawn Riley, currently the executive director at the Oakcliff Sailing in Oyster Bay, New York. “It is shocking and yet somewhat appropriate that she has left us in an exotic land and a most unconventional way.”
“She broke the ground for women in ocean racing,” remembers SAIL editor Peter Nielsen. “I met her 20 years ago before a transatlantic race in which she pushed so hard that she capsized her trimaran. She was the real deal.”