VIDEO – From Portugal to New York by pedal boat: the muscular challenge of a French adventurer


MEETING – Savoyard Didier Bovard has set himself a goal: to cross the Atlantic using only the strength of his calves. He intends to join the Statue of Liberty on a pedal boat that he himself built.

What drives a mountain dweller born at the foot of the Alps to take to the sea? “In the adventure, it’s the unknown that interests me”, answers the Savoyard Didier Bovard. This funny adventurer spends his days on his submarine-like pedal boat, on Lake Geneva, to prepare for the crossing of the Atlantic.

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At 59, Didier Bovard is preparing to travel to New York from Sagres, in southern Portugal, in his unsinkable pedal boat that he built himself. He plans to spend four months at sea without assistance in order to cover the 6000 km towards his goal: the Statue of Liberty. New York is not a given. It’s a story of the good current, the Atlantic. I want to arrive at the Statue of Liberty to pay homage to him but there is a big question mark. In any case, I will give the maximum “, assures the sailor in the report of the 20H of TF1 at the head of this article.

Getting ready to face the ocean on a lake, the project could make people smile if the Savoyard had not already proven its worth. He made two crossings of the Atlantic, in 1998 from Portugal to the West Indies, and in 2002 to Memphis to pay tribute to the singer Elvis Presley of whom he is a fan. His boat is also entitled “My way”, named after one of his songs. He also made a trip to Greenland in the middle of the icebergs.

20,000 km at sea aboard his pedal boat

In total, the mountain dweller has traveled nearly 20,000 km aboard his pedal boat. “I hesitated for a moment when a calf passed under my hull. I said to myself ‘one stroke of the tail and the boat is in a thousand pieces’. At four degrees, you can’t resist. In 2012, thirty hours in the storm without eating, without drinking, without sleeping. They came to pick me up with a helicopter and the boat, we found him eleven months later in Iceland “, he recalls.

The navigator shares all his memories with schoolchildren in his region. On the return from each expedition, he intervenes in schools to tell the little mountain people about the sea. “In the end, it was the kids who got me going. I thought to myself ‘I absolutely have to tell them another story’ .

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For his odyssey, Didier will take 400 liters of water and freeze-dried food. While waiting for the big departure, he is getting ready on the lake, but also by bike in the mountains. Because the pedal boat is not enough for him. Before setting out to sea, it will link the south of Portugal from Paris on two wheels, that is 2000 km for three weeks, just to warm up.

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