Living life to its fullest

This story is about Dirk Mertens from Belgium.

With a background in law and economics he is today a private investor at the age of 65, lives in Antwerp on a farm, breeding Grand Prix horses. But the real essence is a story about a man who seems to be living his life to the full – loving to sail!

A new boat every two-three years

Dirk started sailing at the age of 12, stopped during studies, but resumed sailing back in 1976. Since then Dirk has had 14 boats! My wife says I am crazy”, Dirk says with a smile in the voice. His existing Jeanneau 57 was bought for the ARC, that he did with his wife, a friend and two crew members in 2014. “It has been equipped with everything on the market, including the best sails”, Dirk explains whilst already dreaming about the next new boat – slightly bigger.

An old dream

The dream to do the ARC started 10 years ago. “It takes a lot of time and planning to do the ARC, so we didn´t manage until 2014. We set up a team with me as the skipper and my wife in charge of all logistics and a crew of three members, one friend and two we found on a French website where you “hire” crew members. From the very beginning I decided that I did not want to set up a crew of friends only and that proved to be the right decision. Friends are for life and we did not want to put ourselves in a situation where a possible argument could ruin a friendship.”

Best & worst crossing the Atlantic

Dirk and his Jeanneau 57 joined the ARC in the cruising category and crossed the ocean very fast doing 2444 miles! “We did not really have any bad incidences. Except that our spinnaker blew up. The hardest part of sailing so many miles is the human factor. Having to deal with the crew members and the attitude to for instance duties. But that is what I hear from others, who have done the ARC, too,” Dirk explains. “But that being said, we had an excellent and comfortable tour. The thrill of moving 2444 miles in a “plastic boat” without the use of an engine is fantastic. Being close to and in harmony with nature – the skies, the
dolphins and the whales – is what makes it so great”.

Powered by wind and Elvstrøm Sails

Dirk is not a regatta man. He and his wife like to explore remote places, find the beauty and the adventure. “The joy of sailing is about freedom and nature. Going just by the wind is a thrill.” Prior to the ARC Dirk made a short list of sail makers, one of them being Elvstrøm Sails in Belgium, driven by Maxim Van Pelt. “Maxim gave me very good - and the right - advice, and being a big investment that is of course important. And the sail itself is a joy. The investment in an in-mast furling mainsail has proven to be a success. It is a great combination of comfort and performance. Even when it´s just my wife and I out sailing, it´s very comfortable.”

And that is exactly what Dirk and his wife intend to do: go out sailing much more. Just back from the Caribbean in late November 2015, the next plan is Cuba in January 2016 and from there on to Bermuda and on to the Azores and then finally to Portugal. In the summer of 2016 look for Dirk and his wife in the Mediterranean Sea, getting a glimpse of Etna.

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