Peyron's hopes are blowing in the wind

While elbowing my way through the throngs on the pontoons at Les Sables d’Olonne, all craning for a peak at the yachts that will set sail on Sunday 9 November in this solo round the world race, something caught my eye.

It was flapping on the transom guardrails of Gitana 80, Loïck Peyron’s Open 60 yacht. The very fact that it was flapping where everything else was bolted, epoxied or laminated into rigidity appeared out of place.

On closer inspection, there seemed to be writing on it. Was it a shopping list? A list of the day’s tasks perhaps? At last I recognised it as a Buddhist prayer flag, of the sort that are strung up at significant sites throughout the Himalayas and wherever Buddhism has a foothold, blowing their invocations to the heavens.

Peyron came second in the first ever Vendée Globe in 1989-90. He’s been around the world twice and crossed the Atlantic 42 times, 17 times alone. Why would a man of such experience, engulfed onboard by a blizzard of telemetry and weather data, need – or even find time – to indulge in spirituality?

After a moment’s contemplation, it occured to me that maybe he is spiritual because of his vast experience, not despite it. Perhaps, having seen what he has seen, he knows that there is a greater power and sees all sorts of benefits in staying on its right side?