OCEAN LOVER #3: Benjamin Ferré
Benjamin Ferré, a modern-day adventurer
How was this attraction for adventure born?
I discovered the adventure in 2010 with the 4L Trophy, a rally in pairs across the desert. A first trigger that helped me realize that we could set up projects in a short time and experience quite incredible things. Two years later, I took advantage of my gap year at Skema Lille to set up a project called “Skema Globe Stoppeur”. For a year, I hitchhiked around the world, meeting former School graduates living abroad. I made a documentary about it called “Le Monde a porte de Pouch”. Two years later, sailing seriously beginning to intrigue me, I embarked on a new project with two friends: Cap à l'Ouest. The aim was to use the lessons of the past to look to the future. In 2015, we crossed the Atlantic at Le Sextant and Les Étoiles without GPS. In complete energy autonomy, we used solar panels and we stopped during stopovers in schools to make children aware of the environmental transition. We left Saint-Malo with a flower in hand, thinking it would take three weeks to arrive in Martinique. In the end, it took us three and a half months, knowing that none of us had spent more than one night at sea on a boat before...
Experiences that made you want to go further?
Coming back from this crossing, I set up “Imago” with these same two friends, namely the first adventure incubator in France whose vocation is to hatch sports, ecological and solidarity adventure projects. Not only did I feel this societal and environmental appetite more and more, but I also realized that there was a strong demand from people who wanted to embark on projects but who did not dare. The goal is therefore to source people who have these desires, to make them take action and then to support them in their project, knowing that it must have a societal or environmental impact.
We started the first year with a pilot phase by incubating the project of three boys who went sailing around the Atlantic to bring bio-sand filters to Haiti. After that, we decided to launch a national call for projects each year, following which we organize the Imago Tour: a week of inspiration and collective emulation in order to immerse project leaders in the world of adventure and that they leave with a well-crafted plan.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
For each of my projects, I was inspired by meetings and discussions that made me realize that my desires were possible. For “Skema Globe Stoppeur”, for example, I was inspired by Ludovic Hubler who had come to give a lecture at school on his hitchhiking around the world for 5 years. I had the idea of crossing the Atlantic while talking to skippers who had embarked on the Route du Rhum. And I wanted to take on the challenge of the Mini-transat by listening to a friend of a friend recount his own experience, when I myself had never set foot alone on a boat.
How do you feel when you sail?
I felt sensations at sea that I had never felt before. Already, these experiences allow me to surpass myself and to draw unsuspected resources from within, which is very instructive, including for everyday life. Then, it allows me to experience absolutely magical moments. Furtive moments when I am overwhelmed with happiness, and when I realize that I am exactly where I should be. These moments, I can obviously find them in my daily life, but they are necessarily increased tenfold in adventure projects. These are fairly short experiences on the scale of an existence but which are ultra-intense and which almost represent condensed versions of life, so strong are the emotions.
What does the ocean inspire you?
The sea is taking an increasingly important place in my life. I discover unique and inexplicable things there, knowing that we are sailing on a small walnut hull – our boats are 6.50 meters – completely exposed to the goodwill of the ocean. It allows me to gain humility in the face of Nature. Moreover, when I find myself alone at sea, I often think of what Thomas Pesquet had said when he returned from his space expedition: "I saw all the beauty of the Earth, but above all I felt its fragility”. I think we also have a bit of that chance when we go to sea… On land, we intellectualize the fact that the planet must be protected, whereas at sea, you don't intellectualize it, you feel it fully. It's way louder than you can read or hear.
A memory in the water that you will never forget?
A whale dance during a race that went to the Azores. It was the first time that I had gone out to sea alone for so long and I had had a major problem with the autopilot. I had been in electronic blackout for five days and had to steer permanently. I had reached a fairly significant psychological fatigue, there was no more wind… And there, a whale came to play around the boat. It perked me up and allowed me to finish this race, saying to myself: “Okay, I'm at the bottom of the hole but the weather is nice and I'm still penard on my boat in the middle of the Atlantic... How lucky to be the !"
Instagram accounts that you particularly like?
Those from Homeport and of Clarisse on the Atlantic .
What was the trigger that made you want to get involved in protecting the oceans?
It happened gradually… Originally, I had no environmental sensitivity, but as I grew up and gained in maturity, I wanted to become an actor in what was happening. Then, I think that through my different experiences, I feel indebted to Nature. My projects are increasingly oriented towards the ocean, and I want to preserve this extraordinary playground. Today, we indeed have a major challenge: that of managing the 10 tonnes of plastic that arrive in the ocean every second. Besides, it's quite frightening because you don't see that much waste at sea. Admittedly, you sometimes have to avoid plastic bags or containers, but the worst thing in the end is what is not visible to the naked eye: plastic microparticles.
Concretely, how does your commitment translate?
With Imago, I have the impression of putting a stone in the building, however small it may be. Thanks to the Mini-transat, I also do awareness-raising work with people, for example by sending messages when I am given the opportunity. That said, I objectively think that beyond raising awareness, we must now take action. So I'm trying to get closer to associations like WWF or Surfrider, with whom I'd like to organize concrete actions, like collecting rubbish on the beaches.
Are you optimistic for the future of the planet?
I am very optimistic. Man takes time to understand, often having to find himself behind the wall to react. It's human… That said, I have the impression that there is currently a collective awareness, and that we have the human qualities, the energy and the intellectual skills to solve the problems.
And according to you, what would be the solutions to consider?
I am divided, because both I find that there are many laws that curb our freedom, to which I am very attached, and at the same time, I believe that we will find it difficult to evolve if it does not there are no laws that require us to do so. In my opinion, politicians have a role to play, just like citizens and businesses. I often think of Nicolas Hulot's message when he resigned. Among other things, he explained that citizens need to send a strong message to politicians, to show that they have become aware of things but that they are still struggling to apply them individually. In fact, it is necessary to publish laws to change things in depth. So yes, it will surely be restrictive, but we are ready and we absolutely have to let the government know.
The best example is that of Julien Moreau who embarked on a triathlon across France to make school children aware of the environment. In particular, he asked the children if they had any ideas for laws in favor of environmental transition. Three little girls replied that they found it absurd that they distribute plastic bottles in schools when they have drinking water. Julien took this bill with them to the National Assembly. As a result, plastic bottles will be banned in public schools by January 2020 in France. That's concrete.
Do you have a practical tip to less pollute the sea?
On board, I always use biodegradable soaps!