Known in France as “the fiancée of the Atlantic” Florence was a famed French yachtswoman whose life came to an early end this past Monday, March 9th 2015, when a helicopter she was in, collided in midair with a second helicopter while participating in the filming of the French adventure TV show “Dropped” in the Argentinian wilderness. The accident caused the death of both Argentinian pilots, 5 members of the film crew and 2 other French sport stars, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine.
Arthaud was born on October 28th 1957 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. She started sailing with her family from the Antibes sailing club. In 1974 at 17 years of age Florence got in a serious car accident and ended up in a coma and with a temporary paralysis. She spent 6 months at the hospital and then went through 2 years of physical therapy to overcome the effects of the paralysis, after which she made a full recovery.
Florence participated in the first edition of the Route du Rhum, a transatlantic single-handed yacht race in 1978 arriving in the 11th place. In 1986, during edition of this race she deviated from the route to assist in the search of Loic Caradec, another racer went missing. She located his vessel, the catamaran Royale, however there was no trace of the missing sailor. In August, 1990 she set a new record in a single-handed crossing of the North Atlantic by sailboat, achieving it in 9 days, 21 hours and 42 minutes, beating the previous record by 2 days.
In 1997 Arthaud won the Transpacific sailing race as a crewmate of Bruno Peyron and participated in the Solitaire du Figaro, a solo multi-stage sailing race along the coast of France, open both to professional racers and amateur sailors. In 2002, Florence wanted to take on the world record for the round the world voyage and attempted to gather funds to redeem the trimaran Sport Elec. In 2004 she participated in the Transat in the doubles category with Lionel Pean.
In 2010, on the anniversary of her world record she failed to find a sponsor to participate in the race and said “I was a little disgusted. They have reopened the race for tall ships. It was the 20th anniversary of my victory and I had the intention to participate on a huge trimaran, Oman (30 m in length), but I have not been able to have this boat, they preferred to give it to a man (Sidney Gavigent, who has abandoned the race because of damage). I was definitely disgusted and I said; it’s a good thing I stopped”.
Her autobiography, “A wind of Freedom” appeared in 2009. Before her death Florence worked on a project for a sailing race just for women, the first edition of which should take place in the Mediterranean Sea during the summer of 2015.
Her sudden death along with other French sportsmen, the Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and the Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine has been a great tragedy for everyone around the World. From aBoatTime we would like to send our support to their family and friends and let them know that the nautical community will never forget Florence Arthaud. We all mourn with France.