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Coronavirus confinement - worse things happen at sea says French sailor

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Paris (AFP)

French sailor Michel Desjoyeaux says the coronavirus lockdown is a sea breeze in comparison to being alone in a round-the-world yacht race.

The man who beat Britain's Ellen MacArthur in his first Vendee Globe triumph in 2001 has earned a reputation for muddling through and making do in a crisis.

And with astronauts and adventurers giving lockdown advice on social media as the pandemic crisis deepens, Desjoyeaux played up to his salty seadog image.

"Here on land I can tell you straight, I'm happy to have a shower and a fridge," he told AFP.

"And I don't have to swill out my bucket after going to the toilet.

"At sea there's no going out for a stroll, or popping out for a bit of shopping, you make do with what's on board.

"And you never forget that you made the choice, nobody forces you out to sea," said the 54-year-old from Brittany who fashioned a wind-powered generator during his epic struggle against MacArthur in 2001 when his electricity broke down in the Atlantic.

"We get physically isolated and we do that by our own free will," Desjoyeaux said.

"Even in a 10-metre yacht out on the Southern Ocean, we may not be as alone as some people in lockdown though," he conceded.

"We have a lot of people looking out for us."

Desjoyeaux is the only sailor to have won the Vendee Globe solo round the world race twice, taking 93 days to beat MacArthur's Kingfisher in 2001 and 84 days in 2008-2009.

- Sleep is rare -

Another gritty French sailor, Francis Joyon, won the Jules Verne trophy by navigating the globe with a crew in just 40 days.

His speciality has been racing on vintage boats with low technology and old-style sails, and still pulverising the opposition -- and he said sleep is often a rare commodity at sea.

"Sometimes we go 24 hours without sleep or 48 hours with a couple of hours. This is extreme, you don't get that in your house," said the 63-year-old.

"I once spent 71 straight days at sea on a round the world trip in a few square metres.

"If you asked a prisoner to do that in return for cutting years off his sentence he wouldn't be able to.

"It's too hard and intense," he said.

"But when you have chosen to do something of your own volition, it makes a world of difference."

- No wifi, no way -

British sailor Samantha Davies is getting ready for her third Vendee Globe and says it'll be better than being stuck at home in the lockdown despite the hardships.

"On a Vendee Globe you live in the cockpit which is a few square metres and your legs get you in the end so you can hardly stand up."

And she had some advice for the world's technology-dependent youth who might be thinking of following her onto the ocean waves.

"At sea, there's no heating - and no wifi," she says.

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