Denis Bouan: from the bike to the boat
Denis Bouan might be a name more familiar to motorheads, but the French motorcycling legend has decided to trade in his wheels for an altogether different form of transport: a racing yacht.
On two-wheels, he is an eight-time winner of the Tour de France Moto (now known as the Dark Dogo Moto Tour), but recent years has seen him training as part of the EFG Bank Monaco crew, that will be competing in a race across the Arabian Gulf. As part of the grueling, two week EFG Sailing Arabia Tour 2016 (SATT), 12 crews skippered by some of the most accomplished offshore sailors in the world will race across the Gulf and includes stops in the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.
Esquire caught up with Bouan ahead of the Tour kicking off in Dubai with the in-port race and opening ceremony on February 15.
ESQ: With the success you’ve had on a motorbike, what made you want to compete in a completely different sport?
After 17 years of motor-racing filled with great souvenirs, I felt that I had given everything I was and could bring to that sport. For two years I had been thinking about retiring, while I was still winning races. It was a very difficult choice, but regattas helped me make that decision. When I sail, I learn so many new things that it’s always exciting. It feels like I’m coming back to my early days as a motorcycle pilot, but with a different maturity in terms of sport. I don’t really know why sailing attracts me so much. What I feel is the same process that happened to me with motorcycles; it came gradually from the insides to fill my thoughts. And now I want to progress
ESQ: Aside from the fact that one is on water and one is on land, what is the biggest difference between the sports?
It’s difficult to answer this question. They are two very different sports. I think that the biggest difference comes from the natural elements, like wind, currents, or sea power. These elements are uncertain and difficult to predict. Nevertheless I can see that the best sailors can understand these subtleties of the Nature and turn them to their advantage.
ESQ: Sailing is more of a team sport to motor-racing. Do you find it more difficult in that aspect?
It’s true; team sport is new to me. But in reality, motor-racing is a team sport. I had a great deal of people working for me in the shadows so that I could win a race. But it’s also true that at the crucial moment, I was alone on the motorcycle. I find this very pleasant to share emotions, good and bad moments. I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun, I can’t wait to sail with these guys, I think they will teach me a lot.
ESQ: How gruelling will it be to sail in the Sailing Arabia race?
I think it’s going to be difficult; every sport is difficult when you give the maximum of your abilities. But I’m used to adapt to any kind of situations. I’ll make sure I’m correctly trained to be competitive.
ESQ: Have you always been interested in sailing?
No, I’ve been interested in regattas for two years only. I’ve started by buying a small simple boat, just to see if I really liked it or not. Then, quickly, I wanted to do regattas. So I bought a “Figaro one” to learn. Last year I did a complete season of regattas. And I’m starting this year with a quite comprehensive program of solo, dual and team races. I try to sail as often as I can.
You are clearly adventurous. Is there anything that you won’t attempt?
I probably won’t have the courage to do something that bores me!
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The Sailing Arabia Tour takes place on Feb 15-28, 2016. Including five offshore sailing legs and three in-port races. Visit: sailingarabiathetour.com