General Alain Jacques Georges Marie
Laval, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire, France
Dili, East Timor, Indonesia


Alain Gerbault was the brother of fellow lawn tennis player Robert Gerbault. They were the sons of Georges Pierre Louis Gerbault, a lime producer, and Denise Ernestine Gerbault (née Luce).

From Wikipedia:

Early life

Alain Gerbault was born in November 1893, into an upper-middle-class family in the town of Laval in the Pays de la Loire region in western France. He spent much of his youth in Dinard, near the ancient port of Saint Malo, and his summers playing lawn tennis and football as well as hunting and fishing. He and his brother, Robert, also worked in the family’s lime factory in Laval. At college Alain Gerbault studied civil engineering.

At the age of twenty-one, Gerbault joined the French Flying Corps, serving as an officer; by the end of World War One he was a decorated hero. After the war, he took up lawn tennis, becoming the French champion, and also bridge, at which he achieved an international rating. Despite his achievements, he was still searching for something to do with his life, and considered attempting to fly the Atlantic Ocean.

While visiting England in 1921 to play lawn tennis, he came across Firecrest, an old British-designed 39-foot racing/cruising gaff sloop, at Southampton. He had already been toying with the idea of long-distance sailing, so he purchased the boat and spent a year or so sailing her around Cannes.

Circumnavigating the world

The boat in which the circumnavigation was made was called Firecrest. It was an English racing cruiser designed by Dixon Kemp and built by P. T. Harris at Rowhedge, Essex, in 1892. She was 39 feet overall, 31 feet 6 inches on the waterline, with a beam of 8 feet 6 inches, and displaced 12 tons. She was long and narrow, with a deep keel and three and a half tons of lead for ballast.

On June 6, 1923, Gerbault set off from Gibraltar in his boat Firecrest to make a single-handed circumnavigation of the world. The crossing of the Atlantic in a small boat was still considered a major and risky undertaking, and Gerbault was not well prepared for the voyage, either in terms of equipment or experience. Although the passage was extremely arduous, and troubled by a number of equipment failures, he made it to New York after 101 days at sea. Although he was not the first person to single-handedly sail the Atlantic, he was given a hero’s welcome, and was awarded the Blue Water Medal by the Cruising Club of America for his achievement. While in New York, he started his book The Fight of the Firecrest. Leaving the boat behind, he made a trip home to France during which he was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour for his voyage.

Firecrest was given a major refit in New York, including a conversion from gaff to Bermuda rig. In September, 1923, Gerbault left New York to continue his circumnavigation, heading first for Bermuda. He arrived in Colón, Panama, on April 1, 1924, and after passing through the Panama Canal he entered and won the lawn tennis championship of Panama. He sailed again on May 31, 1924, and after stopping in the Galapagos Islands, he arrived in Mangareva, in French Polynesia, after 49 days at sea. He went on to visit the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotus, and Tahiti. At this time he began writing extensively on the history and society of the Pacific islands, and criticising the colonial exploitation of the natives.

After more refitting, Firecrest set sail again on May 21, 1926, stopping in Bora Bora, Samoa, and the Wallis Islands, where the boat was badly damaged during a gale. Due to Gerbault’s fame by this time, he was able to secure considerable assistance in salvaging and repairing the boat, and on December 9 Gerbault sailed again. He made his way gradually to the Torres Strait, and thence to the Indian Ocean, where he visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mauritius, and Madagascar, arriving at Durban in time for Christmas, 1927.

Gerbault then rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed north, stopping in Saint Helena, Ascension, and the Cape Verde islands, where he spent ten months working on another book. On May 6, 1929, he finally sailed for home, stopping at the Azores, and on July 21 he sailed into Cherbourg harboor. He received another hero’s welcome for his circumnavigation, the third single-handed circumnavigation of the world, during which he had spent 700 days at sea and covered more than 40,000 miles.

Later life

Gerbault soon discovered that he missed the Pacific islands, and decided to return there. Firecrest was by now well worn, so he decided to build a new boat, 34 feet long, which he christened Alain Gerbault. Launched on June 4, 1931, at Sartrouville, the boat had the international call sign O.Z.Y.U, hence the title of his last book, published posthumously. He sailed again for the South Pacific, and vanished from the public eye, spending years wandering from island to island. He wrote several books about life on the islands, and criticising the modern western way of life.

Gerbault died in December 1941, in Dili, East Timor, of a tropical fever. His death was not widely reported until August 1944, over three years later. A later report suggests that he had been imprisoned by the Japanese. In 1947, his body was recovered and buried on Bora Bora, where a monument to him was erected.


Archive statistics 1910 - 1932

Tournament wins 1924 - Paris Easter Tournament (Amateur)
1924 - French Covered Court Championships (Amateur)
1922 - Cannes Carlton 3rd Meeting (Amateur)
1921 - Dinard (Amateur)
1920 - Dinard (Amateur)
1920 - Buxton (Amateur)
1919 - Dinard (Amateur)

Tournaments Roland Garros - 1932 Cannes Championships - 1932 Lille - 1932 Roland Garros - 1931 Juan-Les-Pins - 1931 Étretat - 1931 Wimbledon - 1930 Roland Garros - 1930 US Open - 1930 Cannes Carlton - 1930 Cannes Championships - 1930 South of France Championships - 1930 Cannes Métropole - 1930 Cannes Gallia - 1930 Cannes New Courts Club - 1930 Cannes New Courts Summer Tournament - 1930 Paris International Championships - 1929 Coupe Albert Canet - 1929 Chantilly - 1929 Wimbledon - 1924 US Open - 1924 French Covered Court Championships - 1924 Barcelona International - 1924 French Closed Covered Court Championships - 1924 Paris Easter Tournament - 1924 Monte Carlo - 1923 Beaulieu - 1923 Cannes Championships - 1923 Coupe de Noel - 1923 Nice - 1923 South of France Championships - 1923 Cannes Beau Site New Year Meeting - 1923 Cannes Carlton Winter Tournament - 1923 Wimbledon - 1922 Monte Carlo - 1922 Cannes Carlton - 1922 Cannes Championships - 1922 Nice - 1922 South of France Championships - 1922 Cannes Métropole - 1922 World Hardcourt Championships - 1922 Cannes Carlton 3rd Meeting - 1922 Coupe Albert Canet - 1922 Nice LTC Winter Cup - 1922 Monte Carlo Easter Tournament - 1922 Wimbledon - 1921 Monte Carlo - 1921 Cannes Carlton - 1921 Côte d'Azur Championships - 1921 Riviera Championships - 1921 Nice - 1921 South of France Championships - 1921 World Hardcourt Championships - 1921 Dinard - 1921 Cannes Club Tournament - 1921 French National Championships - 1921 Wimbledon - 1920 Monte Carlo - 1920 Beaulieu - 1920 Cannes Carlton - 1920 Côte d'Azur Championships - 1920 Riviera Championships - 1920 South of France Championships - 1920 Cannes Beau Site New Year Meeting - 1920 Hyères - 1920 World Hardcourt Championships - 1920 Dinard - 1920 Nottingham - 1920 Northumberland Championships - 1920 Hampshire Championships - 1920 French National Championships - 1920 Buxton - 1920 Winchester - 1920 Cannes Carlton Winter Tournament - 1920 Cannes Beau site Second Meeting - 1920 French Covered Court Championships - 1919 Dinard - 1919 Racing Club de France Tournament - 1919 Inter-Allied Tournament - 1919 Coupe de Noel - 1918 French Covered Court Championships - 1914 World Hardcourt Championships - 1914 Cannes Championships - 1913 Dinard - 1913 South of England Championships - 1913 Dinard - 1912 Homburg Cup - 1912 Dinard - 1911 Dinard - 1910

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