Maddly Bamy christens Jacques Brel’s restored sailboat which took them to the Marquesas

Maddly Bamy christens Jacques Brel’s restored sailboat which took them to the Marquesas
Maddly Bamy christens Jacques Brel’s restored sailboat which took them to the Marquesas

The last companion of the singer-poet of Flat country will be at the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium on Saturday May 4 to celebrate the rebirth of the 60-foot sailing boat, the Askoy II, which sailed to the Pacific Ocean half a century ago.

She will have sailed on two oceans, the Atlantic then the Pacific, alongside Jacques Brel and her daughter France at the start of this journey, half a century ago, to finally reach the Marquesas Islands, immortalized in song. of the Belgian poet. Maddly Bamy, last companion of the cantor of Flat countrydives back into this odyssey for the baptism of the 60-foot sailboat, the Askoy II, now perfectly restored.

Saturday May 4, Maddly Bamy is expected at the port of Zeebrugge, in Belgium, alongside Piet and Gustaaf Wittevrongel, the two Flemish brothers behind this re-launch. “An extraordinary dream that they ended up realizing”she declares, admiringly.

Read alsoFrance Brel: “My father Jacques belongs to history and we must therefore tell the truth about him”

The former Guadeloupean dancer and actress, who now lives in Morbihan in Brittany, will be the guest of honor at the ceremony. Even if she assures that the tributes must first be intended for the Wittevrongel duo, who managed to restore this piece of marine heritage at the end of a chaotic journey of 17 years, with almost no public aid.
“When you think about the state of this boat when they found it. It’s huge what they did. We had to fight to get to the end.”insists Maddly Bamy.

For Jacques Brel (1929-1978), the adventure of the Askoy II began in 1974, when he cast off from the port of Antwerp, taking with him Maddly and his daughter France, who left the ship after six month, in the French West Indies. The crossing proved eventful, Brel discovered that he had cancer and had to make several trips back and forth to Europe for treatment.

The author of Do not leave me does not give up however and finally drops anchor in the Marquesas, in Polynesia, where he spends the last years of his life with Maddly Bamy, far from his family. Today, almost 46 years after Brel’s disappearance (in October 1978), Maddly Bamy still calls herself “connected to him 24 hours a day, every day”. She also confides, “I sit down at the piano and it sings to me.”

The trip to the Marquesas with the Askoy II, a 19-meter sailboat, heavy and demanding, for which she herself had learned the basics of navigation, was proof of the“immensity of dreams” of the Belgian poet. “He is a man who did not want to stay still, he wanted to go elsewhere and see how others live. He left saying to himself “I’ll let go of everything, I’ll cross the world if necessary””continues Maddly Bamy, now 80 years old.

The boat’s life did not end when Brel decided to sell it in Polynesia, to retrain as an amateur airplane pilot. With at least three owners at the controls, the Askoy II then sailed towards California and the Fiji Islands, before running aground on a beach in New Zealand.

This is where the Wittevrongel brothers arrive, always closely linked to Brel’s maritime adventure since it was in the family sailmaker, in Blankenberge, that the latter came to equip himself before leaving. When Piet and Gustaaf learned in the 2000s, during a conversation about Brel, that traces of the boat had been found in the antipodes, they decided to repatriate it to the Belgian coast. Described in the 1960s by specialists as one of the most beautiful yachts in the world, the sailboat was then nothing more than an empty hull, eaten away by rust.
On May 4 in Zeebrugge, the Askoy II will not necessarily leave the port to sail, but Piet Wittevrongel assures that in addition to the brand new hull and interior woodwork, the masts are now raised to hoist the sails, “a complete renovation”.

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