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Behind the Scenes of “The Weekend Sailor”, One of the Greatest Sailing Adventures

The Weekend Sailor is a documentary about the unexpected victory of the Mexican yacht Sayula II in the first Whitbread Round the World Race, in 1974. We met the director, Bernardo Arsuaga.

Bernardo, why did you choose to narrate this adventure?

“I have always been very passionate about film, especially documentaries. I think reality is way much more impressive than any kind of fiction. So when I first found this story I was totally hooked on it. Could not believe how come an inexperienced person won the first sailing race around the world. And this champion being from beautiful Mexico, I liked it even more as I felt related. So the idea started to grow in my mind until I got to the point where you have to jump or regret it for the rest of your life…and, even if I’m a lawyer, I decided to hire a crew and start directing and producing it.”

the weekend sailor Bernardo arsuaga
Bernardo Arsuaga steering Sayula II

How did you work to bring it to life?

“Well, I was very lucky to be able to find the whole crew alive. One was in Amsterdam, other in Melbourne Australia, another one in France, other ones in the USA and more in Mexico…so it was a little bit difficult to convince them to come to Mexico the same day to be with Captain Ramon Carlin and be reunited as a team after 41 years. (41 years of not having communication between themselves). But I got it.” 

“We got them together in Mexico City for Captain Ramon’s 91 birthday. It was very emotional for all of them. That was one major thing to deal with. On the other side, it was very difficult to convince a group of production professionals of my view and the way I wanted things to be done, especially when you are new in the business and don’t know the cinematic language professionals use. I did not know anything related to cinema and it was really hard for some people to follow a rookie. But after a couple of failed tests, hiring and firing, searching and searching, I was fortunate to find a great team in Canada that helped me finish the film. So the mix between Mexican and Canadian experts gave an outstanding result which has given us many awards around the world.”

Sayula II the weekend sailor
Sayula II

The narrating voice of The Weekend Sailor is of a great singer (and sailor himself): Simon Le Bon. How did the collaboration begin?

“Good question. Simon has always been a keen sailor. He participated on the round the world race in 1985 while he was very busy being a superstar. He got the time on a super busy schedule to make it happen, he got money and got the boat, he got a crew and an excellent skipper. They finished 3rd overall and has always been the rock star related to the race. So we invited him to be a part of it. He knew the story very well already and he kindly jumped on board.” 

“His voice is amazing and its very special for us to have a British superstar narrating our story. This is a British story even if a Mexican got the trophy. It was the British that did a world wide empire by sailing in the good old days and it was the same British intelligence that designed a “Round the World Race” in the seventies. So I wanted a great British voice and who could do it better than a superstar like Captain Le Bon?”

the weekend sailor

Do you think Ramon Carlin can be a source of inspiration for young sailors? Why?

“Of course, he is. And not only for the young. I think this is a general interest story and many people have felt inspired with him. One of the motives to work on this production is to show the amazing things that can happen if you have the will and the right attitude. So yeah! Of course, Ramon is a source of inspiration to many. And not only by his sporting achievements, but also on the rest of the things he did…..Captain Ramon had 10 kids. He was a self-made man, building a super commercial empire out of nothing. He lived 92 years and he died surrounded by his great family and his loving wife Paquita. Ramon was successful on business, on love, on health and, of course, on sports.” 

You have interviewed some of the most famous sailors of all times: can you share some stories?

“Oh man!! That has been one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life. Really! Can you imagine meeting and interviewing your heroes? 
We have Torben Grael, Franck Cammas, Sir Chay Blyth, Lionel Pean, we have the creator of the race Mr. Anthony Churchill, etc, etc. It was really exciting to meet all these fine gentlemen. I won’t say names, but I accidentally met one of them while half drunk parting with his family and friends on a restaurant in Spain…so I approached him, introduced myself and explained our project, he said “of course! I know Ramon! I know his story!”. So the very next day we were doing an interview with him, he gently gave us the time to support this project. The documentary is filled with casual stories like this and makes us feel even more lucky.” 

the weekend sailor

Do you think that an achievement like the one of Ramon Carlin would still be possible nowadays, or the professionalism gas taken away all poetry to the adventures?

“Definitely, the professionalism has taken away the romance. Absolutely. This does not mean there is no more romance in sailing or racing. But I’m sure we will not be seeing much more stories like Ramon’s on the offshore racing scenario. We do see other amazing things…like the Volvo Ocean Race yachts and organization, their media is just out of this world….or the Vendee Globe!… I mean, what can be more exciting than watching Alex Thomson chasing Armel Le Cleac’h, while sailing full speed non stop alone unassisted around the world? nothing for sure!….but stories like Captain Ramon’s? or stars like Sir Chay Blyth or Robin Knox-Johnston? Well, these are not common nowadays.”

The Weekend Sailor has won many film awards since you started showing it at festivals. Were you expecting it?

 “No. My thought when releasing the film was ‘I hope we can make it to any of those fancy film festivals’. And we sure did. The Weekend Sailor was selected to be part of more than 150 Film Festivals around the world, making with these more than 300 screenings between 2016 and 2018. We got more than 15 international awards and the film has been around the world, just like the Sayula II crew 44 years ago. Pure love and satisfaction.”

It is your first feature film. What should be expect in the future?

“Good question. I’m now working on my 2nd project. I feel there is not a good Mexican food documentary out there. All we see are great episodes on chefs and tacos and this and that, and these are very well…mostly part of Netflix series or similar and none of them are done by Mexican filmmakers. So lately I have been researching, learning and writing more on food. 
And maybe soon we will be sharing our first teasers to show everybody what going on.” 

the weekend sailor

Bernando, what is your relation with sailing and the sea?

“It’s a relation of aesthetics and survival. Pure love and romance. I sail every time I get the chance, but still need much more knowledge. Always trying to be near the water and make the most of its food, stories and beauties.”

Last but not least, pur classical question: what does it mean sailing for you?

“Sailing is one of the most intelligent and beautiful activities performed by humans. It was sailing that linked the world together… in commerce, in culture, in social sciences. The beauty of a perfectly designed vessel moving fast on the open ocean only by the force of the wind opposing against the strength of the sail is for me, the most complete art form that could ever be.”

Click to watch The weekend sailor!

Alessandro de Angelis

Alessandro de Angelis, born in 1978, discovered sailing working for several years for the renowned Breton sailing school Les Glénans. Once back in Italy, he joined Giornale della Vela, the most distinguished Italian sailing magazine, where he worked as correspondent and tester of sailing boats around the globe, becoming back in 2010 its chief editor. In the meanwhile its passion for sailing took him to participate to the most important international regattas onboard Platu 25, Swan 45 and classic boats. Since January 2017 he works as editor in chief for Sail Universe.

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