Every four years, France's most intrepid off-shore sailors take part in the Route du Rhum - a 3,500-mile race from the old pirate port of St Malo in Brittany across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe. Its November timing guarantees big seas and not everyone will make it as far as the Caribbean. Perhaps this is why the single-handed sailors who attempt this crossing are seen as gladiators. Two million people visit St Malo in the week before the start to meet their heroes and see them on their way.
Four years ago, Shirley Robertson followed one of these men, Sidney Gavignet, as he set off into the Atlantic, leaving his wife and young family behind. Two days later he was dismasted and escaped onto a cargo ship.
But he is back, determined to complete the race. Shirley heads to St Malo to meet Gavignet and his rivals in the Ultimate class. She also joins the crowds to discover the passion that makes the Route du Rhum start one of the sporting events of the year in France.