François Gabart : « The fascination that I have for the Vendee Globe made me always go faster »

Monday, 28 January 2013

Today a real wave of emotion poured from the public in Les Sables d’Olonne onto the admittedly seasoned, but unwavering shoulders of François Gabart, winner of the 7th Vendée Globe. The large blue eyes of the youngest in the race’s history of achievements were tinged with red and tears ran.

The emotion of sailing up the channel:

François Gabart: “I was here 4 years ago in the zodiac at Foncia’s bow (Michel Desjoyeaux’s winning boat). I thought I was prepared at the time, but it wasn’t true. When I finished the race, I thought as a racer. You don’t realize how many people this race affects. We are lucky. The Vendée Globe is still going strong. There are lots of people who dream with us and if we did not have all this, I would say that we are crazy and there’s no point in it. When you see all this, perhaps it is madness, but it has a purpose.”

Playing to win:

FG: “I did not leave thinking of winning. It was when I overtook Armel (Le Cléac’h, second with Banque Populaire) in the Indian Ocean, that I was making good headway and Vincent (Riou, PRB) stopped that I said to myself that I could play to win.”

Is he surprised by his performance? :

FG: “I surprise myself. You discover things about yourself in the Vendée Globe that you never knew. You take some hard blows to the head and, at the end of 78 days; you ask yourself how you did it. I think that it is the difficulty that makes you discover yourself that sailors look for in the Vendée Globe.”

What will he say to Armel? :

FG: “I will say thank you for all these emotions and all the problems he created for me, because we were fighting all the time. For a racer, it is a real privilege to experience a race of such proportions.”

His greatest challenge:

FG: “In the Vendée Globe, there is no greatest challenge but a new challenge every day. An example would be this last difficult night in the Bay of Biscay with 40 knots. It was not easy, but it was the last, whereas if there are others to follow, the accumulation makes it truly challenging.”

The risk taking:

FG: “It’s non-stop management. At Macif, we know how to manage risks and I go along with them on that.”

The technical problems he hid:

FG: “The engine took on water on the 5th day, after Madiera. I had hydrogenerators, but when you leave on the Vendée Globe, it’s best not to burn your backup at the start. I repaired the injection pump alone, which isn’t easy. Once I had succeeded, I admit feeling stronger for it. Each time I solved a problem, I grew in wisdom, and this growing confidence helped me stick with it.”

Why did he hide his difficulties?

FG: “I was convinced that I was experiencing an adventure that I was going to share. My engine trouble, which could have become a real weakness, changed my thoughts on that. By dint of being ahead, everything turns into pure competition. If you continue with this reasoning, you leave nothing to your contender. It is too difficult to concede anything to him. I followed a reasoning that is almost against my nature, but that’s competition and that’s the priority.”

The relationship with his boat:

FG: “I have a super relationship with my boat MACIF, which I'm really proud of, and I say that in the name of the whole team. At the start, we were a little like strangers, because I had followed her birth and her developments as a spectator. I took possession of her during the race. I listened to her, felt her, and it is wonderful to experience that. I am an engineer and we are extremely fortunate in our trade to be able to live with these magnificent boats.”

The South Seas:

FG: “I was not too surprised in that I was well prepared for it and managed to face it. The repetition is what surprised me. I thought that we would have breaks, but in the ridges (less strong wind) you have Banque Populaire 10 miles from you and you start manoeuvring every five minutes!”

The key moment of the race:

FG: “After Cape Horn, in the South Atlantic, Armel and I were close and you couldn’t choose the wrong route. I chose to go into the East and widened the gap.”

How did you hold out? :

FG: “I had more adrenalin than good sense. Certainly, beyond the passion, I think that the fascination that I have for this race drove me to make progress fast.”

The pace on board:

FG: “You note problems; you repair them when the wind eases off, so that you can tackle the next strong gale! As soon as the wind drops, you work. You never stop!”


FG: “I actually put on a few pounds. I was so obsessed with not having enough food that I still have plenty to choose from in my bags.<0} That’s what I did with relish these last days.”

Will he return to race in the Vendée Globe again?

FG: “I don’t know. I need time to take a breather and to sleep two or three nights. 4 years ago, at Michel’s (Desjoyeaux) press conference, if someone had said I should go and do the Vendée Globe on an Optimist, I would surely have thought it a good idea. Not now! You need to have a very strong deep desire to do it and if you don’t, the Vendée Globe is a real ordeal. The only thing is that this desire cannot be controlled!”

Relive the great dates of François’s round-the-world: click here

The records of MACIF’s Vendée Globe:

Absolute records approved by World Sailing Speed Council Record:
Single-handed round-the-world on a monohull (pending confirmation):  
78 days 2 hours 16 minutes i.e. 6 days and 53 minutes less than M.Desjoyeaux (2009)
Distance sailed singled-handed on a monohull in 24 hours (approved):
Achieved between the 9 and 10/12/12, 534.48 miles (989 km) sailed at 22.27 knots average (41.2 km/hr).
Records specific to the Vendée Globe:
Les Sables d’Olonne-Cape Leeuwin:
14/12/12 in 34d 10h 23 ’, i.e. 2d 2h 25 less than V.Riou (2004)
Cape of Good Hope-Cap Leeuwin:
14/12/12 in 11d 6h 40 ’, i.e.  9 min less than M. Desjoyeaux (2008)
Les Sables d’Olonne-Cape Horn:
01/01/13 en 52d 6h 18’, i.e. 4d 8h 50’ less than M. Desjoyeaux (2008)
Les Sables d’Olonne-equator return:
15/01/13 in 66d 1h 39 ’ i.e. 5d 15h 33 ' less than M. Desjoyeaux (2008)
* Alain Gautier, second winner of the Vendée Globe (1992-93) was up until now the youngest, just 30 years old

Event media

See  Vendée Globe images

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 January 2013 )