After a successful first double-handed experience in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015, François Gabart will compete in his first single-handed race on the MACIF trimaran
The Transat bakerly, whose start will be given in Plymouth (UK) on Monday. The skipper is approaching this event with ambition, since the winter refit was dedicated entirely to finding the keys to performance. Yet, for all that, he has not forgotten the humility needed for his first single-handed challenge.
A well prepared boat
Particularly satisfied with his first months of sailing on board the MACIF trimaran last year, after the return delivery, François Gabart and his team drew up a list of optimisations – some of which were planned – to be carried out during the winter refit. The main goal, based on the racing programme of the season in 2016, was to work on the trimaran to make it safer and optimise François Gabart’s single-handed sailing.
The main modifications were primarily ergonomic: the cap sheltering the cockpit was extended to cover the manoeuvring area completely, including the helm stations, which are now protected. The cockpit itself can be completely closed, laterally and longitudinally, which means that the skipper does not have to adapt his equipment to the conditions outside. For François Gabart, this also guarantees his safety and therefore his mental ‘well-being’ and performance.
The living area, called the ‘cabin’, has also developed to facilitate life on board. It now has a custom-made seat, so that François is perfectly installed when he works, but also when he’s recovering, including in the difficult sailing conditions he is likely to encounter on The Transat bakerly. Lastly, since the MACIF trimaran was launched in early March, it has been equipped with two foils, so that it can reach its full potential.
A focussed and determined skipper
Leaving nothing to chance and conscious of the need to be in perfect condition to take up the challenge of sailing single-handed on a 30 foot trimaran, François Gabart took advantage of the refit to continue his physical training increasing the number of sports activities (jogging, stand-up paddling, surfing, cycling, kayaking, etc.). He also sailed on his M24, a ‘customised’ version of the Diam 24, which he has been using as a testing ground for developments on MACIF.
To add further to his training, he took part in the ‘Ultim’ training sessions given by the Finistère Centre of Offshore Racing. Ring against Thomas Coville, for three days they worked on manoeuvres and sailing ‘solo’, with a 24-hour sail, at the end of which Christian Le Pape, manager of the centre, told us: ‘François has a very energetic way of sailing his boat. He’s capable of being aggressive in short spurts, but also of managing equipment over a long period. He knows how to adapt.’ He adds the importance of the right mindset: ‘François is always positive and overflowing with energy. He is methodical and more rational than emotional. These are the qualities of sailors who know their subject.’
On the strategic side, François continues his preparation with Jean-Yves Bernot. He will be his router in The bakerly Transat. Intervening regularly during the training sessions organised by the Finistère Centre of Offshore Racing in Port-la-Forêt, he worked with François on weather conditions. ‘Like all brilliant high performers, François absorbs information like is a sponge. He takes advantage of these training sessions to learn what can be useful to him by discussing things with the others’, said Christian Le Pape, manager of the Centre.
An attentive team
Since the boat was launched, François Gabart has dedicated most of his time to getting familiar with manoeuvring single-handed. However, on each occasion, he sailed with his team, which, at the same time, worked to rationalise the trimming of the trimaran. This is the case with Pascal Bidégorry, who continues to help out the skipper of MACIF with his extensive experience of multihulls. ‘I think of the developments on which we could work and I focus in particular on reliability. We define priorities so that François can take full advantage of them on The Transat bakerly’, he explained.
The whole team is involved and mobilised to provide François Gabart with the all the keys needed for a great performance between Plymouth and New York, to which Christian Le Pape reacts: ‘You get the feeling that this team works well. I believe this is due to the fact that François is very thoughtful. He is a company director, who not only has great support, but who understands the importance of a social and relational approach. The result is that his whole team is united alongside him’
The warm-up, ‘a wonderful sight!’
After three days in St Malo where François Gabart enjoyed meeting the public, the MACIF trimaran weighed anchor on Saturday evening for The Transat bakerly warm-up, heading up a team also comprising Antoine Gautier, Sébastien Gladu, Guillaume Combescure, the journalist Pierre-Yves Lautrou and a guest of the organisers.
‘The start was a wonderful sight. I think the public enjoyed it. We had good conditions, a 15 to 20-knot north-easterly to start and not much swell; it was very pleasant until Bréhat. Then the wind dropped a little, but the crossing still went well, with the beautiful moon that made the watch easier at sea. I tacked a few times single-handed. It’s important to repeat this vital manoeuvre with a view to The Transat bakerly.’
The MACIF team arrived on Sunday morning for a well-earned ‘English breakfast’ and discovered the charms of Plymouth. ‘It is a lovely city that I didn’t know’, said François. ‘On Monday evening, I went jogging around the city. It has a very English atmosphere.’ The skipper plans to finalise supplies on Wednesday (he is taking 10 days-worth of food), before taking a closer look at the weather conditions.
by Service presse trimaran MACIF