François Gabart on Standby for Transatlantic Record Attempt

Published on June 1st, 2016


François Gabart

(June 1, 2016) – Three weeks after his victory in The Transat Bakerly, François Gabart (FRA) enters a standby period today with a view to attempting the 2818 miles North Atlantic record, from West to East.

Together with Jean-Yves Bernot, his weather router, the skipper of the 30m MACIF trimaran is on the lookout for a good weather window to get underway and take on the challenge of attempting this record held by Francis Joyon since 2013 (5 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds).

Gabart finished The Transat Bakerly on May 11, completing the 3,050-nautical mile passage across the north Atlantic from Plymouth to New York in 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes, and 39 seconds.

As his first singlehanded race on the MACIF trimaran, Gabart has taken advantage of the last three weeks to recover in France and prepare for a return Atlantic crossing and a singlehanded record attempt of the New York to Lizard Point route (southwest tip of England).

“For several days, I have completely switched to a record-attempt frame of mind. I clearly feel the excitement you do before race start,” explains Gabart, who is delighted to have a boat in New York ready to tackle the Atlantic again: “MACIF is in perfect condition from a structural point of view and I am really happy with the way the deck plan is organised. It matches my expectations and demonstrates clear progress in relation to last year.”

This north singlehanded Atlantic record attempt will be the first of a kind for Gabart, who, up until now, has made a name for himself racing. He approaches this first time with real determination.

“I would like to break new ground in by attempting this record and so achieve ultimate sailing speeds,” said Gabart. “The MACIF trimaran gives you excellent speed sensations. I got a taste of this during The Transat Bakerly, in what were not exactly optimal conditions. I’m impatient to see what she can do in more suitable weather. Some people say that there is no substitute for racing, but in terms of personal and racing commitment, the record exercise is unique, because it is unlimited.”

And for the skipper, whatever the result of this return crossing, it will be one extra step in a more long-term progress process. “I have not forgotten that the racing challenges this year will feed my performance in the future.

“I’m ready to go,” Gabart continued. “Jean-Yves Bernot and I are now waiting for a good weather window. For the moment, nothing has emerged for the first week of June. We are looking for stable wind, a 20 to 30 knot south-westerly ahead of a low and a reasonable sea. This is the ideal scenario, but since our standby period is fairly short as MACIF must be back on July 12 in Brest to take part in the maritime festival, we will not necessarily get the ideal window. You need to be an opportunist to know how to make the best use of the weather.”

In concrete terms, the skipper and his team have implemented a four level procedure:
Level 1 indicates that no departure can be considered.
Level 2 indicates that there is a potential window of 3 to 4 days on the horizon.
Level 3 confirms a start window and will result in Gabart and some of his team taking the plane for New York.
Level 4 is confirmation of a start within 24 hours and triggers the boat making its way out to the line, anchored from the Ambrose Light buoy, 20 miles from New York.

The skipper knows that he must be patient. “Waiting for the wind goes with being a professional sailor. I was an Olympic sailor for years. There were times when I spent whole days on a car park waiting for the wind come in or to die down.”

In attempting the north Atlantic record singlehanded from east to west, Gabart will be making a monumental effort, both in the short and long-term, when it comes to endurance and intensity.

Since Bruno Peyron in 1986 (11 days 11 hours 46 minutes), the reference time on the 2818 miles of this route has been more than divided in half, and gone successively through the hands of Florence Arthaud (1990), Bruno Peyron again (1992), Laurent Bourgnon (1994), Francis Joyon (2005) and Thomas Coville (2008). Once again, since June 2013, the record is held by Francis Joyon, who sailed the route in 5 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds, at an average real speed of 26.20 knots (23.30 knots theoretical shortest speed, on the shortest route).

“It is a difficult time to beat, but my boat clearly has the potential,” explained Gabart. “To achieve this, you need three factors: a good weather window, a sailor capable of handling the boat at high speed and a little good luck. It would be wonderful to achieve the record in less than five days.”

MACIF trimaran 2016 programme
June: On standby for North Atlantic Record attempt
July 13-19: Brest Maritime Festival
September/October: On standby for Mediterranean Record attempt

MACIF trimaran 2017/2019 provisional programme
2017: The Bridge and Round-the-world record attempt
2018: Route du Rhum
N.B.: François Gabart will sail singlehanded

MACIF trimaran spec sheet

Architects: VPLP
Boatyards: CDK Technologies (project management), Multiplast (Central hull, mainsheet traveller)
Launch date: 18 August 2015
Length: 30 m
Beam: 21 m
Max draught: 4.5 m
Number of centreboards: 3
Air draught: 35 m
Sail area upwind: 430 m²
Sail area downwind: 650 m² (777 sq. yd)

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