Gabart to make history tomorrow

Published on December 16th, 2017

(December 16, 2017; Day 43, 14:00 FR) – The end is near for François Gabart in his bid to set a new singlehanded round the world record, is enduring a light patch as he nears the finish line. With 269.41 nm remaining, the skipper of the 30m MACIF trimaran has covered 559.1 nm in the past 24 hours which has decreased his advance of the record pace to 2747.09 nm.

Gabart has left the last really windy area of his round the world race and is now making headway behind a ridge of high pressure, which is heading towards Brittany at the same as him. He should cross the finishing line tomorrow morning, crushing the record of 49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds held by Thomas Coville since December 25, 2016.

In this interview with his team, Gabart spoke about his frame of mind so close to the finishing line:

How have you spent the last few hours on board the MACIF trimaran?
I was sailing under the J1 on a fairly fast port tack until midnight. Then we entered a small warm front heading into a west-northwest wind, with a southeast wind from the other side. The idea was to cross it, but it had an area of flat calm in the middle and since the front was moving with me and not very fast, the crossing was a little tedious, particularly as we were getting hit by high seas on the nose. The boat was getting battered a lot and I found it quite difficult to make progress. I finally succeeded in finding a small way out of there. I’m now sailing under the J1 and unreefed mainsail in fairly pleasant conditions.

Is the temperature beginning to get colder?
Yes, it got colder yesterday afternoon. I put my socks, boots and bonnet back on, but for the moment it’s still very enjoyable. It’s 15 degrees, which is the ideal temperature for sailing.

Can you tell us what you’re expecting for the end of this round the world?
I’m just behind a ridge of high pressure. This is the last obstacle between me and Brest. It’s blocking my way a little, but, fortunately, it’s not static and is making its way towards Brittany. I will find it difficult to pass, so the challenge is to try and gain as much time as I can in this ridge by going round it by the north where there’s still some wind. So, I will have a very northerly course, probably passing not that far off Ireland. Then, in the Celtic Sea, between Fastnet and England, I hope that the wind will pick up, which will allow me to finish with a little air. As the finishing line is between Lizard Point and Ouessant, I may cross the finishing line closer to Lizard Point. I’ll check this with the weather centre as and when the wind returns on Saturday night. For the moment, the ETA for the finish is early tomorrow morning at around 5-6 am (6-7 am in France).

Do you not find it difficult to stay concentrated when the finish is so close?
It’s true that it’s quite unusual. This morning, I was still fairly tense because of the heavy air, but now I know that the weather is going to be quite calm until the end, I’d like to say to myself that I’ve done the hardest bit. But there’s still a bit to go, so I must remain focussed. There will be traffic problems, of course, as I get close to Ireland. I hope most people will be using their AIS. As for me, I will be constantly on the lookout. So, obviously, I’m a little tense, but the sailing sensations are very pleasant. I’m practically on one float now, in a 20-22 knot wind. She’s running at 25-30 knots in weather similar to when I set out. When I left Ouessant just over 40 days ago, I had the sheet in one hand and quite a few uncertainties ahead, but now I’m feeling good inside. I’m going to try to take the last hours as they come and, most of all, to enjoy them.

Do you have any idea of what’s waiting for you in Brest?
No, I’ve no idea. I think, all the same, that I’ll ask someone to send me a quick email to find out what’s planned for the days that follow the finish, so that I know where I’m sleeping when I go to Paris. But for the rest, I’ll let my team deal with that. I trust them implicitly to look after me when the time comes. It’s my job to bring the boat to the finishing line as quickly as possible. I’m focusing on that.

Are you apprehending being back on shore?
Naturally, I’m impatient to be back on shore to see my loved ones, but yes, there’s a little apprehension. It’s mostly due to my fairly advanced state of fatigue. I know that there will be lots of people wanting to talk to me and that the change will be quite difficult. It’s not that easy to handle, because you don’t want to disappoint people who come to welcome you, but at the same time, you don’t know if you’ll have the energy it takes.

If you arrive tomorrow morning, your time will be about 43 days. Did you ever imagine a time like this, even in your wildest dreams?
Honestly? No, I never dreamed of a time like this. On paper, with the weather and with what I am capable of doing with this boat, it was very difficult to beat the record, but possible. However, the best scenarios gave a lead of one or two days. It’s quite extraordinary. I can’t get my head round it really, but at the same time, I say to myself that this is often the way: you are often surprised by records.

The key news of the round the world record
Date of departure: Saturday November 4, at 10:05 (French time, UTC+1)
Ouessant-Equator passage time: 05 d 20 h 45 min
Ouessant -Good Hope passage time: 11 d 20 h 10 min
Ouessant-Cape Agulhas passage time: 11 d 22 h 20 min
Ouessant-Cape Leeuwin passage time: 19 d 14 h 10 min
Ouessant-Cape Horn passage time: 29 d 03 h 15 min
Ouessant-Equator return: 36 d 01 h and 30 min
Equator-Equator passage time: 30 d 04 h and 45 min (new single-handed record)
Cape Horn-Equator passage time: 06 d 22 h and 15 min (new reference time outright)
24-hour distance record: 851 miles (Nov 14, 2017)

Team detailsTrackerFacebook

Only three sailors to date (Francis Joyon, Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville) have ever held the record. After his start on November 4, to beat the record of 49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds held by Coville since December 25, 2016, Gabart will need to cross the finishing line (between Créac’h lighthouse, in Ouessant (Ushant), and the Lizard Point lighthouse in Cornwall, England) before 13.09 on December 23 (French time, UTC+1).

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