Sitting down with Francois Gabart

Published on July 31st, 2019

Shirley Robertson

British Double Olympic gold medallist and sailing broadcaster Shirley Robertson has launched her new monthly Sailing Podcast, and the third episode sees her interview French offshore star Francois Gabart.

Gabart is a man reveling in his time, an articulate and intelligent athlete delighted to be involved in the sport of sailing while it undergoes a radical and exciting revolution.

He’s the youngest ever winner of the solo around the world marathon the Vendee Globe, but Gabart also holds the title for the fastest ever solo lap of the planet, achievements that have made him a household name in his native France.

Gabart set a remarkable world record in 2017 when he spent just 42 days 16hours 40minutes and 35seconds to sail alone, non-stop around the world, coming within just 2 days of the overall crewed world record. The landmark achievement was set sailing the giant 100ft trimaran ‘Macif’, a foiling trimaran capable of sustained periods of high speed out in the world’s toughest sailing conditions…:

“I love speed. I’m not afraid of speed and I have to say that sometimes I even think that speed is not dangerous, that it’s sometimes safer to go fast.”

As a six year old child Gabart spent a year at sea with his parents, as on a whim they decided to take off to see the world. He attributes a degree of his success to these formative days spent enjoying the experience of being out at sea.

His sailing career started well, he was national champion in the competitive Optimist class. Several national titles followed as Gabart set his sights on Olympic success, but admits that even then, his horizons were slightly wider…:

Francois Gabart

“There was something missing when I would just sail around the buoys, and then go back to shore at night. I was thinking ‘why can’t we just try to go further, sail into the night and just go’.”

And so began a search for something more. Gabart discusses the unique French pathway to becoming an offshore professional, and how he tentatively set off around the world on his one and only Vendee Globe race, aged just 29.

“You are never ready to sail the Vendee. It’s never good timing to do the Vendee. You’ll never be totally ready for it.”

And of his victory, in a time of 78 days and 2 hours, a race record that still stands as the second fastest ever solo lap of the planet in a monohull:

“I was so proud to be a winner. I had been dreaming about doing the Vendee Globe, but i never thought I’d be a winner…The day I arrived, I was just thinking I did something incredible but I didn’t know exactly what I had done, I was so focused on what I was doing I didn’t realize the consequences of that… It didn’t so much change the way I was living, but it changed the way the world was looking at myself.”

Robertson notes that Gabart is so much more than just a champion sailor. “Francois is a forever thinking about where he can take the sport, how he can share the his knowledge with others in other areas of the sport, while getting input from developments in the America’s Cup, for example, to help push the boundaries of what’s possible. He’s obviously very passionate about that, but also very articulate too.”

Enjoy the complete podcast here:

Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.

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