Four boats will line up at the start of the Brest Atlantiques race; four Ultim 32/23 trimarans, so twelve hulls and the same number of crew. This long run is raced double-handed and the decision has been made to give it as much media exposure as possible by including a media man in each team, dedicated to producing video and photo content, but not allowed to do any manoeuvring.
On the MACIF trimaran, François Gabart, Gwénolé Gahinet and the media man Jérémie Eloy will compete with the trimaran Sodebo Ultim, the Edmond de Rothschild maxi and Actual Leader. The three teams with different merits, have been questioning the speed and reliability of the MACIF trimaran, and that has aroused caution from François Gabart.
“I am delighted that they are questioning the potential of the MACIF trimaran, since, we too are watching them closely,” says the skipper. “We are competing with the best ocean-racing sailors in the world. Sodebo has the potential to make huge headway and, in a race as long as the Brest Atlantiques. Actual Leader, which has clocked up a few round-the-worlds, may take us by surprise, as it’s the most reliable boat. As for Edmond de Rothschild, it’s a wonderful boat, capable of sailing really fast. It was the fastest in the Route du Rhum 2018 preparations. Can we decrease the gap? Perhaps, but not to the point of making the MACIF trimaran the fastest of the four. But I’m not going to be led to think that we cannot win on that basis.”
Reliability as a goal
This summer, the team carried out some careful work on the MACIF trimaran, focussing mainly on reliability, and, fortunately, the result was some big enhancements.
“The changes made in relation to MACIF’s performance seemed marginal on paper, but I was surprised by some of the improvements,” says François Gabart eagerly. “We weren’t expecting this, as the initial goal was to be able to maintain the performance of the MACIF trimaran over a long period. It’s a great feeling to know that each time we take her out sailing, this helps us to continue with our goal of improving the MACIF trimaran. And I’ll bet you that we will continue to learn about her capabilities during the race. Technically, it’s fantastic, but it’s also great on a human level because there’s always something to learn.”
François has known his MACIF trimaran for four years now and his new foils for a year and a half… “and Gwénolé and Jérémie, are a more recent addition. We are going to keep up the learning dynamic from the start to the finish of the Brest Atlantiques. In this kind of race, the crew’s boat-handling potential is vital. The winners will be the ones who’ve kept this dynamic going.”
The MACIF trimaran will also foil
Often. A lot? 50% of the time, as some of the other skippers believe?
“It’s not that easy to estimate the time,” believes François Gabart, “because the MACIF trimaran’s hulls touch the water regularly. I’m happy to accept this figure, on condition that, like the good engineer that I am, I add or subtract 25% uncertainty. If we were to spend 50% of the time above the water over about one month, this would represent roughly 360 hours of flight. Even the America’s Cup sailors have not yet succeeded in doing this, training included!”
To achieve this, you would have to have good seas and weather, as well as the best choice of route, and although the section to Rio de Janeiro is well known by all, there will be new gates after this point.