Winner of The Transat Bakerly, on 11 May, in his first single-handed race on the MACIF trimaran, François Gabart has taken advantage of the last three weeks to recover from the cumulative fatigue of over eight days of racing. At the same time, the MACIF skipper continued to train with a view to a return Atlantic crossing, in the shape of a single-handed record attempt of the New York to Lizard Point route (south eastern 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 François 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 single-handed Atlantic record attempt will be the first of a kind for François 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. 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. 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. What is the ideal window to set off? 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 MACIF must be back on 12 July 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 that there is a potential window of 3 to 4 days on the horizon, and Level 3 confirms a start window and will result in François 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.”
Aiming for a new time
In attempting the north Atlantic record single-handed from east to west, François 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. 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 programme in 2016
June: On standby for North Atlantic Record attempt
13–19 July: 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 single-handed
MACIF trimaran identity sheet
Official name: MACIF