Kito de Pavant and François Gabart on Groupe Bel cross the finish line eight-and-a-half hours after class winners

Kito de Pavant and François Gabart on Groupe Bel crossed the finish line off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica in brisk winds and afternoon sunshine to secure second place in the Transat Jacques Vabre. The duo’s constant high speeds, always pressurising the eventual winners of this IMOCA Open 60 Class, Safran, were not quite enough in the end, and they finished 8 hours 40 minutes and 20 seconds behind Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac’s Safran.

For De Pavant it is his second TJV podium finish, after taking third as co-skipper with Jean Le Cam in 2005, and the second time he and his Groupe Bel have finished a strong runner up after taking second in the summer’s Istanbul Europa Race.

De Pavant is 49 partnered by the 26 year old Gabart, who was top rookie on last year’s Figaro circuit. The skipper from the Mediterranean was a latecomer to short-handed ocean racing, only embarking into the rarefied world at just under 40 years of age after many tens of thousands of miles as a delivery skipper. But De Pavant also stepped up the Figaro ladder, winning the Solo offshore race in 2002.

Groupe Bel was part of the initial TJV’s ruling triumvirate who broke from the northern routing, pounded by an horrendous low pressure system which struck the fleet late in the first week of the race. But they were able to keep with Safran right up until the early miles of the the Caribbean Sea, where Safran eased away from time to time, making their biggest gains when the trade winds deteriorated. It would certainly be true to say that they were evenly matched downwind.

Second place today for De Pavant is a huge boost after Groupe Bel was dismasted just 28 hours after leaving Les Sables d’Olonne during the Vendee Globe last year. De Pavant was in tears on the dock when he returned.

Comments from the Groupe Bel duo:

Kito de Pavant: “I am very proud to finish second behind Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier Bénac. They were great from beginning to end. They really did not make any mistakes and sailed a great course. They have an excellent boat, which I can happily say because ours is the same. They made few errors, and only really when we were right behind them and pushing could you see them waver. I made a good choice, I certainly did with François, he was really good. He did much more than all I asked of him.”

“I found that the Atlantic was particularly difficult. But we did take some pleasure in being able to share those times with our writings. And certainly to be able to say today is the day of Vincent Lauriot Prévost with the three top boats. In the IMOCA Guillaume Verdier and Vincent have these great boats here. When we set out with the planning for Groupe Bel, the choice of these designers was daring because they did not appear to have the experience. But we all set out with a blank page and today we show off these beautiful boars to the town of Puerto Limon.”

François Gabart: “It was such a pleasure to sail with Kito, great to sail with someone with so much experience when you get to places like the Carribean. It felt like he was so at home. It was a treat. I really appreciate the whole experience.”

“Kito’s dismasting is not that long in the past but in saying that I don’t think he was any more stressed when we went in to the big depression. And today it is thanks to many people that his boat is here. There is a technical and engineering team behind us who did a huge amount of work. For me, who did not do anything other than sail the boat that was a big treat.”

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