French superstar sailor François Gabart has set off in the trimaran MACIF on a bid to break the most difficult record in sailing – the single-handed round the world record of 49 days hours
French solo sailor François Gabart set off yesterday on an attempt to break the single-handed round the world race. He left from his home port of Port-la-Forêt in Brittany to cross the official line between Ushant and The Lizard, speeding away on north-westerlies on his 98ft trimaran MACIF.
This most elusive of records has been held in the past by Ellen MacArthur, Francis Joyon and currently by Thomas Coville, and it stands at an incredible 49d 3h. But it should be remembered that Coville’s record time in December last year in the 105ft trimaran Sobebo took him four attempts, and on one of those, he sailed all the way round the world only to be thwarted by the weather in the final days at sea.
Bettering this record requires intense preparation and a fair bit of luck with the weather, particularly on the return though the South Atlantic.
François Gabart has a lot on his side. MACIF is more technically advanced than Sodebo, a new generation VPLP design launched just over two years ago and now comprehensively trialled and tested. The yacht features manually adjusted L foils and although it is not in the fully foiling league of the newly launched Gitana 17, these foils reduce displacement and increase speed.
This boat also has more sail area and is wider than the preceding generations of big round the world trimarans, which should help Gabart and MACIF negotiate lighter winds and transitions more easily – the sailing adage that records are won and lost in the Atlantic almost always holds true.
Read more about the technical aspects of MACIF here.
Take a video tour of the yacht here:
Gabart has also covered many miles on the boat and crossed the Atlantic several times. He won the Transat bakerly race from Plymouth to New York and on the return passage he broke the solo 24 hour record, sailing 771 miles.
He has a history of first-time wins – besides the Transat bakerly (once known as the OSTAR), he won the Vendée Globe in 2013 on his first edition. As one of the race’s youngest ever winners, then aged 29, he became an immediate sensation in France.
To beat this record, Gabart will have to cross the finish line before 23 December.
“We hope that this weather window will be the right one to pick up the tradewinds and quickly head towards the South Atlantic. It’s a small window. It may not be the best window in the world, but there comes a time when you have to leave!
“We have a fair idea of what weather we will have until the Equator, but not after that. This is also part of the record attempt. This is why we have chosen to leave now. We have to try and we’ll see near Brazil if the weather follows on as we would hope. The timing is really important, since this is a record that’s almost impossible to beat.
“Thomas [Coville] sailed wonderfully and the weather windows followed on from each other perfectly. So I will do my very best to get close to what he did. You really need to have a guiding star and a little success to have weather windows that follow on from each other well right until the end. It has taken nearly two years of work to get to this stage; now, it’s time to getting going!”