François Gabart wins line honours in The Transat bakerly with a scorching time minutes short of the course record

French sailor François Gabart crossed the finish line of The Transat bakerly this week in his 100ft trimaran MACIF to take line honours. Gabart finished in 8d 8h 54m, just missing the course record set by his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux in 2004 by 25 minutes.

Gabart sailed a phenomenally fast race. The official course of 3,050 miles between Plymouth and New York is 3,050 miles; in fact Gabart sailed over 1,600 miles further by taking a southerly route leaving the Azores to starboard, therefore making an average of just over 23 knots.

Gabart finished ahead of his nearest rival, Thomas Coville in Sodebo. There were only three entrants in the class of giant trimarans that have been named the ‘Ultimes’, but what is remarkable is that that the 33-year-old Gabart has mastered this huge multihull in his first season of racing, while Coville has been sailing Sodebo since her refit and relaunch in 2014 (she was Olivier de Kersauson’s Géronimo).

François Gabart

François Gabart

Coville, however, also got close to a record when he logged a blistering 623 miles in 24 hours during the race, only missing the outright solo record by ten miles.

This is one of the first times since the very early OSTAR races that elite sailors have followed a southerly route rather than a northerly one along the shortest rhumb line distance. This was partially dictated by the winds leaving Plymouth, which would have had the leading boats crossing a ridge of high pressure south of Ireland and nudged them south, though the three skipper of the ‘Ultimes’ had considered an ‘Azores to starboard’ course anyway to avoid the risk of ice and fierce headwinds.

In contrast, the smaller classes, the IMOCA 60s and Class 40s, took a northerly route and some have got quite a pasting in a strong depression mid-Atlantic.

François Gabart came to fame in France when he won the 2012/3 Vendée Globe race, and this victory gives him a sweep of famous ocean race wins that no sailor before him has held before: the Vendée, the Route du Rhum and the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre.

His trimaran MACIF has been designed for him to race solo, and has many interesting new ideas which you can read about and see in our on board video here.

Gabart’s aim is to sail solo round the world next year to try to beat the record still held by fellow French sailor Francis Joyon.