Vendée Globe 2012 has drawn significant attention from the rising star in the Figaro Bénéteau circuit who has never attempted to conceal the fact that among his dream events, the Vendée Globe is at the top of the list.
Francois Gabart probably never imagined that he would be tailing so quickly in the footsteps of Titouan Lamazou, Alain Gautier and Michel Desjoyeaux.
For the skipper of the 60’ IMOCA Macif, entering the 2012 Vendée Globe gradually over time became the logical next step in his career.
After entering the Figaro Bénéteau circuit in 2008 thanks to the Espoir Région Bretagne selection process, he was chosen two years later as Macif skipper 2010-2011. This is when he began to work with the insurance company and very soon, the possibility of taking part in the Vendée Globe became reality with their decision to launch the construction of a new boat. We met up with the young skipper, a man in a hurry, but who has a head on his shoulders. A Vendée Globe project after three years in the Figaro circuit. That’s quite a step up, isn’t it? 'It’s true that I hadn’t really decided on entering the event in 2012 and was aiming for 2016. But then, with the blossoming relationship with Macif, the idea of taking part in 2012 grew. We really wanted to continue to work together, and the Skipper Macif scheme was due to finish at the end of 2011. So we sped things up to enable our work together to continue…' Have you given yourself any clear goal for this edition? 'We’re all equally competitive. So we all set out at the start of a race wanting to win. But then there are objective elements, which mean you either have or don’t have the means to get what you want: the boat you have at your disposal, how long you have to prepare, how much experience you have had in this type of sailing. After that, there are other elements that need to be considered: you need to be inspired, there needs to be the right conditions, and then there’s the question of luck too. So we set out with the goal of doing as best we can. But there’s no point in adding to the pressure by being precise about where you want to come.' What are your plans between now and October 2012? 'For the moment, what is really important is completing the construction of the boat. Macif is due to be launched in August. There will then be a very busy period of fine-tuning and training for the Transat Jacques Vabre, and for the return voyage, which will count as a qualifier for the Vendée Globe, as I’ll be racing solo.' The Transat Jacques Vabre is your next big one and you’ll be racing with Sébastien Col… 'We know each other and get on well together, and we fondly remember our previous joint sailing experiences. And of course, I know how good he is at getting everything just right after all his experience in the America’s Cup. I think that having him on board during the Transat Jacques Vabre, but also during the preparation phase is going to be a major asset for our project.' In fact, the Macif project is closely linked to Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée team? 'We’ve got a good relationship with Michel. I enjoyed sailing with him in the Barcelona World Race, even if it didn’t last for as long as we would have liked. It’s true that without his support, I would never have jumped into the adventure of building a new boat. I know that I can benefit from all his expertise… That’s a great advantage.' Why, when you are a qualified engineer, do you decide to embark on an ocean-racing career? 'There are things that happen in your childhood which leave an impression. Personally, I remember the year my parents took off to go sailing; I was seven at the time. That’s maybe when I learnt that you had to know how to take risks to see your dreams come true. It’s true I could easily have followed a more straightforward career path, but I know that deep down, I would have felt frustrated if I hadn’t dared try to go down the path I’m now following.'
Vendée Globe website