by Lizzie Ward
Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion takes place in Alicante, Spain during 1st to 5th November. The latest Ambassador is three-time Whitbread Round the World Race skipper Alain Gabbay.
Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion logo
During the event, Frenchman Gabbay will be reunited with Charles Jourdan, the ultra light maxi-yacht which he skippered to finish sixth in the 1989-90 Whitbread.
Born in 1954 in Egypt, Alain Gabbay arrived in France aged eight. Four years later, he won a sailing course by chance and that was the beginning of a life-long affiliation with the sea.
In 1973-74, Gabbay approached Eric Tabarly asking if he could become part of the French sailing hero’s crew in the first edition of the Whitbread. 'Too young to go round the world,' answered Tabarly one month later, though the two men enjoyed this first contact and would always be close to each other.
Gabbay did not lose faith. He wanted to do this race, the greatest sailing challenge of the time and, to gain experience he competed in the Trans-Atlantic race in 1976 as the youngest competitor.
Two years later, his dream came true when, at the age of 23, he was the skipper of 33 EXPORT for the second Whitbread in 1977-78, finishing in 10th place and winning the Neptune d’Or prize for the best skipper.
The Whitbread was addictive and as soon as Gabbay was back on the dock he was planning his next campaign. This time he wanted a new boat -- one that could take on the very best teams now lining up for the third running of the race.
His determination paid off and he secured funding from champagne company Charles Heidsieck. Battling around the world with eventual winner Conny van Rieschoten and his Swan 65 Flyer, Gabbay was beaten into second place. It was a tough loss, but one that left him more determined than ever.
His final race around the world came eight years later with Charles Jourdan in 1989-90. Although a whale strike in the Southern Ocean nearly scuppered his chances of completion, an incident which raised international media interest, he still finished sixth overall.
Today Gabbay still races for his own pleasure, but dedicates most of his time to his boatyard in La Ciotat in southern France. If you ask him what the Whitbread means to him, however, he will tell you: 'Magical. What else?'
About Alain Gabbay
He was skipper of three boats in the Whitbread Round the World Race:
1977-78 33 Export (10th) – aged 23
1981-82 Charles Heidsieck III (2nd)
1989-90 Charles Jourdan (6th)