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François Gabart: "Pushing myself into the red zone a little, but not too much!"

by Trimaran MACIF 8 Nov 21:26 PST 9 November 2018
Ultime MACIF at Cape Frehel during start of the Route du Rhum , on November 4th, in St-Malo, north Brittany, France - © Benoit Stichelbaut

This Thursday morning, just as the MACIF trimaran reached the halfway mark between St. Malo and Point-à-Pitre, and still in the lead, François Gabart considered the Ultime's Route du Rhum and admitted how much he admires Francis Joyon and how sorry he is to see the other trimarans in difficulty.

What do you think of these first few days of racing?

François Gabart: "The start was absolutely wonderful. I couldn't have dreamt of a better first series of tacks, reaching upwind, and then with the angle opening up a little until I reached Bréhat. I hope the pictures were good! I was really with it. I had a good start in the match. I did see that Gitana was going really fast. There's no hiding it. However, I manoeuvred better and things went pretty well around the tip of Brittany. I am happy with the way I got into this Route du Rhum. After that, the race did not turn out how I had imagined at all. The major damage to for Sébastien Josse's boat and then to Sodebo a few hours later changed the mood. I did not expect that at all, even though we all know that with the speeds that we reach, damage can happen.

But it is surprising that it should happen to these boats in particular. Despite this, I haven't slowed down, because there's no point. I did not come off unscathed. I had some small technical problems and I spent a good part of the first few days trying to carry out repairs whenever the conditions made that possible. It was energy-intensive, since the wind was strong, and we suffered relatively little damage, except on the first night and I think that the Ultim class was the hardest hit."

And then, Armel Le Cléac'h capsized.

F.G.: "Armel's route was fairly tricky and it occurred to me that he would probably come back in our direction if it had worked out. Unfortunately, there was the accident. I know that he is okay. I hope that they'll be able to recover the boat and that Armel will get over it quickly."

How have the last few hours gone?

F.G.: "We're halfway through the course, this Thursday, and we are still under the influence of the big cold front that swept across the fleet. Clearly, we are not yet in the trade winds. We just need to get away from this front to pick up the trade winds and then the wind is with us. I'm really happy with the night I spent. I worked hard and the boat surfed well. I'm also delighted to be racing with Francis Joyon!"

Have you managed to stave off the pressure a little, from IDEC Sport?

F.G.: "I was a little worried yesterday, when I came to a halt and had the wind below. I was frightened that he was in a better position above and, in these instances, this can create huge distances between us. I managed to pick up the wind again and to position myself ahead and below. That's where I prefer to be. But it's going to be difficult. Francis knows his boat by heart and he also knows how to make quick speed with any multihull boat. I really admire what he can do with his boat with a minimal amount of preparation. It's crazy! I am amazed that we are in this race together. I know that it will be hard and that he won't let go. I am going to have to find the right balance, pushing myself into the red zone, but not too much. I don't want to make any mistakes in the trade winds. I will need to keep the boat flat. When you see what happened in the first half of the race, it makes you more vigilant in the second. There will be Sargasso seaweed, weather traps and FADs (fish aggregating devices), large blocks of metal or plastic installed to attract fish. If we touch them then..."

There's pleasure in everything you've shared about what's happening in this race.

F.G.: "It's quite hard to talk about the start of the race, with everything that happened, but at the same time, I'm delighted to be where I am, competing at close quarters with Francis. I'm having a ball pushing forward with this wonderful boat. I have set my pace and I have kept it since the start of the race. I'm really proud of this. All that remains is to win this second challenge, which means remaining extremely focused and precise right to the end. It will mean sticking "with" it. You can count on me for that."

Follow the MACIF trimaran in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe:

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