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François Gouin takes 5th place in the Global Solo Challenge

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 5 Apr 07:27 PDT 5 April 2024
François Gouin - Kawan3 Unicancer © Global Solo Challenge

A Coruña - Thursday April 4th. At 11:09 am local time, after 158 days and 44 minutes at sea, François Gouin crossed the finish line of the Global Solo Challenge claiming 5th place with his Class40 Pogo 40S #75 Kawan3 Unicancer.

When he raised his arms in triumph you could have easily been mistaken in thinking he had won the event overall. Clearly François was not celebrating his position in the rankings, he had conquered the most challenging sailing route there is, a solo non stop circumnavigation by the three great capes. François was deservedly ecstatic and proud of making his dream and goal come true, his eyes lit with happiness brighter than the flares he used to celebrate the crossing of the finish line.

François Gouin is the first of the Global Solo Challenge finishers whose life is not dedicated in one way or other to sailing and the sea. As a practicing oncology surgeon he took time off his work and used the opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of physical activity in the prevention and recovery from treatment of cancer.

Preparing for the event has soaked up all of the spare time of the skipper from Pornic, using all of his holidays and weekends in the years preceding the circumnavigation making the Global Solo Challenge the sole focus of all his thoughts, whilst working full time.

As every skipper François encountered his fair share of problems, the main issue was related to his mainsail track which, with hindsight was probably not properly specified by the supplier for the task at hand, the sections of the track were part screwed and glued to the mast but it became fairly clear that the number of screws used to secure the track to the mast was insufficient and the track started to become detached even before reaching Cape of Good Hope. François added all screws he could find onboard to strengthen the bond and used the epoxy glue he had and narrowly avoided having to stop in Cape Town.

After his repair, all seemed fine on board Kawan3 Unicancer and life on board continued dealing with other smaller issues that form somewhat part of the range of accidents that can affect anyone. The spinnaker pole became dislodged and broke a side window which had to be sealed with a plate. Two stanchions were broken and the bowsprit deck attachment worked itself loose damaging the deck, requiring lots of work to reposition it and strengthen the deck with appropriate plates and counterplates to take the loads.

On arrival François was using a wind sensor installed on a pole at the back of the boat, as his masthead sensors had been damaged, this is a very valid alternative often used to avoid having to climb the mast if not strictly necessary.

In the South Pacific, before Cape Horn the French skipper suffered a knock-down but successfully rounded the horn of February 7th, with a 24 hour lead over Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus. The two staged the closest duel of all competitors in the Global Solo Challenge often exchanging positions leaving the final arrival order open to all guesses.

The most frustrating part, which became also the most challenging mentally for François, was sailing through the tropical calms on the way to the equator in the South Atlantic. Vast areas of light unstable winds continued shifting making all routing choices guesswork and costing the French skipper his lead over Riccardo. At the equator only 200 miles separated the two but the ranking was reversed.

It is however at this point that François realised the mainsail track was becoming detached again, further up the mast, and that he had no materials to effect any repairs. This time the damage was caused by the relentless flogging of the sail in light winds. He felt dejected that his duel with the Italian skipper had come to an end as he was forced to fix the mainsail in place with 3 reefs unable to hoist or lower the sail for the last three thousand miles of the course.

After this technical and psychological blow however the weather gods seemed to decided that he had earned himself a good route to the finish and after the doldrums, despite his reduced sail configuration he found good wind for nearly all the remaining part of his route eventually losing a lot less ground than originally anticipated and completing his circumnavigation just 5 days after Riccardo Tosetto.

François' arrival was emotional, with family and friends waiting to be close to him again, his two daughters following his arrival live from Tahiti where they live, together with thousands of other people from all over around the world on social media.

After crossing the finish line François with the help of his friends who climbed aboard Kawan3 Unicancer had to go up the mast to cut the lashings which had held the mainsail in place. When he reached the dock he celebrated with champagne paying tribute to his boat, his trusty companion. Riccardo Tosetto, in keeping with tradition, waited in A Coruna for François' arrival and greeted him on the water and helped him take his sails down just like Cole Brauer had done for Andrea Mura. It was Riccardo who presented François with his Global Solo Challenge trophy.

François also earned his International Association of Cape Horners burgee, and will become part of the small elite of less than 200 sailors to have ever sailed around the world solo and non stop by the three great capes.

Celebration continued ashore by the Global Solo Challenge tent and into the evening with a group dinner in a local restaurant, the same where François had enjoyed his last meal ashore before his voyage, therefore perfectly closing the circle of his adventure.

Continue reading the full article here...

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