Lemonchois justly awarded

Route du Rhum skipper receives accolade in France

Tuesday December 5th 2006, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
On Monday 4 December, the French Sailing Federation (FFV) paid tribute to Lionel Lemonchois at the Theatre Edouard VII in Paris by naming him Sailor of the Year for 2006 following his stunning success in the 8th Route du Rhum, the recent transatlantic solo race between Saint-Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre. On 6 November last, at the helm of Gitana 11, after only 7 days 17 hours 19 minutes and 6 seconds’ racing, the skipper shattered the former record set by Laurent Bourgnon by more than four . Lionel Lemonchois was keen to share the credit for this victory with his boat’s owner, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, his two routers, Sylvain Mondon (Météo France) and Yann Guichard, along with the entire Gitana Team, “without whom it would not have been possible,” he said.

Lionel Lemonchois was picked out from an elite group of competitors who have distinguished themselves throughout the season in various formats: Antoine Albeau (Funboarder, Formula 42 world champion), Franck Cammas and his crew (1st in the ORMA 60s Multi Cup), Sydney Gavignet (Volvo Ocean Race), Sébastien Josse (Volvo Ocean Race), Roland Jourdain (1st 60’ monohull – Route du Rhum / La Banque Postale 2006), Bruno Peyron and his crew (Atlantic crossing record) and Nicolas Troussel (1st in the Solitaire Afflelou-Le Figaro ).

A jury made up of 13 and chaired by Georges Pernoud deliberated long and hard before deciding on the recipient of this hotly contested title. For the first year, web surfers were also able to have their say, with their combined votes forming the 14th member of the jury. Together, they decided that 2006 would be the ‘year of the Lion’!

The Chairman of the FFV, Jean-Pierre Champion, also took advantage of this evening to hail the contribution of the Rothschild family to the heritage of French sailing by paying tribute to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, who was present in the hall. “On Lac Leman in 1876, a record was beaten by the first Gitana at the speed of roughly 19 knots: today, 130 years later, Lionel Lemonchois has made the Atlantic crossing at approximately the same speed, but this time as an average! On this Route du Rhum, the ORMA multihulls have again proved that they are the Kings of the Atlantic and I would like to thank Baron Benjamin de Rothschild for his commitment to this class of boat, which he has supported since 2000 with the Gitana Team.”

Baron Benjamin de Rothschild said: “I am profoundly happy for Lionel that 2006 is ending with unanimous recognition of his talent as well as his incredible performance. It’s also a fine reward for what we’ve gradually been building with the entire Gitana Team.”

Lionel Lemonchois was born on 2 February 1960 in Bayeux. These days, he lives in Crac’h (56). Lionel is a sailor in a million who boasts incredible experience on almost every type of vessel imaginable. From the Mini-Transat to the maxi-catamaran, his is an honours list to rival the all-time greats! Lionel has long been a highly sought after and respected crewman of renowned talent. But until this month of November 2006, he was content to stay in the shadows, one of those familiar faces in sailing circles that many would have struggled to put a name to.

And it was with the same humility that has characterised this eclectic career path that Lionel Lemonchois accepted his coronation for this year of 2006, which at last sees him acknowledged as one of the great sailors of recent decades.

“It’s like Christmas every day at the moment!" he said. "But I have to say again that, if it wasn’t for the owner, I wouldn’t even be here. He has shown faith in me and I am grateful to him for that. And I’d also like to thank the entire team managed by Loick Peyron and especially the pairing of Sylvain Mondon and Yann Guichard, who gave me the support I needed throughout the crossing! I am very happy to receive this honour, especially as the other candidates would also have been worthy winners. And it’s also partly down to people such as Pascal Bidégorry, Franck Cammas and Bruno Peyron, to name but a few, that I am here today! I’ve learned so much sailing alongside them. It’s a really nice feeling, even though I wasn’t after any particular form of recognition. But I have to say that it’s very nice… In fact, I think I could get used to it (laughs)!” the skipper concluded.

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