Photos: R. Boshoff/Barcelona World Race

Foncia reaches Cape Town

Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart safe and sound

Saturday January 29th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

Greeted by the Foncia Team’s shore crew and Yves Gévin, Chairman of the Board of the Foncia Group, Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart arrived in Cape Town early afternoon today.

After breaking the top section of Foncia's mast last Wednesday and their retirement from the Barcelona World Race, the crew’s minds are already focused on the future. Indeed it’s been a great way to learn some valuable lessons from this first joint foray into top level competition, the exchange and shared experience of Michel and his young co-skipper, who is preparing for the next Vendée Globe.

For Michel Desjoyeaux, there are various projects this year, which involve multiple hulls under Foncia’s colours. Among these are his participation, from April onwards, on the Decision 35 catamaran on Lake Geneva. Then it will be time for the launch of Foncia's MOD 70 trimaran with a programme of ocean races, which will continue through until 2014.

The delivery to Cape Town

Michel Desjoyeaux: “Since Foncia’s partial dismasting, François has managed to scale the mast on two occasions to install an external halyard. That enabled us to make headway under two or three reefs and a jib up forward. In our misfortune we’ve been very lucky. First of all, as it’s just the top section of the mast that came down, we didn’t need to make up a jury rig. Following that, we suffered this damage quite close to the South African coast and were able to make for land whilst benefiting from what were some fairly mild weather conditions for this area, which is often very hostile. We managed to stow everything we could aboard and prevent collateral damage to the boat. During these three or four days, we also had time to sort out our emotions a little and together digest the disappointment caused by our being forced to retire from the competition. Right now we’re going to unstep the mast and remove Foncia’s keel so she’ll be able to fit aboard a cargo ship bound for Europe, where she will be repaired and prepared for her future owner.”

François Gabart: “These past few days spent delivering the boat to port have gone some way to soothing the brutality of being forced to retire after a month of extreme competition which involved us sailing flat out. That enabled us to look into the how and the why of it. One thing for sure is that without wishing to take the responsibility away from ourselves, we didn’t commit any errors in our sailing. We were going fast, we were pushing the boat, but only in the way you have to and are required to in racing. As such we have more of a sense of powerlessness at this blow fate has dealt us, but we must accept it all the same.”

The positive lessons learnt from this Barcelona World Race

Michel Desjoyeaux: “Our one big disappointment relates to the level of commitment from the crew and the team. As a result we retain the satisfaction of having competed in a race until the damage occurred, and though it’s not exemplary, it was at a double handed pace which was reminiscent of an Olympic course at times, which is something we couldn’t have imagined at the start. We were involved in an incredible battle with Virbac-Paprec 3, which began in the Mediterranean. It continued to rage after our shared stopover in Recife. At that stage the level of competition was such that we really wanted to continue to battle like that all the way to the finish in Barcelona.”

François Gabart: “During this month of racing, I’ve discovered a lot of things: I’ve traversed the Doldrums and sailed in the South Atlantic where I’d never sailed before. All in all, save for this fatal damage, everything went to plan alongside Michel, with the pleasant surprise which came about through the level of the competition with Virbac-Paprec 3. It made life difficult but it was coloured with a great deal of mutual respect and a real sportsmanlike sentiment. I’ll remember the racing for a long time. I’m delighted to have had the chance to experience it as it’s something very precious.”

The crew, the human adventure

François Gabart: “The past month of racing and this damage are something that have really brought Michel and I together. We’ve experienced a lot of things, we know each other better and we understand each other more. Even the mast breakage cannot damage or take away what’s happened between us. It augurs well for the next stage as we have other projects in common with the construction of a boat and the preparation for my participation in the next Vendée Globe.

Michel Desjoyeaux: “The collaboration with François was a sheer delight. I knew the competitor and I discovered the sailor and the man: I’m not disappointed, quite the contrary. To give you a little anecdote, he’s invited me to sail on his boat in the next Transat Jacques Vabre. Proof if need be that if the opportunities arise, we’d have great pleasure in sailing and competing together again.”

The next stage, the projects

François Gabart: “The next stage involves the construction and fine tuning of the boat for my participation in the Vendée Globe in collaboration with Mer Agitée, Michel’s team. Since the start of the race, we’ve been in contact with the yard once a week. I also made the most of the delivery to Cape Town to fill up the pages of my notebook with a view to improving and developing this boat. I’ve learnt a great deal alongside Michel: in a few weeks of competition, I’ve gained several years of sailing experience.”

Michel Desjoyeaux: “To set your sights on the future enables you to turn the page better. For my part, I’m going to follow the construction of François’ boat a little, but above all I’m going to focus on the projects we have with the whole of the FONCIA team. We’re gearing ourselves towards the multihull with the imminent launch of a Decision 35 to compete in the Challenge Julius Baer in Switzerland. At the end of the year, we’ll take receipt of number 3 in the MOD 70 series, a one design ocean racing trimaran, for a programme of competitions through until 2014.”


Michel Desjoyeaux: “On our arrival in Cape Town, we had the pleasure of being welcomed into port by Yves Gévin, Chairman of the Board within the FONCIA Group. We greatly appreciate being supported like that by a company director who, though he cannot be in our place, is always behind us. It’s important in difficult moments such as these, to be supported in this way. I’m very touched by it, as I am by all the numerous messages we’ve received, some of which are anonymous and whose authors I may never meet. Though these messages cannot repair the mast, they do enable the injury caused by this damage to be repaired and soothed. Thank you everyone…”

Yves Gévin, Chairman of the Board within Foncia Group: “I’m happy to find the men in good shape nevertheless, and the boat doesn’t look too bad either. There are simple, powerful moments such as these, where you have to know how to show a sense of community. When you see how much and how deeply the team invested their energies into ensuring Michel and Francois could race in the best possible conditions in Barcelona and then in Recife during our pit stop, it’s very hard to accept it coming to an end so suddenly. I understand that, I feel it. You have to know how to get close to each other, and tell them that we’re all in it together and that we trust in each other. Once we’ve had time to digest it, accept it and analyse it, you have to tell yourself that the future lies ahead of us. As such I was very keen, on behalf of all those at FONCIA who are passionate about the adventure and believed in it with all their heart, to pass on to Michel and François, and all the staff at Mer Agitée, as well as all those who have worked on the project, that we are with them and we are right behind them for the next stage in the adventure.”

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