Photos: Alexis Courcoux

IMOCA victory for MACIF

Golden boy Gabart claims the Route du Rhum and Vendee Globe 'double'

Saturday November 15th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Guadeloupe

Francois Gabart and MACIF arrived in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe to claim comfortably the IMOCA 60 win in La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. The young Frenchman becomes the first person to win the two big IMOCA prizes in solo racing - the Route du Rhum and the Vendee Globe back-to-back in the same boat.

Finishing at 17:38:55 UTC, Gabart and MACIF also today broke Roland Jourdain's 2006 monohull record for the 3542 miles Route du Rhum course establshing a new time of 12d 4h 38m 55s. Gabart now owns both this and the solo monohull round the world record circumnavigation (78d 2h 16m 40s).

This will be Gabart's last race in the IMOCA 60 class as his next challenge will be joining the G-Class maxi-multihull elite with the launch of his 30m long MACIF maxi-trimaran due for launch next year in his will pursue a program of ocean records that is likely to include the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in four year's time and a soon to be announced singlehanded non-stop round the world race in maxi-multihulls.

Throughout this race, Gabart was pushed by Jeremie Beyou on Maitre Coq - his training and sparring partner from the elite Pole Finisterre training centre in Port-La-Foret. However as was the case Maitre Coq raced in the last Vendee Globe in the hands of Armel le Cleac'h as Banque Populiare, Gabart proved to have a consistent speed advantage in the fitful trade winds conditions, despite the two boats being near idenitical sisterships. 


Gabart's Race

After less than 24 hours racing Gabart was already three miles ahead and in control of a pack comprising Beyou and 2004-5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou on PRB and Safran skipper Marc Guillemot. Riou was a closer contender before he had to retire with structural damage to his mainsheet track while a combination of small problems hobbled the challenge of Guillemot.

South of the Azores, Beyou cut the corner back to the northwest and closed the gap to less than 20 miles, but Gabart was able to extend on the southwest side of the Azores high when he manoeuvred into bettter breeze and progressively extended away on each position report.

"This is huge," commented Gabart. "It is the Route du Rhum, it is not just anything. I pushed myself like never before to win this. Now I am happy with the result and how I got there. The project was launched just four years ago. I raced round the world and won and now this. I could not do better with this boat. We have done only three races together and won all of them (ed's note: 2011 BtoB Brasil to Brittany, Vendee Globe, Route du Rhum). But this is the end of our life together, we have done some beautiful things. I wanted to live this Route du Rhum with the same emotions, the same feelings and the Vendee Globe.

"I really enjoyed myself. It is a beautiful thing racing alone. I am still learning.

"As for the record? Well times change and technology changes and I don't think it is interesting to compare the times.

"But I have to say that if someone had told me when I was here four years ago that I would have done this, I would not have believed it. It is not because you think it is easy that it becomes so, but because it is not, on the contrary it is hard.

"I set myself a very high level. And it is about the personal challenge of that. I set the bar high and so I was sad when Vincent dropped out. I should have been happy, but I was disappointed. We would have had a good fight and pushed each other. I did not think for ten seconds that Jeremie was just behind me. I just built the margin over three days. I have a great sensation, a great feel for the boat and spent a lot of time at the helm. I could feel when it is good, when the stack was right, when the sail combination was perfect, when there was weed on a rudder.

"I lost my big spinnaker at the Azores just after the passage of the front. So I had not choice than to be faster that Jeremie. This last bit I did savour the feelings. And now it is sad to leave this boat. But in four years I will be back here in a Multi."

Jeremie Beyou and Maitre Coq arrived in second place at 01:11:18 UTC this morning. The tree time Solitaire du Figaro winner took 12d 12h 11m 18s to complete the course at 13.04kts on the theoretical course, although he actually sailed 3916 miles at 13.04 knots average.

Beyou was second for most of the race and from south of the Azores was thorn in the side of Class winner Francois Gabart.

He commented: "My team worked well on the boat to get it back into shape. Given the season I had then this second place is really nice. It is certainly not easy to go from La Solitaire du Figaro to the Route du Rhum. I enjoyed the challenge and for the long term gain I think that this will be one of my strengths, my assets. It enhances my capacity.

"When it is hard I don't hold back. It is always good to be racing others, it is IMOCA. It allows you to develop strategies and bemchmarks, to learn the angles and the crossovers and how hard to press. These things then are repeatable. The problem then, of course, is that is now four years to the next Route du Rhum and it is hard then to repeat some of these learnings. But of course on La Solitaire then you can. The best moments are always the rankings when you have gone well. It was hard this Rhum. There is definitely a speed difference with Francois but we make progress. The next two years with think of nothing else than the Vendee Globe."



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