Solo sailing's latest star

Photo: Vincent Curutchet / MACIF
Francois Gabart - former Optimist National Champion, engineer, Figaro sailor, now Vendee Globe winner
With MACIF’s Vendee Globe win, so the shorthanded offshore sailing world has its latest hero in a blonde haired 29 year old, Francois Gabart. Gabart, heralds from Saint Michel d’Entraygues in the Charente region, in land from La Rochelle and is the youngest of three children, his parents Dominique and Catherine, a dentist and a magistrate respectively. The young Gabart showed a strong competitive streak on the water from an early age, winning the French Optimist Nationals aged 13, then the Moth National Champion two years later, before jumping into the Olympic Tornado catamaran. In the Tornado he was junior World Champion in 2004 and while studying for his degree in Engineering at INSA in Lyon in 2007, he was also training for an Olympic campaign in the catamaran. Gabart’s first pro sailing job was racing with Antoine Koch with the young crew aboard the ORMA 60 trimaran Sopra Groupe in the 2006 Round Europe Race from London to Nice. That same year he made his debut in the Figaro class, finishing second with Laurent Pellecuer in the 2007 Cap Istanbul race. 2008 was a significant year for Gabart winning the Challenge Espoir Région Bretagne, a scheme similar to the Artemis Offshore Academy scholarship. It’s past winners have included Franck Cammas, Yann Eliès, Sébastien Josse, Armel Le Cleac'h, among others luminaries of the French shorthanded offshore racing scene. During this time Gabart also gained his first IMOCA 60 sailing experience with Groupe Bel skipper Kito de Pavant, the two competing in the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre in which they finished second. The insurance company MACIF, the largest vehicle insurer in France, also runs a competition to gain a Figaro sponsorship, aimed at more accomplished Figaro sailors and for the 2010 season, Gabart was able to continue his Figaro campaign having won