BORN ON 23 MARCH 1983, AT Saint-Michel d’Entraygues (16)
Skipper, competitor, engineer, François Gabart is everything rolled into one. Versatile, inquisitive and into everything, this young sailor, who really hit the headlines in the Vendée Globe at just 29 years of age has, in just a matter of years, shot to fame to rank among the greatest talents of offshore racing.
Coming into his own on the Figaro Bénéteau II circuit, he became a professional skipper in 2008 and has flown Macif’s flag since 2010. After switching up from the Figaro to the 60-foot monohull, he began a new chapter in 2015 aboard the trimaran MACIF, a 100-foot multihull.
His speciality: singlehanded sailing. It is a fully-fledged art to which he dedicates himself today with professionalism and method and an unfailing fascination for competitive sailing that has coloured his life from a very early age. We get the low-down on the exemplary career of this passionate sailor, whose mission is to go ever faster across the oceans.
For one year, you discover other countries, other cultures and the encounters are numerous and rich… "Normality" bursts open and that’s not something you forget. That’s what makes me want to head offshore again today, it’s the reason why I’m committed to this path.
A METEORIC RISE
Originally from the Charente in south-western France, François Gabart studied engineering at the INSA (National Institute of Applied Sciences) of Lyon but his heart, his soul, are definitively out at sea, offshore. At 7 years of age, during a stopover in the United States punctuating a year’s sabbatical with his family, François discovered the Optimist. He was won over. Deeply influenced by this initiatory voyage into sailing, the moment he returned to the Charente department, he competed in his first races. The cups and the medals weren’t long in coming for this born competitor who was named French Optimist Champion in 1997. Two years later, he won the same title in the one-person Moth Europe dinghy).
A SKIPPER TRAINED IN THE SCHOOL OF OLYMPISM, COMPLETELY BEWITCHED BY THE OPEN SEA
Cut to the quick, François remains firmly at the helm of his passion, steering a steady course towards the top of his game. As an adolescent, he continues to dazzle in the racing kingdom. Passing his A-level exams, he switches things up a gear and juggles his time between engineering studies at the INSA of Lyon and Tornado competitions. For six years, he goes all over Europe with the French Olympic Sailing Team and in 2004 secures the Junior World Champion title in the Tornado.
Making offshore racing his profession is a mindset, a lifestyle choice which isn’t always easy. Mutual respect is built up between skippers. Passion and pleasure are closely linked in competition.
A STRUCTURED PASSION TO PREPARE FOR THE VENDÉE GLOBE
Organised, cheerful, calm… François Gabart approaches his profession as skipper with scientific rigour, but, once he’s at sea, he shows himself to be a genuine competitor full of enthusiasm.
The moment he took the field on a Figaro, he stood out as one of the most talented skippers of his generation. Selected by the Skipper Macif network in 2009, he quickly made a name for himself on this circuit, which is renowned for its high standards. 2010 proved to be a year that established his reputation with a second place behind Armel Le Cléac’h in the Solitaire du Figaro, a victory in the Cap Istanbul and a French Offshore Racing Champion title!
THE SWITCH UP TO IMOCA
From then on, the competitor, the engineer and the skipper would become one at the helm of MACIF, a prototype which he fine-tuned and learned to harness the full potential of in collaboration with Michel Desjoyeaux. A series of singlehanded victories ensued, kicking off with a first place in the singlehanded Transat B to B.
Methodical, rigorous, ambitious and above all determined, he leaves nothing to chance in his subsequent preparation for his round the world, which is evidenced throughout the 24,000-mile course. In this way, at 29 years of age, he becomes the youngest and fastest winner of the Vendée Globe. From his first participation, he sets a new record time of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes and 40 seconds. It is a performance hailed by the public, who reserve a triumphant welcome for him in Les Sables d’Olonne… In securing the win, he also took the IMOCA World Champion title. He went on to round off the last year of the programme in style with a fresh victory in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.
A NEW COURSE ON A MULTIHULL
The Macif group decides to continue with its commitment to offshore racing with François Gabart through until 2024 with a 100-foot multihull. 2015 heralds the start of a new era for the skipper aboard the trimaran MACIF.
From his first sessions out on the water, François Gabart once again proves the extent of his talent. Making his debut performance at the helm of his boat in the Ultim category, just two and a half months after her launch, he wins the Transat Jacques Vabre with Pascal Bidégorry. In 2016, he drives the point home, winning fame once again in the most marvellous of ways during his first singlehanded transatlantic race aboard a 30m multihull by winning The Transat bakerly! 2017 is the year when François Gabart definitively goes down in French offshore racing legend.
Having won The Bridge in crewed configuration in the July, François Gabart tackles the solo round the world record at the end of 2017, absolutely pulverising the record in a time of 42 days 16 hours 40 minutes and 35 seconds, improving on the previous reference time by over 6 days. Armed with his round the world experience, the skipper set sail as favourite on 4 November 2018 in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe. Controlling the race throughout the Atlantic crossing and suffering significant damage along the way (notably the loss of one foil and one rudder) on the trimaran MACIF, François Gabart got trapped by the wind shadow of La Grande Soufrière and saw Francis Joyon catch up with him over the last few miles around Guadeloupe. The suspense left onlookers breathless and the finish, which ultimately saw him take second place just 7 minutes and 8 seconds behind Francis Joyon, will doubtless remain in the annals of offshore racing forever.
François Gabart talks about himself in a work entitled "Rêver large" by Stock publications
François Gabart is a professional sailor in a hurry. Initiated at the age of 6, a waterborne globetrotter at 10, he had a speeded-up access to his passion. Earning himself an A+ in his scientific baccalaureate, he also perfectly navigated his university education. He has a cheerful demeanour coupled with entrepreneurial flair, which makes him a rather special sailor. Also in the back of his mind is the desire to develop competitive sailing and invent new boats. Winner of the Vendée Globe – the Everest of sailing – in 2013, at the age of 29, François Gabart has continued to progress ever since. Refusing to repeat himself, he recently launched a revolutionary 30-metre trimaran with which he won The Transat bakerly in 2016 in the run-up to other records… A kind of faux golden boy, he stands out from the crowd by cultivating a socially aware conscience that is open to the world and to others.
Also available in paperback by Arthaud Poche publications