François Gabart: The world’s fastest solo sailor

4 Mins read

Forty-two days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds is the exact time François Gabart needed to sail around the world on his trimaran named MACIF.

He traveled 27,860 nautical miles (51,625 km) on his own, from Port-la-Forêt in Brittany, where he lives, to the English Channel. The official finish line, the one that would see Gabart become the fastest man to complete a round-the-world solo navigation, is drawn between the French island of Ushant and The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall.

From the morning of November 4, to the afternoon of December 17, 2017, Gabart lived on the 98-foot boat that was custom-designed for the purpose. During his voyage around the planet, the French sailor reached impressive speeds of 35 knots (65km/h) that contributed to beating the previous year’s record set by Thomas Coville by six days, 10 hours, 23 minutes and 53 seconds.

During his journey, Gabart was quite active on social media, sharing both the difficult conditions he had to make his way through and the spectacular sunsets that filled whoever followed him with thrill and positive vibes.

So how is Gabart finding life after the voyage? Is mainland even home for a man who feels comfortable spending over a month in the middle of the Ocean, alone? Artefact caught up with him to find out:

[pullquote align=”right”]“Although I was physically alone, I didn’t feel lonely. I had the ocean and the passion.”[/pullquote]How’s the post-adventure going?

Good, although I am still recovering, I am happy with what I achieved – we achieved. It wouldn’t have been possible without my team. I had been dreaming of this my entire life since I was a young child and since I started sailing.

Will you try to beat your own record?

Not for now. I might in some years, but at the moment I’m focused on a different race. This year’s objective is to win the Route du Rhum, from Saint-Malo, Brittany, France, to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. We are now working very hard to make my sailing boat fly, to make it even faster.

When you say you’re still recovering, is it partly from the lack of sleep?

François Gabart

François Gabart [Wikimedia Commons:Pymouss]

Mainly. To be honest, I didn’t get much sleep, only a few hours per day, and usually not in a row. You know how they say a person should sleep approximately a thousand hours a year? I don’t know. It’s a strange thing with sleep.

There is so much we know about the human body, science is so advanced, but the brain and sleep seem to be a bit of a mystery. We don’t really know how it works. One can survive and resist months without getting regular sleep, with exhaustion, maybe due to the adrenaline, the mental energy. But then, I am still tired.

These months I am trying to rest a lot in order to be fit again by summer. Maybe I can balance out the hours I didn’t sleep while sailing solo by sleeping more than usual now.

Were there any moments when you thought you wouldn’t make it, where you felt weak and about to give up?

Every day.

How did you overcome them?

The conditions during the first ten days were great, but from then on there were tough moments, a lot of pressure.

It was the pressure, and the tiredness that sometimes stressed me, but I tried to remind myself that this wasn’t something I needed to do. It was almost impossible and I was just trying. Every time I managed to take the pressure away, things got lighter.

Forty-two days alone on a boat in the middle of the ocean must feel long and lonely?

Imagine a little kid, a six or seven-year-old on his own on a sailing boat. A much smaller one than mine, of course, maybe an optimist.

Imagine you let the kid go out in the ocean and it gets wavy. That’s how an older boy like me, well, an older man, feels while sailing. I had been planning this for a very long time, but it’s only once you’re there that you really know what it’s like. It is scary at times.

Actually, although I was physically alone, I didn’t feel lonely.

First of all, because it was my decision to go alone, so even if I had felt lonely I shouldn’t really complain about it. Second, because my team was with me. They were obviously not on the boat but they were following me and helping me with whatever was in their hands, giving me advice and cheering me up.

And then, there are so many people in cities such as Paris or London who go on the tube, surrounded by thousands and thousands of other citizens, and they feel extremely lonely.

I had the ocean and the passion.

Now that you’re back and that you can observe your trip from the distance, what advice would you give yourself if you were to start again? Would you do anything differently?

No, because I made it. There’s no specific way to do it. All you really need is passion, energy and hard work. If you want to do it, you can do it. I had no idea if I would be able to, but I just tried. If you don’t try, you never know. And this applies to everything in life, not just to sailing and sports. This is something everyone should keep in mind. I hope it can be a good example for young people. If I could do this, anyone can do anything. Why not?






Featured image by Ines S via Flickr CC

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