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Gabart Is Ready To Rhum-ble

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  • Gabart Is Ready To Rhum-ble

    Route du Rhum. Francois Gabart: "I feel like I belong in offshore racing"
    Published by Philippe Elies on 04 October 2022 at 12h00

    French skipper Francois Gabart poses in front of his flying maxi-trimaran SVR-Lazartigue, on July 22, 2021 in Concarneau, before its launch Fred TANNEAU AFP / Archives

    If the Paris court granted him a derogation to have the right to participate in the Route du Rhum, Fran?ois Gabart knows that the dispute with the Ultimate class is not settled. The skipper of SVR Lazartigue, little disert in recent months, has agreed to answer (almost) all our questions...

    Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, departure on November 6 from Saint-Malo

    Let's go back four years with this 2nd place in Guadeloupe behind Francis Joyon: does it give you a spirit of revenge for this 12th edition?

    "You may want to win a race without wanting to take revenge on anything. But yes, with the whole team, we really want to perform on this deckchair, we have been working on it for years. It's going to be difficult, we're not the only ones, there's a level and that's what's exciting. Winning a race where there is not much level, it would not be of interest: there, it has because we have in front of us incredible boats and sailors. We have the will to do the best we can, to give everything we can. I want to get all the quintessence of my boat on the Route du Rhum."

    How do you prepare in this difficult context (1), alone in your corner?

    "I try to focus on everything I have in my radius of action to try to do the best I can. We try not to get stuck on things over which we have no power of action. So we try to find the best possible training conditions, that's the job of a high-level athlete. Being able to train with other boats is super important: it was great to be able to do it with Yves Le Blevec (Actual) and I hope that we will have the opportunity in the coming weeks to sail against other boats."

    This case must have left its mark, right?

    "No, I feel privileged to be able to sail on these incredible boats capable of going to 40 knots with only 14 knots of wind, privileged to be at the start of this Route du Rhum. I have this chance to be able to participate in this incredible show that is the Route du Rhum, to sail on this SVR Lazartigue trimaran which is superb, to have a team fully behind. I'm focusing on that, that's the most important thing."

    We feel that you do not want to answer the questions that concern this case ...

    "Because it has no interest. Me, I want to do a beautiful Route du Rhum, that's it."

    Are you talking to the other teams and skippers of the Ultimate Class?

    "In any case, we are trying, there is a common will to try to find a solution in a complex situation. But today, my priority is the Route du Rhum..."

    After the Route du Rhum, there is a solo world tour at the end of 2023 in Brest: do you have an idea of the rest of the events for you and your Ultime which was designed for that?

    "There is no point in talking about it. That is not the subject today."

    Back to the Route du Rhum, in a month, you will find a certain Francis Joyon...

    "He is an extraordinary sailor (Editor's note: who came to sail aboard SVR Lazartigue last week), capable of doing things that are beyond comprehension. I really appreciate Francis and I enjoy seeing him on the Route du Rhum. There is a lot of respect for each other. He's still a big customer, he can win the Route du Rhum, it's obvious, but I don't think he's the favorite even if he's the title holder."

    Do you still have this desire, this pleasure to sail offshore alone?

    "It's been a long time since I had so much desire to go sailing alone, to go play this game that is offshore racing. I am not at all disgusted by offshore racing, I have always been passionate about this sport. Do I want more than four years ago, eight years ago or for the Vendee Globe won in 2012?"

    "There, there is a new dynamic and I realize perhaps even more the chance I have to be on a boat like that, to be at the start of this race. It was not won, a lot has happened in the last four years (Editor's note: stop of its sponsor Macif in 2020, difficulty finding another partner for a year, dispute with the Ultimate Class) but I find there a kind of dynamic that I had when I was younger."

    Offshore runner and head of a company with 80 employees (2): isn't it too heavy to carry?

    ""I've always said that I want to be where I feel good, where things make me dream. And, in this case, the Route du Rhum makes me dream. I have a responsibility to make this boat work well on the Route du Rhum, that's really what drives me. I feel like I belong, that's the most important thing. I have a role to play on this trimaran. I want to be where I serve something: if it's on a boat, I'm happy to be on a boat. If it's on the ground, I'll be happy to be on the ground."

    Have you considered stopping offshore racing?

    "There is a beautiful Route du Rhum and you can count on me to be thorough. I will give everything to live this to the fullest. After, we have a lot of uncertainties about the future, it's a reality. We have uncertainties about the program of the boat. But whatever happens, we will do extraordinary things with this trimaran, I am convinced. We have desire and a lot of ambition."

    (1) If the Paris court granted him a derogation to compete in the Route du Rhum, the Ultimate Class refused to accept him on the other events this year.

    (2) Mer Concept is based in Concarneau.


    Gabart and the Kresk group, owner of its flying maxi-trimaran (SVR-Lazartigue) had assigned the Ultim class for interim measures to obtain authorization to start the Route du Rhum, a solo transatlantic race, on November 6 in Saint- Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine).

    The class, the only one authorized to issue authorizations to Ultim sailboats, refused this sesame due to a dispute over the compliance of the boat, which would derogate from an international safety rule (rule 3.11).

    "The Ultim class intends to resume discussions as soon as possible with the MerConcept teams (Gabart's company, editor's note) regarding the compliance of their vessel. The judgment rendered on July 21 and the temporary derogation that the class must provide to the trimaran SVR -Lazartigue for the Route du Rhum only concerns this transatlantic race and does not solve the fundamental problem (...)", it is underlined in the press release.

    Justice ruled on the form - a date set between the two parties to try to resolve their dispute - but did not rule on the compliance of the boat.

    Rule 3.11 states that winches (work stations) must not be located below the deck of a boat (to avoid any danger).

    Both parties disagree that this point so the definition of what a bridge is is subject to interpretation.

    Francois Gabart's trimaran Lazartigue, on the Old Port of Marseille as part of a promotional tour in the Mediterranean, May 18, 2022 Nicolas TUCAT AFP / Archives

    The Paris court ruled only for participation in the Route du Rhum.

    ? 2022 AFP


    What is the legal action? The action brought by the Kresk group, owner of the SVR Lazartigue trimaran, is a fixed-day procedure which makes it possible to obtain a fast track court decision in an ‘emergency’ situation. That level of urgency having been recognized, the hearing will take place on June 23 at the Paris Court of Justice, the Kresk group hoping for a judgment before the judicial holidays (in August). It is a judgment which is subject to appeal.

    Given the urgency of the situation – Kresk wishes to ensure the presence of the trimaran at the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe -, rather than focusing on its compliance with the rules, which would have had an impact on the duration of the procedure, the action aims to enforce the agreement signed on February 16 between the Ultim 32/23 class and the Kresk group that provided for recourse to World Sailing, provided that the international federation renders an opinion before a fixed date (March 4). After this date, the class was due to authorize SVR Lazartigue to race the Route du Rhum. However, Kresk considers that the opinion was issued after that date. Which will therefore be the subject of the legal discussion.
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