At 28 years old, French sailor François Gabart has proven he’s got what it takes. When the Transat B to B (Back to Brittany) set sail from Gustavia in Saint Barthélemy on December 5th 2011, Gabart was attempting his first solo transatlantic race on an IMOCA 60, sponsored by French insurance company MACIF. He was also the youngest of the eight skippers in the race, so you can imagine his surprise when he took top honors, crossing the finish line first on December 15, at 12:11am.
“I am a happy man,” confirmed Gabart after his win. “It’s great to have won a race on the IMOCA circuit so quickly. This victory is even sweeter as I wasn’t sure I could leave with the others as I had to work double time to make repairs to the boat before setting sail.”
The eight skippers brought their boats to St Barth after completing the 2011 two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, a race from Le Havre in France to Puerto Limon in Costa Rica. That race started on November 2nd, as the October 31st start was delayed due to bad weather. Interestingly the Transat B to B, which was meant to finish in the port of Lorient, France, was cut short due to storms in the Bay of Biscay. The organizers drew a more southerly route to keep the skippers in safe conditions, with a virtual finish line off the coast of Spain.
Second place went to Armel Le Cléac’h, skipper of Banque Populaire, with Vincent Riou, on PRB (sponsored by the Carl Gustaf hotel in Saint Barth), in third: all three of these top racers now qualify for the 2012 Vendée Globe. Behind them, Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) eventually tied for fourth place. Thompson requested that the jury revise his ranking as he was at the far north of the fleet when the new itinerary took them 300 miles off the coast of Vigo, Spain. After deliberating, the jury voted in Thompson’s favor, placing him in a tie with Golding.
Marc Guillemot’s Safran, Jean-Pierre Dick (winner of the Jacques Vabre), sailing Virbac-Paprec 3, and Louis Burton aboard Bureau Vallée, completed the rankings.
Lined up on the main docks in Gustavia, the eight high-tech IMOCA 60s were the first racing boats to set sail from St Barth in the 2011-2012 season, which also includes the New Year’s Eve Regatta, The St Barth Bucket, Les Voiles de St Barth, The West Indies Regatta, and the Transat Ag2r.
For additional information, visit: www.transatbtob-imoca.org.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine. She writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.