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French sailor smashes solo record

A French sailor has smashed the record for travelling around the world single-handed, completing the journey in just 42 days and 16 hours.

Francois Gabart managed to beat the previous record – set by fellow Frenchman Thomas Coville last Christmas – by six days and 10 hours. Many pundits felt such an achievement was unthinkable.

The 34-year-old made the record-breaking journey in a 98ft (30m) trimaran – a sailing yacht with a main hull with two smaller floats attached – called Macif.

Sailing around the world in 42 days was previously unthinkable for many pundits
Sailing around the world in 42 days was previously unthinkable for many pundits

Gabart also managed to smash a few other solo records on the way, including the fastest navigation of the Pacific (seven days, 15 hours and 15 minutes) and the longest distance covered in 24 hours (851 miles).

At one point, he managed to clock up jaw-dropping speeds of 35 knots (40mph).

The skipper had faced strong winds and rough seas over the final few days of his challenge, forcing him to slow down in order to protect his boat.

He told sailing website Scuttlebutt: “You need to find the right balance between making sufficiently fast progress and not necessarily sailing at 40 knots, because that bashes her about. That’s part of what’s so difficult, but that’s my job. You learn to know how your boat feels.”

Gabart crossed the virtual finish line between Créac’h lighthouse, in Ushant, and the Lizard Point lighthouse in Cornwall early on Sunday.

The organisers tracked the journey by satellite, and the French navy monitored his finish from the air, flying over in a Falcon 50.

The skipper was then warmly welcomed back by locals in Brest, western France, the historic port from where he had departed on 4 November.

Gabart is only the fourth sailor to hold the record, with French sailor Francis Joyon, 61, and English sailor Ellen MacArthur, 41, also previously completing the solo trip around the globe.

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