MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish

MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish

MACIF trimaran - What they said at the finish of Brest


09/12/2019 - 12:55

The Macif trimaran crew took 31 days, 20 hours, 43 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the 17,889-mile loop in the north and south Atlantic, with two course marks to round in Rio de Janeiro and the Cape sea. These two passage marks turned out to be useful and important for the Macif team, forced to make two pit stops to make repairs. On four occasions, the Macif trimaran suffered damage after impacts with unidentified floating objects (UFOs). François Gabart and Gwénolé Gahinet succeeded in winning a second place in this great Atlantic loop with only three of the six appendages working. Here is their story.

Figures :

Finish time: 06h 43m 50sec UTC (07h 43m 50sec FR)

Time: 31d 20h 43min 50s

Distance: 2d 21h 19min 04s

Orthodromic: 13752.56nm/17.98kn

Speed made good: 17889.72nm/23.39kn

24h Max: 6 Nov 755.89nm/31.5kn

François Gabart: “I’ve never seen this before”

How do you feel in general, having finished this first Brest Atlantiques?

François Gabart: “I’m glad to finish! Even though we are always happy at sea, it’s always a pleasure to cross the finishing line, particularly when a contending boat, Actual Leader, is hot on your heels. It’s a relief to win this second place!”

Did the Macif trimaran suffer a lot?

F. G. : “There are six appendages on MACIF, between the rudders, centreboards and foils. We are returning to port with three of the appendages undamaged. Up until now, I’ve been fortunate enough to have few impacts. I remember a slight impact in the IMOCA class. The leading edges of the centreboards showed it a little, but I’ve never seen this before: to hit something four times during a race, since we changed the central rudder in Rio thanks to the Banque Populaire team” (see the list of incidents below).

MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish
MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish

In short, what broke?

F. G. :

“At Cape Verde MACIF’s central rudder broke after it hit a UFO, to the point of needing to be replaced by Banque Populaire’s central rudder. The technical team spend 48 hours adapting it to the MACIF trimaran back in Port-la-Forêt, before taking it to Brazil.

- Three hours before arriving in Rio, the centreboard was also damaged. We lost 20% of the bottom of the centreboard. This partly explains the length of the stopover, which was longer that we initially planned. The team worked really quickly to replace the central rudder. The team had to dismantle the centreboard, cut it, rebuild it cleanly, but without the T.

-Back at sea, 24 hours later, in a strong wind and close hauled, the centreboard opened, with the outer skins coming away from the structure on the port side. Without the T, it became hard to foil.

- After Rio, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we lost the central rudder again. We decided to do without it, but because we had sailed with a rudder and without a centreboard, this resulted in considerable strain on the steering system. In strong winds the boat became difficult to steer and we broke the connection between the helm and the starboard rudder, which became unusable. We were somewhere near Gough Island, in the middle of the Atlantic, with a port tack to make towards the Cape and we had nothing but the windward rudder. We had to sail in a way that the float would catch the water, so that the rest of the rudder would help us make progress.

- We stopped at the Cape to repair, but we were unable to replace the central rudder. The only remaining solution was the rudder from Spindrift, but that didn’t fit the timing. After long discussions with the team and with Macif, we believed that MACIF could continue the race. She had been made safe and was sufficiently adaptable for us to be able to set sail with two float rudders and no central rudder, and a delaminated centreboard. We also gave ourselves the option of stopping at Recife, then possibly Cape Verde and the Azores.

- Along the Namibian coast, shortly after leaving the Cape, the starboard foil hit something. It stayed in place but had a huge hole on the leading edge and a broken rake system (angle adjustment). We experimented something using a rope to adjust it ourselves. We were lucky in our misfortune, in that remaining route to Brest was mostly starboard. We wanted to continue to race to the end with Actual Leader, for second place. In short, we made our way home to Brest with two float rudders and the port foil undamaged. ”

MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish
MACIF trimaran: what they said at the finish

With 3 boats ranked at the finish out of four, and the 4th on its way, the Brest Atlantiques shows the progress of the Ultim class.

F. G. : “Yes, it’s not bad! If we had raced a standard transatlantic to Bahia or Rio, we would have had four boats at the finish and, what’s more, they would have covered the distance fairly quickly. But the conditions did not lend themselves to high speeds, with lots of beating upwind, which isn’t ideal for our boats.”

All the Brest Atlantiques boats hit UFOs. What can be done to limit such collateral damage?

F. G. : ” The level of damage results from the going faster and slowing down is not the solution. The solution would be to detect these UFOs. We’ve been talking about it for a long time and it’s progressively being implemented. We have a camera on the MACIF trimaran’s masthead. It recorded the whole race. It is not yet operational for detecting containers or marine animals, but we hope that a system will soon be up and running. We probably need to work faster on this issue and to be the best. The role of boat classes like ours or the IMOCA is also to promote technology, clear the way and create things that will be useful to everyone. Of course, there are also creatures in the water, whose place it is to be – I hope I didn’t wound any – and other items that have no business there.”

A trio is already a crew. As a habitual solo sailor, have you acquired a taste for it?

F. G. : “I have never concealed my desire to sail with a crew. I have learned an awful lot solo, but I find working with a crew really interesting, what’s more, that’s how we’ve worked on shore for quite a few years. It turns out to be really thought-provoking at sea. Crew-manned races in the class are in the offing and this is highly motivating, particularly as life on board with Gwénolé (Gahinet) and Jérémie (Eloy) is really easy going, despite the bumps and breaks. We had a blast together and progressed. One of the things that makes me really proud is having lived together as a trio so well, when we barely knew each other on shore. It makes me want to do it again! ”


Gwénolé Gahinet, co-skipper the MACIF trimaran MACIF

“It was a fabulous experience, a really good time from a human point of view. There was never a word out of place, and everything went smoothly. What we felt on shore before the start, we experienced at sea. It was great. François has a remarkable capacity for accepting what happens and moving on every time a problem comes up, without feeling sorry for himself. There’s very little delay, he moves on to the next thing very quickly and this is a learning curve for me. He also has a fairly unique way of skippering a trimaran like this, at high speed. He has an impressive style of his own. Sharing this as a co-skipper is terrific. He is disciplined, methodical, he thinks a lot and always asks your opinion. This is his strength on shore, but also at sea. We had lots of discussions on a variety of topics, because we both want “to change the world” in our own way. My highlights? Gough Island is a magical inhabited desert island, lost in the middle of nowhere; and then we spent two fabulous days between the Cape and the north of Namibia, in sight of the desert, dunes, cetaceans and birds. Physically, we’re in relatively good shape, but I’m aware that crossing the finishing line has lifted a weight: these boats are a constant stress. It’s good to have finished, and it’s quite relieving. As for the low tech, I really enjoyed it. I’m really pleased with the results. It’s inspiring for many reasons.”

Jérémie Eloy, MACIF trimaran’s media man

“Our relationship, which was already great to start with, improved during all the difficulties we encountered. With everything that happened to MACIF, you need a strong connection between the skippers and the media man, otherwise it would be very complicated. The media man is the odd one out really. When you’re making a meal, while the two sailors are fighting to get the boat sailing again, you are going against the grain. Thank goodness we all have a sense of humour, which came in handy! To see François and Gwénolé react like they do when things go wrong, is really awe-inspiring. Imagine yourself at home with a broken washing machine one day, a leak then next day, and your car breaks down after that, and you stay cool, handling the problems selflessly, staying really calm. It was mind-blowing. What might I have missed as a kite surfer? Getting in the water! In the big swell, we had some incredible surfing thrills. You see the water fly by constantly and the speed of the wind. I was like a punished child in a sweet shop. Gough Island was wonderful, particularly as we had experienced a very high winds and a very rough sea for two or three days. This island in the middle of nowhere emerged just as we came out of that rough patch and it was such a relief. And then I got the drone out again along the Namibian coast, in places where I had surfed, and notably, the Skeleton Bay wave, which I discovered through a Google Earth competition. It’s one of the most beautiful waves in the world… I filmed a lot. I’m dying to see and hear all this material. What with the noise and the movements on board, on top of my mountain of tasks every day, I was unable to study my film. But it’s pretty special, that’s for sure…”

(* Before being a cameraman, the Breton was a professional kite surfer from 2002 to 2009.)

Jean Bernard Le Boucher, Manager of Sea Operations for the Macif Group

“The Brest Atlantiques was a difficult race for our sailors. The weather conditions were tough and did not leave the MACIF trimaran unscathed. However, it is reassuring that MACIF is still a high-performance boat that can take on the new generation of Ultims. I would really like to commend François, Gwénolé and Jérémie for their perseverance and their great team spirit throughout this race. The technical team did a remarkable job during the two technical stopovers, quickly combining technical expertise and a wide variety of skills. This second place is therefore a great success! All our employees, representatives and shareholders have followed François and Gwénolé’s strategic choices closely, and thanks to Jérémie, we have been able to watch the whole crossing as it unfolded. Thank you and congratulations! “


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