A new record has been set for sailing around the globe solo!
Impressively, French sailor Francois Gabart managed the record breaking feat in 42 Days and 16 hours, beating the previous record by a massive 6 days. The previous record was broken earlier this year by his fellow Frenchman Thomas Coville in ‘the Vendee Globe’.
Gabart set off on the 4th of November and has been on his own ever since, his route keeping him often completely alone, with no contact with humanity other than glimpses of cargo ships on the horizon and planes in the sky.
What makes this achievement all the more impressive is the fact that solo circumnavigations are so dangerous and rare, with more people having gone to space than sailed the globe solo (that number yet to reach three figures). Mostly this is due to the unpredictable nature of the oceans where storms can derail any attempt and cause catastrophic damage to any yachtsman unlucky enough to be caught up in one.
Gabart’s speed is partly down his fortune with the weather but his skill cannot be ignored. He has won the Vendee Globe race once before (breaking the world record that time as well) and his ability to control a 100ft yacht at high speed is unquestionably impressive, particularly considering that during the race you never get more than 4 hours sleep per night, leading to major mental and physical exhaustion. Combining this sleep deprivation with high winds, dangerous seas and an aim to go as fast as possible seems like a recipe for disaster. Indeed Gabart managed an average speed of 27.2 knots (or 31.3 mph for landlubbers), which may seem pathetically slow compared to a car, but is fast considering he’s only powered by the variable forces of the wind.
His three hulled Trimaran Macif is an impressive vessel but is built for speed over comfort with the actual living space being a small cockpit in the centre of the yacht which accounts of less than a tenth of the boats area. However Gabart has benefitted from modern technology which has allowed him to keep in touch with the outside world, regularly uploading short clips to Facebook, updating followers on his progress and giving an insight into this phenomenal feat of human endurance.
I certainly hope that this record breaking voyage can inspire others to start sailing, or aim for a circumnavigation and who knows, maybe the next article I’ll be writing will be on the record returning to British hands for the first time since Ellen MacArthur in 2001.