Brest - French
sailor François Gabart smashed six days and 10 hours off sailing's
around the world record on Sunday producing what many pundits felt was a
previously unthinkable time of 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35
Huge crowds of well-wishers were on hand to welcome the sailor into
the port of Brest, accompanied by dozens of small craft as he burned
flares at the helm and was carried aloft to shore by his ground crew
where he popped a bottle of champagne.
"I'm aching all over and it's been like that for weeks, weeks since a
proper sleep, I can hardly go on," an exhausted Gabart told the press
on his ecstatic arrival in port.
"I've been at sea all alone for 40-days and now suddenly I'm
surrounded by everyone here it's amazing, I really only thought I had a
slender chance of breaking the record," he claimed.
"It was hard and I was on the very edge of things the whole time."
The 34-year-old sailor crossed a virtual finish line between the
island of Ushant off France's northwest tip and Lizard Point in
southwest England at 01:45 GMT, ripping to shreds the previous record set
by compatriot Thomas Coville last year by a massive six days and 10
Moments before crossing the finish line Gabart, a father of two and
engineer by trade, sent out an emotional video showing his boat's
progress on a computer monitor.
"The little blue is us, the red line is the finish. We should cut it
soon, the computer says 30 seconds," he said, wiping his eyes.
The race time was announced by an observer from the World Sailing
Speed Council but will be subject to checks of the boat's black box and
its GPS data before final confirmation.
"I'm happy and proud to have made this lovely voyage around the world," he said in the video.
"It hasn't sunk in yet but I know it's a great time. I have cargo
ships and fishing boats around me in the dark here and it all seems
strange and extraordinary."
Gabart becomes just the fourth title-holder for a world record of sailing the globe solo without stopping.
Huge leaps have been made in that time - since the record was first set in 2004, nearly 30 days have been shaved off.
The debut record holder was Frenchman Francis Joyon who completed the odyssey in 72 days and 22 hours.
British female sailor Ellen MacArthur took to the seas a year later,
racing against the clock to break that record by just a day and a half
(71 days, 14 hours).
She remained undefeated until 2016 when Coville set a new record of
49 days and three hours which many predicted would be difficult to
Gabart, who embarked on November 4, was on a two-year-old state of
the art 30 metre (98 foot) long new generation MACIF maxi-trimaran
comfortably carved its way through the waves and into the record books.
Helped by good weather throughout much of the voyage, particularly
during the long and arduous Pacific section, it clocked up jaw-dropping
speeds of up to 35 knots (65km/h).
He set a number of new solo race records along the way, including the
fastest navigation of the Pacific (7 days, 15 hours, 15 minutes) and
the longest distance covered in 24 hours (1 576km).
Gabart first circumnavigated the world during the 2013 Vendee Globe
race - which he won. He immediately set his sights on breaking the solo
Coville congratulated his record vanquisher.
"He's an incredible strategist. He already showed that during the Vendee Globe," he told AFP.
Of the four solo record holders, Gabart is the only won to have also won a competitive round the world race.
Another illustrious sailor Michel Desjoyeaux said there was no surprise in the feat.
"The one thing we can be sure of is that Francois has a faster boat than Thomas," he told AFP by telephone.
"And he has spent a great deal of time on a multi-hull and is
completely unafraid of high speeds, he's fundamentally at ease in that
Coville's boat was a ten-year-old craft that had been reconditioned rather than built to purpose.