The champagne that he energetically shook to sprinkle the public and the journalists on the pontoon of honor where his maxi-trimaran had just parked had the bitter taste of defeat for François Gabart. In the West Indian night, “the little prince of the oceans” and his friend Tom Laperche, like the winners, had the right to cannon fire and fireworks in the bay of Fort-de-France to celebrate a very beautiful second place, almost five hours behind the duo Armel Le Cléac'h and Sébastien Josse, after an intense standoff. But on the float of the trimaran that he will now entrust to his colt Tom Laperche, his heart was not really in it when it came to giving his first impressions. “We are happy to finish this race and to arrive on the other side of the Atlantic. We are a little disappointed too, because we would have liked to win. But we came across someone stronger than us,” he admitted straight away, his face barely marked by the effort.
His SVR Lazartigue held his own against the Banque Populaire But the two blond skippers ceded their throne to the Le Cléac’h-Josse pair at the helm of a simply faster flying trimaran in the final sprint. “They were going faster than us downwind. They deserve their victory. We must continue to progress,” added Gabart, with the feeling of having given everything despite everything: “I don’t think we missed the tactical, weather or even strategic moves.”
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For the young Tom Laperche, who continues his apprenticeship at the very high level with the Ultim, the place on the podium remains good to take on a CV which is starting to be well stocked, thanks in particular to his success in the Solitaire du Figaro in 2022 after two podiums. Gabart has been collecting silver since 2018 after illuminating the world of ocean racing with his talent. Vendée Globe (2013), Route du rhum (2014) then Transat Jacques Vabre (2015), the 40-year-old business leader had signed a fabulous Grand Slam. But since then, the two transatlantic races have refused him: second in Guadeloupe in 2018 and 2022, and in Martinique in 2021 then this year. “I’m a Poulidor, right?” he said, smiling to hide his disappointment. “It’s true that we like to win, and that’s a great series of second places since 2018. The positive side is that each time we are second but not very far from the winner and we are playing to win . We’re not off the mark, but it would be nice to win…”
The future successes of SVR Lazartigue will take shape without him on deck, even if Gabart will still sail next year, but with a crew. It will be up to Laperche to lead this Ultim, one of the three most efficient in the category, at 26 years old and after only two years of apprenticeship. “I’m happy to see Tom (succeeding me, Editor’s note) and the way he prepares. I will play a role on the ground, satisfied with my new cap within the team. I hope he wins. I am sure he is ready,” he concluded, looking ahead to the meeting on January 7, 2024, the new solo and racing Ultim world tour departing from Brest. “A crazy thing,” judges the young heir, who understands the scale of the task: only four sailors have completed a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe to set the record: Francis Joyon, Ellen Mac Arthur, Thomas Coville and… François Gabart. The native of La Trinité-sur-Mer was therefore at a good school.