French skipper François Gabart celebrates with safety flares following his successful solo, non-stop around the world record trip, at Brest harbour, France, December 17 2017. Picture: REUTERS
French skipper François Gabart celebrates with safety flares following his successful solo, non-stop around the world record trip, at Brest harbour, France, December 17 2017. Picture: REUTERS

Brest — French sailor François Gabart broke the world record for sailing around the world nonstop by six days and 10 hours on Sunday, producing what many pundits previously felt was an unthinkable time of 42 days, 16hr 40min 35sec.

Huge crowds of well-wishers were on hand to welcome the sailor into the port of Brest, accompanied by hundreds 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.

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 3.45am (SA time), comfortably beating the previous record set by compatriot Thomas Coville in 2016 by six days and 10hr.

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.

"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 of the World Sailing Speed Council, but is 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 extraordinary."

Gabart becomes the fourth title-holder for a world record
of sailing the globe solo with-out stopping.

Huge leaps have been made since the first record was set in 2004, with nearly 30 days shaved off.

The debut record holder was Frenchman Francis Joyon who completed the odyssey in 72 days 22hr.

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 14hr).

She remained undefeated until 2016 when Coville set a record of 49 days 3hr, which many predicted would be difficult to beat. Gabart, who embarked on November 4, was on a two-year-old state of the art 30m long new generation Macif maxi-trimaran.

The vessel carved its way comfortably through the waves and into the record books. Helped by good weather throughout much of the voyage, particularly during the arduous Pacific section, it clocked up jaw-dropping speeds of up to 35 knots (65km/h). Gabart set a number of new solo race records along the way, including the fastest navigation of the Pacific (7 days 15hr 15min) and the longest distance covered in 24 hours (1,576km). The Frenchman first circumnavigated the world during the 2013 Vendee Globe race — which he won.

He immediately set his sights on breaking the solo non-stop record.

AFP

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