Get to know Ambassador François Gabart
Our first Ambassador from France, François Gabart is a skipper, competitor, and engineer currently focused on building a new Ultim (a 100-foot multihull) and opening MerConcept’s new office. Versatile, curious, and hard-working, François revealed his sailing potential with his victory in the Vendée Globe at just 29 years old and has propelled himself to rank amongst the greatest talents in ocean racing.
François also values innovation and protecting the ocean, which he funnels into thinking about the boats of the future. We connected with François to learn more about his passions and role in improving ocean health as a professional sailor, and 11th Hour Racing Ambassador.
1. What has offshore racing taught you about sustainability?
When racing offshore you are in perfect autonomy with the boat which is an isolated system containing all your daily needs. It concerns energy but also food and clothing and this makes you very aware of your needs to live on the planet too. Onboard you must produce as much as you consume and anticipate this consumption to make sure you don’t miss or forget something. This is an interesting exercise as it allows you to understand the interactions you have with the outside world. Offshore racing also offers us the privilege of seeing beautiful parts of the world and the Ocean. Our adventures take us to wild, remote areas and this reinforces our love for the planet and our need to protect it.
2. Have you seen any exciting sustainability-focused changes in the sailing community lately?
In France, the ‘La Vague’ sailing industry grass-roots movement has formed and is beginning to organize itself. It includes both sailors and sponsors, communication specialists, designers, racing organizers, technicians, and it has been running a series of workshops to bring these groups together to discuss the societal and environmental challenges in our sport. This is incredibly positive because it shows a sincere desire to move the lines and shift the system. At the same time, there are innovations happening in boat design and construction such as bio-composites and electrical propulsion – all of this progress offers hope!
3. What behaviors do you wish people would adopt on land or at sea to better care for the ocean?
For me, plastic pollution is the key issue on which everybody can, and must, act immediately. There are relatively easy gestures that we all can adopt like using reusable items rather than single-use plastic ones, never littering, avoiding plastic packaging, recycling properly…we all have the power to contribute to this change.
4. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen at sea?
Probably the passage along the coast of South Africa last November during the Brest Atlantiques Race. We were off the coast for 48 hours and the wildlife was amazing. There were hundreds of whales, seals, fish jumping in every direction, and loads of birds that I’d never seen before. It felt like life was bubbling over and it was great!
5. Can you share some of the details about one of the sustainability initiatives in the new MerConcept base?
While we’re clearly trying to tackle the bigger subject of boat construction, at the new base we have also introduced several initiatives focused on reducing our daily operational impacts, and that of our employees. With the help of 11th Hour Racing, we have installed two Bluewater water filtration systems in the team base which will provide us with top quality tap water. We also provided all our employees with reusable bottles so now there is no excuse to use single-use plastic ones. 11th Hour Racing also helped us install a rainwater capture system and this water is now used to supply our toilets and clean our boats. It will also be used to clean the solar panels when they are installed later this year. On top of that, we made the decision to install a staff canteen which will serve organic and locally sourced meals and we have made our company minibus available for carpooling.
6. How has your role as an 11th Hour Racing Ambassador impacted with your career or personal life?
Being an ambassador for 11th Hour Racing has further strengthened my resolve to use the small amount of celebrity I have in France, as a fairly well-known sailor, to share the message of ocean health. This is a role that is important to me.
Header image credit: MerConcept