Winner of the 2005 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre alongside Pascal Bidégorry, Lionel Lemonchois will set out from Le Havre to defend his title on 4 November aboard Gitana 11, the multihull owned by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Although the Norman skipper has long been regarded as one of the best crewmen on the circuit, he had not succeeded in adding a major solo event to his list of honours until his stunning Route du Rhum triumph in 2006. But while the fiendish pace imposed by this exceptional sailor on his competitors remains fresh in all minds, Lionel himself sees each start as a new challenge to be overcome! For this 8th Transat Jacques Vabre, he has elected to share the helm of Gitana 11 with Yann Guichard, the talented router from his Rhum success. It amounts to an efficient and low-key pairing for a boat that has already earned its spurs …
Lionel Lemonchois: consistency, loyalty and humility
A real ocean-going action man who was for a long time content to stay in the shadows, Lionel Lemonchois is far from your average sailor. He boasts an incredible wealth of experience that spans all classes and although his recent Rhum victory has finally raised his public profile, he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. His appetite for victory undimmed, he will line up at the start with the same irrepressible will to give his all.
As a sailor on his uncle's barge collecting wrecks for scrap, Lionel Lemonchois learned how to dive before he could swim. In later years, he worked as a diver in the Caribbean in search of rare shellfish, after which this quiet and laid-back native of Normandy opted for a career on the water's surface. On his own behalf or that of others, solo or as part of a crew, Lionel has always sailed, from his fledgling forays as a young boy on his father's boat to his first Atlantic crossing at the age of 18 with some friends, not to mention his season in Polynesia on board a Formula 40. He started out on Maxi-yachts alongside Yves Pajot, Pierre English and Halvard Mabire, before moving on to multihulls with François Boucher. But the urge to compete in his own right was too strong and, in 1989, he had a go at the Mini Transat on a boat he built himself that was only launched 15 days before the start. To this day, that race remains one of his finest sailing memories. What's more, he is one of only a handful of sailors to have taken part in this event four times and still hopes to do it again one day. The same goes for the Figaro, a circuit to which he has remained loyal, with his victory in the Transat AG2R alongside Karine Fauconnier in 2000, then his second place with Dominic Vittet in 2006. He is better acquainted than most with sailors of the fairer sex, having meticulously prepared PRB then Whirlpool, sailed with their skippers Isabelle Autissier and Catherine Chabaud and dreamed of the Vendée Globe. Eventually however, it was the multihull circuit that captured him. After two seasons on the ORMA and The Race circuits onboard Team Adventure, he was headhunted in 2001 to take over the helm of Gitana X, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's new trimaran. After two seasons with the Gitana Team, he departed for horizons new in the shape of the Jules Verne Trophy with Bruno Peyron and the Transat Jacques Vabre with Pascal Bidégorry among others. In July 2006, Lionel finally joined the Gitana Team when Baron Benjamin de Rothschild asked him to take up the helm of Gitana 11 in the Route du Rhum. Quietly confident, he lined up at the start and… 7 days 17 hours and 6 seconds later, on 6 November 2006, crossed the finish line in Guadeloupe, shattering the old record held by Laurent Bourgnon since 1998! For Lemonchois, for the boat's owner and for the Gitana Team as a whole, it was the ultimate triumph. Since then, this sensational skipper has committed himself to the Gitana Team full time by taking charge of Gitana 13, the team's maxi-catamaran, as well as Gitana 11. Lionel Lemonchois was a winner in the last Transat Jacques Vabre with Pascal Bidégorry and has since triumphed in the Route du Rhum. Consequently, Gitana 11, Lionel Lemonchois and his co-skipper Yann Guichard start as favourites for the first time in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2007.
Lionel Lemonchois, skipper of Gitana 11: “I've chosen to sail with Yann Guichard because you don't change a winning team! The Rhum was an amazing sporting experience but I know I was only able to stay so calm out at sea because I had such a reliable team back on land. That's why Sylvain Mondon (Météo France) is going to be our on-land weather contact again this year. To get the maximum out of the boat, I need to be sure of my crew. Yann has talent and is a real free spirit… he has many strings to his bow, but he does everything with the same tremendous prudence and calm, which are qualities I value very highly!”
2006 - Route du Rhum: 1st on Gitana 11 with the record of 7j 17h 19mn 6s
2006 - Grand Prix du Portugal and Grand Prix de Fécamp: 2nd with Loïck Peyron on Gitana 11
2006 - Cannes-Istanbul: 3rd with Bertrand de Broc on Les Mousquetaires
2006 - London-Alpes Maritimes: 1st with Franck Cammas on Groupama 2
2006 - Transat AG2R: 2nd with Dominic Vittet on Atao
2005 - Transat Jacques Vabre: 1st with Pascal Bidégorry on Banque Populaire IV
2005 - Trophée Jules Verne with Bruno Peyron in 50d 16h 20mn on Orange II
2002 - Route du Rhum on Gitana X
2000 - Quebec – Saint-Malo: 1st with Franck Cammas on Groupama
2000 - Transat AG2R: 1st with Karine Fauconnier on Sergio Tacchini-Itineris
1999, 1995, 1991 and 1989 4 Mini Transat
Yann Guichard: the secret weapon…
It's hardly surprising to see these two kindred spirits join forces, for despite highly divergent career paths, Yann Guichard clearly possesses the same kind of talent, prudence and versatility that have made that man Lemonchois a rare and much coveted crewman!
Although he grew up at Perros-Guirec, it was in La Rochelle at the age of six that he followed in the footsteps of his elder brother when he was bitten by the sailing bug. After cutting his teeth in an Optimist and then following sports studies in a 420, he later encountered Pierre Pennec, with whom he started in the Tornado class in 1995, the year he met Frédéric Le Peutrec on route to the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Before long, Yann Guichard had joined the French Tornado team and was selected for the Sydney Games in 2000, finishing in 4th place as part of Pierre Pennec's crew. Yann has also been involved in Olympic preparations no less than three times.
He discovered multihulls during a Grand Prix on Banque Populaire, then on La Trinitaine: after two months, Marc Guillemot offered him a place for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2001 and the 2002-2003 seasons. Already numbering among the most renowned crewmen on the ORMA circuit, Yann Guichard joined Frédéric Le Peutrec aboard Gitana 11 in 2004, as tactician for the Grand Prix. In 2005, he embarked with the latter upon a new doublehanded Jacques Vabre between Le Havre and Salvador de Bahia. This third attempt was rewarded with a fine second place for Gitana 11.
Yann was a crewman alongside Franck Cammas aboard Groupama 3 for the record-breaking North Atlantic crossing. His qualities as a helmsman need no introduction and he also served as on-land tactician for Lionel Lemonchois during his fabulous Route du Rhum success in 2006.
Currently, Yann is part of the French Olympic team, still in the Tornado category but this time with the former windsurfer Alexandre Guyader. For the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2007, Lionel Lemonchois has opted to have Yann at his side, again on board Gitana 11. After all: why change a winning team?
2007 – North Atlantic Crossing record (New-York-Lizard Point) on Groupama 3:
4 days 3h 57' 54” at an average speed of 28.65 knots.
2007 - Miami / New York record on Groupama 3:
1d 11h 05' 20' at an average speed of 27 knots.
2007 – 24 hours record on Groupama 3:
794 miles at an average speed of 33.08 knots.
2006 – North Atlantic Crossing record (New-York- Lizard Point) on Orange II:
4 days 8h 23' 54' at an average speed of 28.02 knots.
2006 – 24 hours record on Orange II:
766.8 miles at an average speed of 31.95 knots.
2006 – 5th in the Tornado Mondial with Alexandre Guyader
2005 – 2nd in the Transat Jacques Vabres with Frédéric Le Peutrec on Gitana 11
2005 – 1st in the Défi Petit Navire on Gitana 11
2005 – 2nd in the Grand Prix de Marseille Métropole on Gitana 11
2005 – 2nd in the Grand Prix de Calvi on Gitana 11
2004 – 1st in the Corsica Grand Prix on Gitana 11
2004 – 3rd in the Grand Prix du Port de Fécamp on Gitana 11
2003 – 5th in the Transat Jacques Vabre on La Trinitaine with Marc Guillemot
2000 – 4th in Tornado category at Sydney Olympic Games
The 60-foot monohull Gitana Eighty, skippered by Loïck Peyron and Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, has also arrived at Paul Vatine dock at Le Havre. The skippers left Trinité on Tuesday 23 October, taking advantage of the delivery to perfect their final adjustments.
Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant:
“We set out on Tuesday evening running comfortably downwind on a flat sea, but the Channel crossing was a bit choppier, with 2 reefs in the mainsail, so we were a tad shaken up when we arrived in Le Havre yesterday. But everything's shipshape and Bristol fashion!”