François Gouin is gearing up to participate in the Global Solo Challenge to realize a lifelong dream and to promote, during his circumnavigation, both the values tied to his profession as a surgeon for Unicancer, and those of a solo sailor. Kawan III, the Pogo 40S chosen for this adventure, also carries the ideals and hopes that the French skipper shares with a large team of colleagues, friends, and his family.
“When the stars aligned and I could consider my participation in the Global Solo Challenge, I also decided on the type of boat I wanted to sail around the world with. I chose a first-generation Class40. The Class40s are already designed for long oceanic voyages. The size of the boat is manageable from both a navigation and budget perspective. The first-generation Class40s are characterized by a construction that focuses more on robustness and reliability than on performance, unlike the latest models, which are technically pushed to the extreme. Additionally, Kawan III has a slim bow to cut through the waves, while today’s Class40s have a broad, scow bow.”
François Gouin found his ideal boat in Italy, in Pisa: a Pogo 40S, designed by Finot-Conq and built by the Structure shipyard in Concarneau in 2008. François quickly understood that it was a structurally “sound” boat and interesting because it had not sailed much in the past and had not participated in oceanic races.
Kawan III takes us on a journey into the heart of the naval architecture history of Brittany, a region that has been the birthplace of many innovative thinkers that dedicated their profession to offshore racing. Two naval designers stand out: Finot and Conq.
Jean-Marie Finot, born in 1941, has always wanted to become a yacht designer since he was a child. After discovering sailing at courses held in Glénans, he designed his first boat in 1967, the ‘Écume de Mer’, which had great success, winning the title of “Boat of the Year” in 1975. In 1973, he started his business as a naval architect, designing boats for various shipyards and races. In 1988, he joined Pascal Conq and together they dedicated themselves to designing prototypes like Mini 6.50s and the Figaro Bénéteau for oceanic races. The Finot-Conq design studio has also designed eighteen carbon IMOCAs. Finot distinguished himself by his design of “wide” boats, characterized by power, stability, and ease of handling.
Pascal Conq, born in 1962, spent his childhood in Roscoff, fully immersed in the world of the sea, from oceanographic research, fishing, sailing, to shipbuilding. An avid racing enthusiast, at the age of twenty in 1982, he designed and built the first canting keel on a racing boat. After graduating in architecture, in 1988 he became a partner of Jean-Marie Finot, with whom he has collaborated for over 25 years. In his various racing boat projects, including Mini 6.50s and 60-foot Imocas, Pascal Conq designed the bulbs, rudders, and sails of all the group’s boats. In 2000, he moved to Vannes and directed the Finot-Conq design team from the end of 2008 to mid-2020.
Their common philosophy was to create boats that were robust, fast, and easy to build. Their work and the quality of their boats have been appreciated by colleagues and many sailors who have chosen and continue to choose them.
Gouin’s boat complies with the Class40 box rules, equipped with a carbon mast, an aluminum boom. “For the round-the-world journey, we’ve equipped the boat with a set of new sails made by X Voiles sailmakers in La Baule. The mainsail and the foresails will be in DCX, a high-strength polyester laminate, particularly suitable for its durability. All the halyards are new, made of Dyneema.”
Major refits and modifications were carried out during the time the boat was in the shipyard which took nearly a year and allowed François to carry on his work as a surgeon while participating in the refit. The stays and runners were completely replaced. “With my technical team and the shipyard, we decided to change the rudders to reduce the risks of breaking them. The new rudders will have a more efficient design and I will have the old rudders on board as spare parts in case of collision with an UFO (unidentified floating object). At the end of June, upon my return from my qualifier, I will practice removing and replacing the rudders at sea.”
During the refit, Kawan III was equipped with a larger, more structural protection hood and the deck equipment was adapted to route the halyards differently. Gouin opted for a new fixed carbon bowsprit, replacing the model already mounted on board that rotated on an axis and did not seem very reliable.
As for energy management, François will aim to be self-sufficient in production and to consume as little fossil fuel as possible. Ideally, none at all. Onboard he has five solar panels and two 500W hydro generators. In addition, he will carry a wind turbine that he can install if needed. For cooking, he will use two Jetboil systems, similar to camping gas, and a traditional gas cylinder.
“The organization of the GSC is very attentive to safety and during the refit, we ensured to bring the boat up to standard: we built all the necessary watertight bulkheads and installed the bilge pumps. The electronics and all the electrical wiring were completely overhauled. We installed new batteries, two new autopilots, and a computer.”
François is enthusiastic about his choice of boat, which for him holds special sentimental value; it’s not just an object. “My Kawan III is truly a travel companion and if I’m lucky enough to cross the finish line, the first thing I’ll do is kiss her. In an adventure like this, the boat is more than just a means to an end. All the preparation also involves building a real bond with your boat, which becomes an extension of yourself. We’re a great pair.”
As for the team of people and his family helping him with the Okeania 22-25 project, François is unequivocal… “It’s the best team in the world! Only fantastic people!”
Here are some of the team members, introduced by François: “Jean-Michel ‘Jimmy’ Viant is the conductor of the technical team. Alec Swed, a friend who lives in the Mediterranean, is a retired sailor and helped me in the early stages of the project. Laurent Marion is both a friend and a professional. He took care of all the electronics and engine overhaul, as well as constantly providing me with valuable advice thanks to his expertise in risk management, wear and tear of materials, and safety. He also regularly holds workshops for World Sailing, demonstrating his sensitivity to safety. We often exchange ideas, and he provides great help.”
In Saint-Nazaire, Guillaume Lebaron oversees the boat in my absence and assists me with weekend work. We have been sailing and racing together for fifteen years. In the “family” team in Pornic, there are many friends, including Muriel Grall who will play a significant role: she will be the communications officer during the race and frequently works on the boat. Thanks also to all those I haven’t named but who are helping and standing by me in this endeavor.”
My entire family is supporting me in this project: my twin daughters, Jade and Lou, are in Polynesia where they work in the maritime field, particularly in the protection of the Caretta turtles, which the boat’s name, Kawan, references. My wife, Nanou, who always supports me, is in Pornic.”
The team prepared a surprise for François. While he is completing the 2000-mile qualification, they wrote messages of encouragement and support, ahead of the grand departure in October.
Jean-Michel “Jimmy” Viant, conductor of the technical team.
“François is a friend of my brother Pascal. We met about thirty years ago. We’ve sailed a lot together, we even built a boat and participated in many regattas in the ’90s. When he decided to undertake the GSC, I immediately offered him my help and expertise. I’m a naval architect and professional maritime surveyor. I have quite some experience in round-the-world races: I’ve participated in three Whitbreads, several Transat Jacques Vabre, at least five Fastnets, and other ocean races. We found the Kawan-UNICANCER boat in Italy and I surveyed it on-site before purchase. Then François brought it to Brittany by sea, and we undertook a significant shipyard project, to bring it up to standard for the GSC. After François has completed his qualification, we will carry out the final works before departure at the end of October in A Coruña. These are expected to include: fairing, rudder replacement, and other small modifications.”
Muriel Grall, friend and communications manager.
“François is a passionate sailor. He has chosen to pursue his dream of sailing around the world. He’s taken us along on this adventure, helping him prepare. I met François about ten years ago at the CHU Hospital in Nantes, where he operated on me, and then we met again by chance on the pontoons of Pornic harbor, where each of us has our boat moored. My passion for sailing and the desire to support this sporting adventure that promotes a cause and values I share, led me to join the Okeania/GSC project. During his circumnavigation, I will be in charge of communications, spreading François’s messages. The boat is almost ready, as is the skipper, eager to tackle the challenge. We are excited to get to A Coruña and wave him off as he sets sail on this great endeavor! Although five months without hearing the sound of his piano, with which he delights us during parties among friends, will seem very long!”
Nanou Gouin, François’s wife.
“He dreamt of traveling the world on the surface of the sea while I spent my life underwater, with fins and a mask. He took me to remote places on his sailboat to admire beautiful fish and corals. I learned to helm while he put on fins and a mask… Since then, two little mermaids were born who love to swim like their mother and sail like their father. Although it’s a bit of a crazy project, it’s his dream and we’ll do everything possible for him to achieve it, by participating in the Global Solo Challenge.”
Lou Gouin, François’s daughter.
“When dad announced he wanted to undertake this beautiful project, I immediately committed to supporting him and participating in the preparation. Dad has always sailed and passed on his passion for the oceans to us from a young age. I know it’s a childhood dream for him and the Global Solo Challenge didn’t come by chance: for him, it was now or never to fulfill his dream. Today we believe in him and even though we live on the other side of the globe with my sister (in French Polynesia), our support is present every day. Dad invests all his free time in preparing for the GSC and I greatly admire his ability to balance his professional life and his passion. He passed on to us his values and strength: never give up and always believe in your dreams.”
Jade Gouin, François’s daughter.
“This is an adventure that dad had to undertake: dad has always been involved in races and solo crossings and has always been fascinated by the Vendée Globe. His dream has always been to live this adventure; he just needed to take the leap to make it happen. We encourage him 100% with great pride and full confidence in him for this Global Solo Challenge project! In fact, thanks to his passion for sailing, from a young age we were able to go on cruises, develop our own passion for the ocean, and our motivation for its preservation. We even learned to sail on an Optimist at a yacht club to be able to help dad on the boat when we went on vacation.”
The Te Mana Association, which has joined the project, has prepared an educational program in collaboration with Polynesian classrooms, focusing on observing the fauna and flora encountered during this journey. “The Te Mana O Te Moana Association, which is dedicated to environmental defense and particularly to the protection of sea turtles and is based in Tahiti, is delighted to support François Gouin in this wonderful project that is the Global Solo Challenge. This collaboration will allow François to share all the valuable observations about marine fauna encountered on this adventure with us.”