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François M., 23 and in his 3rd year of doing a double diploma in Engineering and Management at ENSTA in Brittany and Audencia, is the skipper for the winning Team Total Sea Grant ‘Audencia Voile’ in the EDHEC boat race.


“At ENSTA, I chose to study Marine Engineering specializing in the conception of offshore platforms. I have been passionate about sailing for years, a bug I inherited from my family. In fact, I have been sailing with a club ever since I was a teenager. I already have a prize under my belt: ranked in the first ten in the French championships youth section (13-15 years of age). I have also participated in three French championships as a hopeful. I continued as part of ENSTA, where we became vice-champions of France during the Longtze boat race.


This year, at Audencia, I decided, along with seven other students – five boys and two girls – to apply for the Total Sea Grant. Our dossier was compiled of a description of the project as well as a video presenting the team and, for each of us, a nautical and professional CV. The online voting system contributed to make a difference, thanks to enormous support from our followers at Audencia, Total accepted to finance our participation for the EDHEC boat race 2015.


Consistency throughout the race.


We entered the competition as a 100% student team sailing in a Grand Surprise. During the training period, the 10th and 11th April, at Trinité-sur-Mer we managed to hook up with two KPMG teams (one from ESSEC and the other from Arts and Crafts) both of whom had a professional skipper. This allowed us to come face to face with two teams who were out to win (partly because they had been winners for two years running) and to reassure ourselves of our capacity to compete.


The week got off to a bit of a hairy start, I managed to dislocate my shoulder changing course in the boat: I therefore spent the entire first race, my arm in a brace and operating the boat with one hand!


From Monday to Friday, boats were qualified into the race by type.


Weather wise the sun was out from Monday to Wednesday but the wind was feeble, it was windier but cloudy on Thursday and on Friday there was a storm which led to the cancellation of the day’s event.


We were very constant in our ranking, always among the first to arrive past the post which meant that our overall position was 8th in the series Grand Surprise – comprising mostly of teams led by professional skippers seconded by a crew of students. We had qualified for the Saturday’s grand final along with 21 other teams.


The big day came and with it the most awful weather (rain and strong winds of 15-20 knots): really hard conditions for a final! The race was divided into 3 heats from which we managed to finish 3rd, 2nd and 2nd again which meant that our overall ranking was in 2nd place, one point away from the winners and four points ahead of the team in third place.


The whole race has been an excellent experience. The atmosphere on the boat was convivial and calm throughout the entire week. We were out on the water from 8.30am to 5pm, debriefing of the day (summary, where to make improvements…) before starting out. Besides going out dancing in the evening we were invited for a drink on several occasions by company partners.


We are as proud of our 2nd place as much as we are of not having a professional skipper and of the fact that we had a lot less training than the other teams. For myself, I am extremely happy to have finished my last race as a student on the podium! What better way to enter into an active professional life!