The golden arrow
“Bravo and thank-you to Lionel for offering me and the Group such breathtaking moments, crowned by a resounding success. It gives me particular pleasure because he's first and foremost a friend whose talents have at last gained the recognition they deserve. This achievement would not have been possible without Lionel's absolute faith in Sylvain Mondon, known as the Frog from Météo France, in Yann Guichard for the routing and in the whole Gitana Team, which has worked so hard to gradually improve Gitana. This success was made possible by genuine teamwork, coordinated with great gusto by Loick Peyron.” Baron Benjamin de Rothschild

Crowned winner of the Route du Rhum 2006, Lionel Lemonchois has completed his all-“downhill” route from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre in a record time that will be difficult to beat in the future: 7 days 17 hours 19 minutes and 06 seconds for 3,550 miles, at an average speed of 19.11 knots! Read on for a portrait of a sailor as discreet as he is talented, who is universally admired by his peers.

Lionel Lemonchois may not be very well known among the general public, but the same does not apply to sailing circles. Countless skippers and crew members have rubbed shoulders with him during twenty years of ocean-going competition: those from the previous generation such as François Boucher, Yves Pajot, Pierre English, Frédéric Guérin, Bruno Peyron… ; the leading lights of his own era like Halvard Mabire, Isabelle Autissier, Jacques Caraës, Philippe Monnet, Dominic Vittet, Bertrand de Broc, Jimmy Pahun, Catherine Chabaud, Cam Lewis, Jean-Yves Bernot, Loïck Peyron…; and emerging talents such as Franck Cammas, Pascal Bidégorry, Yann Eliès, Bernard Stamm, Karine Fauconnier. For this native of Normandy, who was born in Bayeux on 2 February 1960, has primarily been content to remain in the background as a crewman, while quietly clocking up the miles at the helm in solo events.

And yet nothing had prepared Lionel for this unusual career path apart from a passion for the sea inherited from his father, with whom he discovered Ireland, Britain, and the Channel Islands, setting out from Ouistreham aboard a small cruiser. Studies not being his cup of tea, he left behind him the backstreets of Caen and his job laying parquet flooring to go sailing with friends, taking in Africa, the Caribbean, Bermuda…  His return to France on board Kriter in 1979, an old round-the-world boat, served as the spark that ignited his interest in racing: he first tried his hand on a maxi yacht with Pierre English, then a trimaran with François Forestier, supplemented by several adventures diving for shellfish in Les Roqués or skippering a day-charter catamaran in Bora Bora…
From Mini to Maxi
But the desire for competition was too strong, and in 1988, he decided to finish the construction of a 6.50 sailing boat to take part in the Mini Transat from Concarneau to Fort de France! Although already a gifted craftsman, he had not yet built a boat and was also working within a fairly limited budget. This 1989 event, when he launched his prototype only fifteen days before the start, remains engraved as one of his most cherished sailing memories: crossing the Atlantic alone, armed with only a watch and a sextant…
From that time on, Lionel Lemonchois has consistently raced, obtaining some distinguished results, but he has also continued to prepare boats. Indeed, one of Lionel's unusual characteristics is to have also been a shore crew member and crewman for three of the most talented women sailors of recent years. First, he worked with Isabelle Autissier for her legendary Route de l'Or record in 1994 between New York and San Francisco, then with Catherine Chabaud preparing her Vendée Globe and winning the celebrated Fastnet Race in 1999. Furthermore, he tasted victory alongside Karine Fauconnier in the monotype Transat Ag2r in 2000. On their arrival at the finish in Saint Barth, the latter made a play on words with his name: “Lionel Lionel, c'est le Bonchoix (Lionel  was the right choice!)”.
In 2002, he joined the Gitana Team to take the helm of Gitana X following her upgrading, but after two seasons, the Norman departed for horizons new in the shape of an around-the-world record, a monotype transat, a Jacques Vabre… With an insatiable appetite for the sea, his calm and modest nature on land disguises considerable charisma and rare sensitivity. Equally comfortable as part of a crew, in a duo or sailing solo, Lionel Lemonchois, having been headhunted by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, thus found himself at the helm of a cutting-edge trimaran tailor-made for the Route du Rhum 2006.
Discreet and effective
Few men are capable of switching from one boat to another; of embarking as crewman on a maxi-catamaran or crossing the Atlantic all alone on a 6.50-metre yacht; of attacking the Solitaire du Figaro and then preparing a 60-foot monohull; of serving as right-hand man to leading sailors in transat victories; of working as a stonemason or diving for shellfish; of rewiring an electrical circuit or hunting turtles in shark-infested waters; of working as bowman on a monotype, or toiling for hours at the helm of a trimaran travelling at over thirty knots in the dead of night. Suffice to say that Lionel Lemonchois is an uncommon sailor whose services many a skipper would give their right arm to commandeer. After all, what matters most to him is still the pure pleasure of sailing, even on a Caravelle in the Gulf of Morbihan: for Lionel, it's all about the water, air and salt, the ocean, sky and land…
But one thing is for sure: the experience accumulated in all these different formats meant that he left Saint-Malo without any inferiority complex, free from stress or constraints and with a determination and serenity which immediately stood him in good stead in the race and allowed him to impose his own rhythm on his competitors. The “downhiller” swiftly took up pole position (on day two) and never relinquished it, turning the established order on its head by clocking up the best score in the history of the Rhum! This was a golden arrow that soared ever higher, reminiscent of the “five LCF arrows” from the logo of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's Group.
Sailing achievements of Lionel Lemonchois
Winner of the Route du Rhum 2006
Grand Prix du Portugal et de Fécamp 2006: 2nd with Loick Peyron on Gitana 11
Cannes-Istanbul 2006: 3rd with Bertrand de Broc on Les Mousquetaires
London-Alpes Maritimes 2006: 1st with Franck Cammas on Groupama 2
Transat AG2R 2006: 2nd with Dominic Vittet on Atao Audio System
Transat Jacques Vabre 2005: 1st with Pascal Bidégorry on Banque Populaire IV
IB Group Challenge 2005: 1st with Pascal Bidégorry on Banque Populaire IV
Trophée Jules Verne 2005 with Bruno Peyron in 50d 16h 20' on Orange II
Transat Quebec - Saint-Malo 2004 with Philippe Monnet on Sopra Group
Transat Jacques Vabre 2003: 8th on Gitana X
Route du Rhum 2002 on Gitana X
Challenge Mondial Assistance 2001: 4th with Yvan Bourgnon on Nautica
The Race 2000-2001: 3rd with Cam Lewis on Team Adventure
Quebec – Saint- Malo 2000: 1st with Franck Cammas on Groupama
Transat Ag2r 2000: 1st with Karine Fauconnier on Sergio Tacchini-Itineris
Mini Transat 1999: 32nd (two dismastings) on Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque
Transgascogne 1999: 1st on Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque
Fastnet Race 1999: 1st with Catherine Chabaud on Whirlpool
Preparation of Catherine Chabaud's boat in 1998 for the Vendée Globe
Route de l'Or 1997: 2nd with Isabelle Autissier on PRB
Quebec – Saint-Malo 1996: 7th on Spirit with Halvard Mabire
Mini Transat 1995: 4th on Les Jeudis du Port
Mondial Mumm-36 1995: 2nd with Jimmy Pahun on K-Yote
New York-San Francisco Record 1994: with Isabelle Autissier on Ecureuil Poitou-Charente
UAP Open 1993: 1st monohull Ville de Cherbourg with Halvard Mabire
Solitaire du Figaro 1990-91-94
Transat Ag2r 1992: 4th on Clips Entreprises with Fred Guérin
Mini Transat 1991: 6th on Clips Entreprises
Mini Transat 1989: 11th on Clips Entreprises
Monaco-New York 1985: 2nd with François Boucher on Ker Cadelac
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