Sylvain Mondon, feet on the ground and a head in the clouds
Passionate, humane, talented and incredibly thorough in his mission, within a ten year period Sylvain Mondon has been able to make a name for himself and today ranks as the number one choice for the top offshore racers. From the Route du Rhum to the Jules Verne Trophy, to name but a few races, the engineer-meteorologist from Météo France has already racked up one of the finest track records in his field. However, perfectionist that he is, he has no, intention of resting on his laurels! Grateful of the opportunity given to him at the start of his career by the Rothschild family and the Gitana Team, Sylvain Mondon is a loyal member of the team today. As such it is only natural that he wil be assisting Yann Guichard during the next Route du Rhum, where routing is stil permitted for boats in the Ultimate category.

A native of the Ardèche with his father’s family instinctively attached to the land, nothing about Sylvain Mondon suggested that he would one day embrace a career in Offshore Racing. However, that wouldn’t have taken into account the summers he spent on the Côtes d’Armor in Saint-Cast, on the coast of Brittany. It’s there that Sylvain discovered the joys of sailing and the massive sense of freedom he got from long jaunts into the neighbouring bays. In fact, just a stone’s throw away from there stood the splendid ramparts of Saint Malo… Sylvain Mondon didn’t yet know that part of his career would be etched out at the start of a race setting out from this legendary corsair town!

An industrious and incredibly talented student, Sylvain got a Science Baccalauréat qualification in 1991 before integrating first and then second year advanced maths, which were very difficult classes organised to prepare students for the grandes écoles (competitive-entrance higher education establishments). Passing through the system with flying colours, in 1993 he went on to take the entrance exam for the Ecole Nationale de la Météorologie (National Meteorology School), based in Toulouse. Here again he gained success first time at the tender age of just 20! After graduating in July 1996, he spent a brief period in research and used this time to do his military service in the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques (National Centre for Meteorological Research). The next three years would be largely devoted to teaching in the school where he had done his training. Then in 2000 he became a forecaster for sea safety.

The start of a long history with Gitana
In 2001, the Gitana Team contacted Richard Silvani at Météo France as the team was keen to take on the services of a meteorologist as a router to Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and François Denis in the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre. Already signed up with a competing boat and hence unable to accept this proposal, Richard Silvani recommended the mission be entrusted to a young, talented engineer. In this way Sylvain Mondon made his entrance into the world of Offshore Racing and the heart of the Gitana family. During the first few years, the routing and prerace weather preparation took up 10% of his work time. Word soon got around though and the meteorologist saw his rating shoot up. Today Sylvain Mondon admits that it takes up 90% of his activity: Solitaire du Figaro, Jules Verne Trophy, Vendée Globe, Transat Jacques Vabre, North Atlantic Crossing…. As such, since 2003, whether it be for a race organiser or competitor, he hasn’t gone a single winter without monitoring around the world race. However, sailing isn’t his only playing field and in 2008 he notably formed part of the support team for Yves Rossy, the incredible flying man and record holder for flying across the English Channel at low altitude!

Sylvain Mondon / Yann Guichard : the winning duo back together
Sylvain Mondon and Yann Guichard know each other well. They’ve been rubbing shoulders since 2004, when Yann arrived in the Gitana Team, and have learnt to work together over various races.“I’m a bit of a perfectionist” says the router ironically, knowing full well that he detests approximation. “However, it’s a point Yann and I have in common”. The two men have a great deal of mutual respect for each other, only equalled by the trust they share in each other’s abilities. In 2006, the duo supported Lionel Lemonchois in his victorious Route du Rhum: Sylvain in Toulouse, and Yann at home in the Morbihan, South-West Brittany. For the seven days of the express crossing, the two men tracked and adjusted Gitana 11’s faultless course. On his arrival in Pointe-à-Pitre, the skipper paid homage to them with the words: “They were the head and I the arms!” When you question him about the importance of his role in the adventure which awaits the skipper of Gitana, the latter soberly and unambiguously replies: “I am at the service of Yann and the boat’s performance in the same way as the technician who adjusts the indispensible automatic pilots or the person who, on a daily basis, prepares Gitana 11 behind the scenes for six months. My job is no more important than theirs. I simply come along at the end of the chain, in the flesh of the race and, as a result, I’m a bit more exposed to the media. It’s all about teamwork.”

Analysing, deciphering the secrets of the weather, thwarting the pitfalls and, as such, advising sailors who are sometimes thousands of kilometres away, to lead them to victory, such is the content of Sylvain Mondon’s thrilling daily life. It’s a constant activity which this attentive father gladly leaves to one side from time to time to share some quality moments with his two little daughters aged seven and nine.

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