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UPLIFT, DOWN UNDER

by Betsy Senescu March 06, 2024

We had to chase down photographer Christophe Favreau in Sydney, Aus. for his comments on this month’s 2024 Ultimate Sailing Calendar images: coincidentally where the March calendar shots were taken! These thrilling photos depict one of Christophe’s favorite subjects, in one of his favorite venues: the 18-foot skiffs in the land down under. That’s where he was on assignment shooting SailGP when I found him.

Christophe has been photographing in Sydney every year since 2006 and captured this intense action during the JJ Giltinan World Championship regatta. This annual, prominent 18-footer event was first held in 1938, named after originator James J. Giltinan. Talk about legacy!

But although the 18-foot skiff originated well over a century ago, enthusiasts have kept pace with modern developments, while maintaining the integrity of the class. “The 18-footers are absolute icons of sport boats: the matrix of any kind of extreme sailing,” explained Christophe. “They are spectacular, fast, demanding, and handled by passionate sailors. I find all this energy super appealing and very exciting to shoot!”

As a youngster, he first saw the 18-footers in action in a movie. “It showed them racing in Sydney Harbor, and it blows my mind to think this is what encouraged me to fly to Australia 25 years later.” It was a foreshadowing, that he would not only witness this dynamic fleet and action, but become a part of the 18-footer family.

“The 18-footers are certainly not easy to shoot as they are fast, and the fleet splits pretty quickly. They are so powerful under spinnaker that sometimes sailors are struggling to keep the boat under control, so as a photographer you must always be alert,” Christophe added. But sometimes, as they say, ‘stuff happens.’

“Once, our photo boat had engine issues and we got stuck in the way of one of the racing 18-footers.” Ooops! “We had a collision … which ended alright but could have been worst.” He admitted it resulted in an interesting experience, noting that when you’re in the drink, “those boats are pretty impressive from the waterline. And you need to set aside fears about a potential shark attack,” as it was in Sydney Harbor.

But a good day in Sydney, he reported, “is pure magic! A sunny nor’easter, the wind blowing 25 knots … those flying beasts are super-generous from a visual point of view. White water, jumps, colored spinnakers, spray and wakes, the mobility of the crew onboard and tension on people’s faces ... everything comes together to make those races spectacular.” And the photos too!

The large, featured image on the March pages of the 2024 Ultimate Sailing Calendar was taken from a RIB; the inset gets its terrific perspective from the Race Committee Boat as the 18-footer screams toward the finish.

Christophe uses a Nikon D5 and his favorite lens: the 70-200mm zoom, for its speed and sharpness. “The 18-footers usually require a powerful lenses as it gives you time on the water to shoot them as they approach. I like to use also my 200–400mm lens, but it’s a little less convenient to use on the water.”

Christophe is originally from Les Sables d’Olonne – where the Vendee Globe starts – so was destined to get bit by the yacht racing bug. “What I would say about my photography work, and now writing as I became a journalist for the French press, is it gives me access to a world I love,” Christophe explained. “Being an 18-footer photographer has provided me the opportunity to work alongside legends like Howard Hamlin, John Winning, Trent Barnabas and Michael Coxon, all who are now friends. It is a privilege to be around such intense people, who have achieved so much, and not only in the sailing world.”

“I feel a responsibility to show how beautiful sailing is in general, and particularly when it comes to 18-footers and International 5O5s, another class I am dedicated to,” Christophe continued. “My career has also taken me on some amazing boats like the IMOCA yachts, which are pure offshore weapons! Sailing on those is a great experience, pushing you to your limits sometimes. If you add these experiences on the top of all the amazing destinations I have gone to, this has been kind of a dream job. But a lot harder than it looks,” he quipped.

With a  PhD in sports sociology, Christophe started as an assignment photographer for the daily newspaper Presse Ocean, advanced into freelance photography, and now also writes for the leading French sailing publication Voiles et Voiliers.

 

 

We are thrilled to have his dynamic images in the Ultimate Sailing Calendar!

 

 

 




Betsy Senescu
Betsy Senescu

Author




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