Getting to know Alinghi’s Timothé Lapauw
At just 20 years old, Timothé Lapauw is one of the youngest sailors in the Extreme Sailing Series™ fleet.
But this season he is racing alongside some of the most experienced and respected names in Swiss sailing on board the two-time America’s Cup-winning team Alinghi.
The youngster is relishing the challenge. “The Extreme Sailing Series is different to the other sailing I do because the racing is very short and at high-speeds and we do many manoeuvres in a short space of time,” he said.
“It is very physical and the boats are very strong and fast. It’s really cool to do up to nine races in one day. That doesn’t happen in other events,” added Lapauw, who will also race in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup this year with Team France Jeune, the youth arm of the Groupama Team France America’s Cup syndicate.
Lapauw was born in Saint-Denis on Réunion Island, a small French overseas region located off the Madagascan coast in the Indian Ocean and, as with many islanders, an interest in sailing was inevitable.
Since beginning his sailing career in the trusty Optimist at the tender age of seven on the Bay of Antibes, he has gone from strength-to-strength. As he outgrew the Optimist he moved on to match racing, where he could use his weight and strength.
Lapauw excelled in this discipline, claiming a number of titles including a first and a third place in national championships, as well as placing fifth at the 2015 Youth Match Racing World Championships in Poland.
The promising French sailor was then recruited to assist Alinghi, the team that was established in 1994 by Swiss businessman and philanthropist Ernesto Bertarelli, in its second return to the Extreme Sailing Series in 2016, as the event went foiling for the first time with the GC32 catamaran.
“It was difficult to start with, as I was so young. I wasn’t used to the world of professional sailing and I had to find my place in the team, but it is very cool to sail with Alinghi,” Lapauw commented. “It has given me an insight into the world of professional sailing and I have learnt a lot from my crewmates. I am still learning now but I have gained a lot of experience and that’s probably why it is a bit easier today.”
Lapauw satisfies the quota for the ‘fifth crew’ rule that was introduced to the Extreme Sailing Series in 2012. It states that one member of a five-strong crew must be either a female, an amateur or under the age of 25. The rule was introduced to provide a platform for people who were otherwise unlikely to have the opportunity to compete.
Lapauw’s place on the squad is hard-earned, however, and he is now a vital component of the Swiss team, who sailed to victory last season, and currently sit in second place on the 2017 leaderboard.
Alinghi’s co-skipper, Swiss multihull ace Arnaud Psarofaghis, speaks highly of his fellow team member’s ability to keep a cool head when racing: “His strength is that he is a really young and powerful guy – 95 kilos at just 20 years old. He is also really calm. We need calm people on the boat because I get stressed quite quickly,” he said.
Although Lapauw, who competes in his second season this year as floater and foil trimmer, may be relatively lacking in experience due to his age, he has strengths of his own: “I bring my energy, stamina, and everything else that comes with my youth,” he said.
Interest in sailing runs in Lapauw’s family and they are big supporters: “My father did a lot of 470 sailing when he was young and he taught me about windsurfing and sailing in big boats,” said Lapauw.
“My family came to watch me in Lisbon last year and it was really cool to see them on the shore. My father also came to Sydney and they were both big Acts for Alinghi last season. They are sometimes a little bit scared watching me race, but they are proud too because Alinghi is a great team and such a big name in sailing,” he added.
On the rare occasion he is not sailing, Lapauw still likes to keep active: “I don’t have spare time often,” he laughs. “But sometimes I play golf, kitesurf, windsurf and do a little bit of CrossFit too.”
Lapauw’s natural talent for sailing and his desire to win are key assets to Alinghi, as it competes in the 2017 season in defence of its title.