Patrice Guénolé - owner of Gong Force One (Swift Trawler 35)
Scintillating hot red hull, surf splashed across the deck and on the flybridge, and an average crew age of 25, all go to make the Gong Force One a cheerful fun-loving boat – much like its owner. Founder and manager of the Gong Stand Up Paddle board, the only goal Patrice Guénolé has in mind is to make people happy! What is his job? He’s a designer, inventor and manufacturer of all shapes and sizes of wave–riding and surf-related boards at an affordable price. However, with without testing them and without beautiful pictures, he would have no business. With a name that sounds like a joke, Gong Force One uses the Swift Trawler in an unconventional manner.
Isn’t it rather surprising that you chose a Swift Trawler 35 to remain a few miles off the coast and return to harbour every evening without ever venturing further afield?
Let me just say that Gong Force One is a work boat. To be entirely honest, when I was looking to invest in a new boat to replace the Antares 30 we use for tests and photo shoots, I was thinking more of a catamaran. We wanted a really robust, stable boat that would hold all our gear on board without getting in the way. I also wanted a boat that looked pretty good. In our business, shapes and beauty are important! When I talked with Etienne and Jérôme about the project, my two contacts at La Baule Nautic,they were so convinced that the Swift Trawler was what I needed, that they took the risk: ‘We’ll order it, you try it and you’ll see!’
The Swift Trawler 35 was delivered in early July 2018. We took her out all summer and this confirmed our choice. I have to say that I was impressed. This boat is much easier to handle than any other I’ve had before. You drive her like you would a Renault Twingo. She is very comfortable, wonderfully safe and incredibly stable.
« This boat is much easier to handle than any other I’ve had before. You drive her like you would a Twingo. She is very comfortable, wonderfully safe and incredibly stable.”
How exactly do you use her?
Gong Force One travels from reef to reef looking for the right wave, equipped with 15 or so boards, bags containing foils, and all the gear needed for tests and photo shoots. Often we are eight or ten people on board and, seen from the exterior, she looks more like a floating platform or an aircraft carrier than a cruising boat! There’s stuff everywhere: on the deck, on the flybridge, but it’s all really well organized and there still plenty of space to move about, pilot our drones, film and take photos. We position ourselves 300 metres from the coast, on the edge of a reef that looks good and, there, we open the two aft doors and the teak platform becomes our operational base and all this to music! In a few months, Gong Force One has become a real place to get away to off the coast of La Baule. Our customers come and enjoy a break with us on board. They love us and we love them! We also enjoy doing something amazing : when the sea is flat and you’ve worked hard all day, you set the engine to run at 10 knots to go wakeboarding and there you surf flat on one foil for ten minutes of sheer surfing pleasure. With a broad stern, the Swift Trawler creates a perfect wave. The sea is easy to access and climbing back on board is a doddle. This boat is really cool. Yes, I think that’s the right word, cool!
« We position ourselves 500 metres from the coast, on the edge of a reef that looks good and, there, we open the two aft doors and the teak platform becomes our operational base and all this to music ! »
Your customers must feel miles apart from the motorboat mindset. How have they reacted?
Yes, our customers are generally very environmentally aware – a value we share – and their motto would be more in the lines of ‘silence is happiness’. We couldn’t afford to make a mistake in the choice of our boat. With 70,000 followers on the social media, the reactions are immediate and any wrong choices are quickly picked up. In that respect, it would appear that we made the right choice. Our Swift Trawler is stylish, but unpretentiously and unaggressively elegant and we handle her sparingly. 10 to 15 knots is enough for our requirements. At this speed, fuel consumption is astonishingly low and she is extremely comfortable. Back to our customers, I would just like to say that they are increasingly diverse with regard to the sports they enjoy and we detest sectarianism. The founding value of the Gong Sup is to allow everyone the opportunity to surf. The Stand Up Paddle board (SUP), which we were the first to mass produce, can really be used by everybody. What’s more, a growing number of boaters have embraced the SUP as an additional or even main tender.
« We couldn’t afford to make a mistake in the choice of our boat. With 70,000 followers on the social media, reactions are immediate and any wrong choices are quickly picked up.” »
Lastly, your values and positioning are quite close to BENETEAU’s, are they not?
Yes. And choosing this boat was consistent in every way with our identity. To take the similarities and the areas of convergence further, we were pioneers on board foils, in the same way as BENETEAU was with its 3rd generation of Figaro one designs. For exciting sailing and surfing, the future lies in the foil; an appendage providing comfort and enjoyment.
Do you think that we will have foiling motorboats one day?
It’s certainly an avenue worth exploring to reduce the energy footprint of motorboats. Admittedly, the mechanical constraints are considerable and it will require a great deal of design work on the hulls, on how the foils are ejected or retracted in the event of hitting something, as well as considerable research. However, I fully believe this is where we are heading and I’m ready to help with my own experience on the subject!
Did you say SUP ?
A quiet outing, surfing without hanging about for hours in the water, large surfboard or boat tender to enjoy nipping in and out of coves at anchor: the Stand Up Paddle is THE multi-purpose board. Stand Up Paddle boarding is the most accessible surf sport. It is extremely simple and generous in the feelings it procures. Everyone can ride a SUP board and it can be used anywhere. It works on sea, rivers, and lakes, with wind and on glassy waters and never fails. You just need to try it to be won over!