'Goosenecks' sailing around the stadium by the boatload

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

He may be best known as the skipper of the Chinese contender in the 2007 America's Cup Challenge in Valencia, as well as a skipper on the Extreme 40s catamaran speed machines on Hong Kong harbour last November, but Hong Kong-based Frenchman Thierry Barot also has runs on the board as a rugby player.

'I played first division for six years in France, and I coached for three seasons,' Barot (pictured) says. 'In fact, the current coach of the French team, Thierry Janeczek, and I went through selection at the same time. We are good friends and always catch up when he is in Hong Kong.'

Barot, who has also represented France in the America's Cup on board French Kiss in 1987, seems to divide his time happily between rugby and sailing. These days, he lends his rugby skills as coach of the Happy Valley women's team. It seems Barot was not the only Frenchman in the America's Cup with a rugby bent. 'On board in the America's Cup, there were actually three sailors who had played rugby in the national team,' says Barot.

'They were Bernard Gallay [Racing Club De France], Pierre Tremouille [RC Toulon] and Nicolas Teixier [former prop and with Prada then Alinghi in the past two America's Cup campaigns].

'We still meet once or twice a year to have a meal and some wine - very French! The group of people in France who sail and play rugby at this level are known as 'Goosenecks'.'

This month, Barot has taken delivery of a French-designed, Chinese-built boat, a Longtze 95, which he has enjoyed sharing with his countrymen over Sevens week. It's not just French sailors he's taken out on Hong Kong harbour.

'The French rugby team also enjoyed going out on the harbour,' he said. 'For them, sailing on the harbour was as much as of a blast as competing in the Sevens.'