Sailing: French performance serving Americans!

Interview with Romain Bonnaud, multiple champion in European and World sailing competitions, and trainer to the American team for the next Olympic Games.


- e-Toile : Romain Bonnaud, for a long time you have been the leader of the sailing team of Vendéenne along with your brother Benjamin. Today, you train Americans in Miami for the upcoming Olympic games. Could you tell us about your journey and the several European and world titles you have won during the years in which you topped the rankings?

  • Romain Bonnaud : In fact, I started to sail at a very young age along with my brother Benjamin (now coach of the French sailing team) on the optimist championships. Our parents have been a huge support and have made significant sacrifices in order to help us succeed. Without their support, we would not be where we are today. The region of Pays de loire, Vendée and the town of Sables D’Olonne provided us with the financial means and materials necessary for the evolution of our careers.

As for results, I was the number one French on Optimist and have been on the podium at championships in France several times. I also participated in two World Championships (ranked 6th) and participated in a European Championship. For the record, during the years on optimist, I was like the last winner of the Vendée Globe Challenge, Francois Gabart, someone who, from a very young age, already showed talent; he is also a very nice person.

Then I began sailing with my brother in the 470, a transition that was very rare at the time. Alongside Benjamin, I learned and progressed greatly on the various aspects of performance.

I joined the training center of Nantes which housed the INES (Nantes Institute of Elite Sports) in order to benefit from the development of my studies. During these years, with Benjamin, we were among other training partners at the Sydney Olympics and at the Athens Olympics.

As winner of the Mediterranean Games, Champion of France, Champion of Europe, and two-time World vice-champion, we have repeatedly finished on the podium of the World Cup and won the prestigious Olympic Week in Hyères. We are missing an Olympic metal but you never know what the future may hold for us... When we retired from the circuit we were ranked second in the world (May 2008).

- e-Toile : In 2008, you put an end to the duo you had with your brother since your beginnings followed by the disappointment of the Olympic games in Beijing in which you did not qualify. It was at that moment that you were proposed the position as national trainer of the 470. You left and settled in Miami with your family. What made you decide on that position, apart from having a mild winter? And can you explain to us what it means to be a trainer of the 470?

  • Romain Bonnaud : The 470 is a sailing dinghy with a team of two males or females and is represented at the Olympics by a representative from each country. In 2008 we failed to qualify for the Olympics in Beijing so we decided to move on to other projects after 12 years of sailing together.

I began with training a little the Canadians and Irish before being contacted by the Americans to be in charge of the American team of 470.

I could not refuse a proposal like that, my wife and I had the idea of experiencing life abroad and it allowed me to stay on a high level. As a trainer, my long-term objective is to help my crew become Olympic champions in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

In the short and medium term, I am in charge of the trainings and following champions abroad. I have put in place a logical work schedule in order to meet the individual and collective needs of the athletes. In the profession of being an Olympic team’s coach, the parties’ development, organization and management are also very important.

- e-Toile : Is the high level sailing practice in Miami different from the system in France? You have been in Miami for three years so far; can you already make an assessment of those years? Moreover, what are your goals as a trainer in the current season and your future projects as a former French prodigy in sailing?

  • Romain Bonnaud : Sailing in the U.S. is a little different from France. There are lots of sail teams in universities in the Unites States (Yale, Boston, Harvard) but they do not receive support for the Olympics and most races are by teams. In France, youth are introduced earlier to support for the Olympics and benefit from amenities at school facilities in order to participate in more championships.

I am glad to know both systems because it provides even more experience and allows you to see different cultures and training methods in order to become as efficient as possible. My main goal as coach this season is the World Championship which will take place in La Rochelle, France, next summer.

I am very happy to return to France for a major event and we will do our utmost to be present at the forefront of the competition. I have been in Miami for 3 years now with my wife and we had a little girl who was born in Miami Beach and is now 13 months old.

My wife began a job in an import/export company and also created a blog in order to share our experiences as expatriates ( We really enjoy life in Miami because there is a lot of cultural diversity, the climate is really nice and the proximity to the sea is definitely a plus. Although we miss our family and friends from time to time, we are happy to have met new people here with whom we have established relationships.

I would also like to thank Mr. Consul Gaël de Maisonneuve for his hospitality and support in helping us especially with our integration. My future goals are to win international titles with my team. I also wish to explore more and more different projects. It is true that my job is very fulfilling but I still wish to explore my lifelong passion.

Article published on February 5th, 2013

Last modified on 07/02/2013

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