The Gitana Team in position for the 8th edition
With less than 24 hours to go until the 8th edition of the Tour de Belle-Ile, the weather situation is becoming clearer and more honed offshore of La Trinité-sur-Mer, south-west Brittany. According to the latest grib files, the 470 entries in this 2015 vintage are set to benefit from optimum conditions, namely a medium south-westerly breeze in which to complete the 42-mile course. These forecasts confirm the Gitana Team's official return to the racetrack with the participation of the Multi70 and the GC32 Edmond de Rothschild. Kick-off takes place tomorrow, Saturday 9 May, at 10:00hrs local time.
A record in their sights
With the passing editions, the Tour de Belle-Ile has become the largest yacht race meet in France with a record 517 entries in 2014. The event owes its success to the simplicity of the concept, as well as the sociable atmosphere that characterises it. Indeed, the race gets Corinthians and professionals together on the same start line and all yachts are welcome provided that they adhere to the ISAF rules and measure over 6 metres in length.
With three participations, including two victories over the past five years, suffice to say that the Gitana Team is a familiar sight at the Tour de Belle-Ile. Indeed, the team fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has held the event record since 2011. That particular year, for his first race as skipper of Gitana, Sébastien Josse completed the circuit in 2 hours and 42 minutes at the helm of Gitana 11.
This reference time is something that may well tumble in this 8th edition if the weather conditions observed this Friday are confirmed tomorrow in the bay of Quiberon, as Sébastien Josse explains: the last routing gave me a race time of 2hr42, which is exactly what the time to beat is! The current forecast looks ideal for improving on this time, but it'll be important not to hang about. On paper the record could fall and if improving on it is within our reach we will certainly go for it but it's not the primary focus of our participation.
Continuing up the learning curve
For Sébastien Josse and the crew of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, the Tour de Belle-Ile is an excellent way to continue the sea trials initiated the day after the launch of the modified trimaran. Indeed, since the 23 April, the team fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has been getting a feel for the new platform and, as ever, racking up miles on the water is the only thing that will enable the member of Gitana Team to validate their choices and move forward. As such, even though the event format isn't the most favourable for an offshore trimaran, it was not an option to miss out on such a great opportunity.
The first sea trials on the Multi70 in her 2015 version have shown that she has excellent potential, but we still have a lot of work on our hands with the fine tuning so as to tame our new appendages (L-shaped foils to port and C-shaped foils to starboard). The refit this winter was in line with our research but we're only at the start of our apprenticeship so we must be careful not to miss out any stages. Last year, when we replaced the classic rudders with T-foil rudders, it took several weeks to find the right trim. These fine-tuning phases are synonymous with constant toing and froing between the sailing team and the shore team, but it's exciting to be at the start of such a journey. The Tour de Belle-Ile is a race meet we're particularly fond of and it's an opportunity to come and sail in race configuration without the pressure of a result, explained the skipper of Gitana Team.
The Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild won't be the only boat on the start line since the GC32, purchased by the five-arrow racing stable back in January, will also be one of the party. The helm of this latest generation flying catamaran has been entrusted to Gurvan Bontemps. Boasting a total of five crew, the skipper will have to decide during the definitive registration whether the latest addition to the Gitana fleet will set sail on the short or the long Tour de Belle-Ile. Indeed, since 2012, given the success of the event and the need to maintain satisfactory safety conditions, the organisers have launched two courses. The first is naturally the Tour de Belle-Ile, a circumnavigation of the island, with a start and finish in La Trinité sur Mer, a varied and demanding 42-mile course. The second is referred to as the Petit Tour and offers up a 39-mile course, which is just as interesting, but it enables the smaller craft to take part without having to endure the rigours of the western seaboard of the island of Belle-Ile.
This Friday, the latest grib files are indicating a south-westerly breeze of between 15 and 20 knots and a perfectly practicable sea with a swell not exceeding 2 metres to the West of Belle-Ile. Great conditions then for both the Multi70 and the GC32 Edmond de Rothschild. Sébastien Josse gives us the low-down: 48 hours ago, we were still in a configuration involving a front rolling through with a relatively strong 20 to 25-knot breeze and above all heavy seas offshore of Belle-Ile with a swell of over 3 metres to the West of the island. This morning though, the files showed a considerable improvement as the front is set to roll through faster than originally forecast. As such, at the start, we're likely to have a south-westerly wind of between 15 and 17 knots, a decent 50% cloud cover and a swell unlikely to exceed 2 metres. If the models are reliable and this scenario pans out, the first few miles as far as La Teignouse mark will involve a reach. After that we should be on a beat to Les Poulains (north-west tip of Belle-Ile). After this section, we'll have to hoist the gennaker to slip downwind along the western coast and maybe even as far as the bay of Quiberon.
Set a date for tomorrow from 10:00hrs local time, offshore of La Trinité-sur-Mer, to check whether the reality of the race zone matches the forecasts.
Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild
Sébastien Josse (skipper)
Cyril Dardashti, Jean-François Cuzon, Antoine Koch, Olivier Douillard, David Boileau, Pierre Tissier
GC32 Edmond de Rothschild
Gurvan Bontemps (skipper)
Armand de Jacquelot, Grégory Gendron, Christophe Carbonnières, Benjamin Lamotte