The Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild bound for Europe
Earlier this month, on 7 December, Sébastien Josse and Gitana Team announced their retirement from the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 following serious damage to the port foil of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild. The sailor from the five-arrow racing stable was lying in third place at the time and was one of the driving forces of the legendary non-stop, unassisted, round the world race. The announcement of his retirement after a month of racing having covered over 10,000 nautical miles was quite a blow to say the least and came as a huge disappointment to the whole team in their quest for victory. Indeed, Sébastien Josse made no secret of the fact that it is something that will remain with him for many months to come However, the Gitana Team is lucky enough to already be setting its sights on a major new project, which will come to fruition in the summer of 2017 with the launch of the maxi-trimaran Gitana17; a privilege that the team sincerely values.
Retirement of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild
On 5 December 2016, whilst the Nautic Paris boat show was in full swing, Sébastien Josse alerted his shore crew to the serious damage aboard the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild. Following the breakage of a mechanical part on the head of the port foil, the appendage came close to pulling out of its casing, which could have had serious consequences for Gitana 16: the risk of water ingress aboard was very high and that was the first thing we focused on so that Sébastien could lock the foil in the upper position and tackle the upcoming storm (40 knots of breeze and waves in excess of 7 metres) with a reasonable degree of safety. At that point, the competition goes right to the back of your mind and all we're concerned about is the safety of the sailor. The situation was tricky and could easily have taken a turn for the worse. Sébastien had 36 really complicated hours to deal with, which he dealt with perfectly, pointed out Cyril Dardashti, Director of Gitana Team.
After two days spent hunkering down to let the bad weather roll through, the sailor was finally able to assess the damage more precisely along with his chances of effecting repairs on his own in the middle of the Indian Ocean. And unfortunately, despite Sébastien's best efforts at sea and the numerous technical solutions devised by the shore crew, the Vendée Globe adventure 2016-2017 came to an end on Wednesday 7 December for Gitana Team: It was a very painful decision to make but it was the only solution. Racing aboard a boat that was no longer at 100% of her sporting potential was something I was quite prepared for, because that's part and parcel of the Vendée Globe, but continuing with a boat that wasn't 100% safe was clearly out of the question with the upcoming Pacific crossing. If such damage had occurred offshore of Brazil on the climb back up the Atlantic, it may have been a different story but that's the way it goes! It's important to move on now and look to the future, admitted Sébastien Josse on Monday, on his return to France.
Making headway some 900 miles from the south-west tip of Australia when the incident happened, it was decided that Sébastien Josse would make for Fremantle, to the North of Cape Leeuwin, a journey he was able to complete on Saturday 10 December after three days of sailing. Two members of Gitana Team and a logistician were waiting for him there with the aim of organising the 60 footer's repatriation to Europe and her technical base in Lorient, Brittany, as quickly as possible. The weather conditions in the area enabled me to get up to Australia pretty quickly. At that stage it crossed my mind that the hardest part was behind me, however the arrival in Fremantle was certainly no picnic as we had a string of administrative issues related to Australian protectionism'. In short, the customs officers were calling for the team to have work visas, which were impossible to provide in the timeframe allowed. Our time there proved to be incredibly complicated, but fortunately we were able to count on the help of Philippe Péché, who has been based there for a fair number of years and that enabled us to unstep the mast and keel within the allotted time as the boat had to be loaded on the ship by Friday 16 December at the latest It was nice to hook up with Philippe again in the midst of this saga We did the round the world together, winning the Jules Verne Trophy in 2003 aboard Orange, and he's currently preparing for a mighty challenge that he's hoping will culminate in the Golden Globe Race in 2018, explained the sailor from Nice. I'm happy to be back in France, even though I know that it's not necessarily going to be a pleasant time. In Australia, I was still caught up in the action and rather disconnected from the race. I'm going to try to remain that way for a few more days, recharge my batteries with family and enjoy some quality time with them during the festive season before getting back down to it in early January in Lorient.
The Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild took up position aboard a container ship at the end of last week and began her journey back to Europe the following day, on Saturday 17 December. Ahead of Gitana 16 lies a journey of around forty days, with a scheduled arrival in metropolitan France in late January 2017. At that point Gitana Team's shore crew will take delivery of the boat and will have a few weeks to prepare her prior to handing her over to her new owners since her sale has been confirmed.
Onward to 2017
The sale of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild at the end of the race has never been a secret as the Vendée Globe adventure was part of a much wider programme that will carry the team through to 2020, albeit aboard a multihull henceforth. Indeed, back in 2014, the Gitana Team launched an ambitious project thanks to the support of the owners, Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild, culminating with the construction and fine-tuning of a latest generation maxi-trimaran. The launch of Gitana17 is scheduled for this coming summer.
However, with our race being over, three fine years have also come to an end for Gitana Team. Inevitably, things haven't gone exactly as we'd hoped, but you have to accept it. We'd like to express our sincere thanks to all the people who have supported us in this fine Vendée Globe project and a special thank you for their messages of support since the start in Les Sables d'Olonne and following our retirement of course. In Australia, a great many of them helped us find solutions, putting their contacts at our disposal to help us, which we were all very touched by. Finally, our thoughts go out to all the sailors at sea, from Thomas Coville to Armel Le Cléac'h, with a particularly special mention for Paul Meilhat as well as Thomas Ruyant and all his team. Their adventure has come to a violent and unfair end. He's a very endearing sailor, who's demonstrated the true extent of his talent on this round the world; take heart! concluded Cyril Dardashti.
The members of Gitana Team wish you all a very merry festive period and a Happy New Year. See you in a few weeks for what promises to be an extraordinary season in 2017!