Up close and personal with the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild
Tomorrow, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will set sail from her port of registry in Lorient bound for Le Havre, which will host the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 12 days' time. The latest addition to the Gitana fleet is expected in the Norman port by Friday 27 October at the latest, which is the date that local festivities commence. Aboard the boat during this 300-mile delivery trip punctuated by light airs, Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel will take up position. It's time for the duo to take the latest generation maxi-trimaran on her very first sporting challenge.
Josse-Rouxel: complicity, cohesion and friendship
Their association in a double-handed race is a first, and the Jacques Vabre is a first for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild too! It may have taken years to come to fruition, but the idea of setting sail together on the course between Le Havre and Brazil has been in the pipeline for some considerable time. It will become a reality this 5 November at 1235 GMT, when the starting gun releases the fleet from Le Havre for the 13th edition of the Route du Café.
On shore, Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel are friends; surfing, foiling Moth sailing, kitesurfing... they enjoy so many of the same activities! Their long-standing complicity is one of the primary strengths of the Edmond de Rothschild duo, all the more so given such a short time for preparation: “Thomas and I have known each other for twelve years. I've always followed his career on the Figaro circuit, then he came to sail with me in IMOCA and when I was recruited by Gitana, he became one of my crew on Gitana 11 then on the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild. Since then, he's been fleshing out his experience of offshore racing and familiarising himself with the round the world dimension on big boats. His technical and professional skills are indisputable. We have that special affinity and together we very quickly find our feet and get the automatic reflexes working that are so essential to a pairing.” Clearly their relationship has a certain natural ease about it, which Thomas confirms: “Sébastien and I have the same way of envisaging and doing things, which is a real advantage. We're moving forward in the same direction and the way we operate aboard is very fluid.”
Though some view double-handed races as solo events, where you're alternating with someone else or only working half-time, this is not a vision shared by the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild for whom the alchemy of the pairing holds a preponderant role: “On such big boats, the duo comes into its own. All alone, you're not going to get a lot done! The sails weigh between 100 and 200kg and the slightest manœuvring takes around fifteen minutes... It's by being as coordinated as possible that you perform well.”
This cohesion, which is another key feature of the Gitana 17 duo, is accompanied by an equally important physical preparation. To sharpen themselves up with a view to this first major sporting challenge and submit to the physical demands of such a maxi-trimaran, Sébastien and Thomas have been operating a very smooth physical routine' since the start of the year, which involves muscle-development sessions, intensive toning and some specific cardio programmes: “These machines require a great deal of energy. Raphaël, our fitness coach, came out sailing with us to really get the measure of the sequences of effort required by the main manoeuvres aboard. 90% of the physical exertion takes place at the grinders! That forms the hub of all our actions, hauling on the sails, trimming the different appendages, helming ”
Feeling, application and enjoyment are the three key words when sailing for the Edmond de Rothschild pairing; a duo that is driven and focused as they prepare to write the very first lines in the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild story.
Thomas Rouxel, a seasoned rookie
“The Jacques Vabre is a race that has inspired me since I was a boy. Sharing it with Sébastien on a boat such as this is a real privilege! I count my lucky stars every day,” Thomas Rouxel confirms straight out.
A top racer with an eclectic background, Thomas loves diversity and sails a variety of craft to ensure he's constantly expanding his range of skills. At first glance, his curriculumvitae prompts you to think that the sailor, a native of Erquy on the Côtes-d'Armor, on Brittany's north coast, has followed the classic route par excellence. Starting his career on an Olympic sports dinghy then match racing, followed by an apprenticeship in the art of rigour and solo sailing within the very demanding Figaro class, he then headed far offshore aboard the large multihulls and also competed in the Volvo Ocean Race. However, on reading between the lines and digging a little deeper below the surface, you discover that Thomas has other aspirations that guide his competitive leanings: a passion for boardsports... From a very early age, Thomas Rouxel has been drawn to windsurfing, or funboarding to be precise. In fact, it was on a famous Breton funboard spot, on the Crozon peninsula, and not at the famous Port-la-Forêt training centre, that Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel first crossed paths.
At 34, the Breton sailor already boasts a solid track record that relies on 25 years of experience; a background that marks him out as one of the most highly recognised and sought-after crew members. For all that, he'd never competed in the Transat Jacques Vabre before and his participation alongside Sébastien Josse aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will be a major first, a rookie ragging he himself describes as extraordinary. You can bet he'll be keen to do well, because although discretion is a dominant feature of this Breton sailor on land, out on the water he's proven himself to be a formidable competitor, who likes nothing better than to win!
42 - 4 Transat Jacques Vabres including 1 victory
15 transatlantic races
3 Vendée Globes - 1 Volvo Ocean Race - 1 Jules Verne Trophy - 5 Solitaire du Figaros
34 - 1st Transat Jacques Vabre
11 transatlantic races
1 Volvo Ocean Race - 1 Jules Verne Trophy - 6 Solitaire du Figaros
Transat Jacques Vabre
Frequency: every two years
Type of race: double-handed transatlantic race ?
Event with multiple classes open to multihulls (Multi50s & Ultimes) and monohulls (Class40s & Imocas)
4,350 miles / Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia (Brazil)
38 competing crews, or 76 sailors