En Route for the Rhum
In late January, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was hauled out of the water and into her new base on the Kéroman platform, near the famous Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly in Lorient, Brittany, for the very first time. Now housed in this building spanning over 1,400m2, which was built and specially designed for the Gitana Team, it is a remarkable work tool and one that is very much in line with the team's ambitions. Once again, it is also a testimony to Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild's commitment to the offshore racing universe and the Lorient region. It is here for the next three months that the members of the five-arrow team will busy themselves optimising the latest addition to the Gitana fleet to ensure that Sébastien Josse is able to continue fine-tuning this 32-metre giant of rather noble birth. The Route du Rhum, which will set sail on 4 November from Saint Malo, is naturally in their line of sight.
Having covered nearly 15,000 miles in a short space of time - note that the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was launched in July - 2017 proved to be a particularly intense year for Sébastien Josse and all the members of Gitana Team. Cyril Dardashti, who has managed the team for nearly ten year, reviews this period: “Designing and launching a boat like the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was already a major challenge and preparing her for the start of a double-handed transatlantic race stretching nearly 5,000 miles just three months after she came out of the yard was even more ambitious! The team has demonstrated outstanding commitment and the second place posted by Sébastien and Thomas in the Transat Jacques Vabre served as a reward for all this work. These are long-term projects, where patience and perseverance are key skills. This boat is just starting out on her journey and we have a huge amount of work ahead of us, things to discover and design or teething issues to iron out, but Gitana 17's first few months certainly augur well for the future.”
Work to improve reliability
A few days ago, the 32-metre giant moved into her winter quarters within the Gitana Team's brand new base. The shore team promptly launched into the work to overhaul her and make her more reliable, as its director Pierre Tissier explains: “We've been over the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild with a fine-tooth comb. We've dismantled all the systems for review (mechanics, hydraulics, electronics...) or repair, as was the case for the foils. After they broke in the Transat Jacques Vabre, we were able to work out that it wasn't down to a structural issue, rather it was a mechanical fault. We minimised the impact of the sea on the windward foil and blocked the latter in place and this design fault will be quickly erased using the existing foils once they're repaired.” These three months tucked up in the warm will also be an opportunity to optimise certain elements, starting with the helming system and the energy production. Finally, with a view to the singlehanded programme that lies ahead of Sébastien Josse, the ergonomics of the cockpit will be honed to ensure that the sailor has a boat that is entirely cut out for the sporting challenge that is the Route du Rhum.
The relaunch of the latest Gitana is scheduled for late April, early May.
Two transatlantic races before the major Route du Rhum meeting
The Route du Rhum is to multihulls what the Vendée Globe is to monohulls... that's saying something! Created back in 1978 by Michel Etevenon, the queen of the French transatlantic races this year celebrates her 40th anniversary. Already, this anniversary edition is shaping up to be a record breaker, notably with a numerus clausus of participants that has recently been fleshed out to one hundred and twenty! One hundred and twenty solo sailors on a single start line on 4 November 2018 offshore of the corsair town of Saint Malo.
This legendary race, which Gitana Team has already had the honour of adding to its fine list of wins back in 2006 when Gitana 11 was entrusted to Lionel Lemonchois, is clearly this season's goal for Sébastien Josse and the members of the five-arrow racing stable. To prepare for this major sports meet, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has opted for a predominantly offshore training programme: “The few months we benefited from in 2017 and our participation in the Transat Jacques Vabre have taught us a great deal and all these lessons are essential for our fine-tuning. They've enabled us to validate our main technical orientation and identify the points which we need to improve on or rethink. This year, the emphasis is clearly on singlehanded offshore sailing. With our aim being to prepare for the Route du Rhum, a race spanning over 3,000 miles, we've scheduled in two transatlantic crossings between May and July. An outward journey between Cadiz and San Salvador, which provides us with very similar sailing conditions to that of the Route du Rhum and an inward journey setting sail from New York to test the boat in the slightly more aggressive conditions of the North Atlantic. The idea is to set off in the wake of some well-known routes, which already have some timing references, but without necessarily being in record mode. To go for records, you need perfect weather conditions and for that you need time to devote to a stand-by, which isn't our case this year.” With this in mind, the crew configuration during these test runs will be organised according to the weather so Sébastien Josse can reserve himself the decision of whether to set sail singlehanded or accompanied.