“Getting back in the saddle as quickly as possible!”
On 26 October 2015, whilst they were competing among the key protagonists at the front of the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier announced their retirement from the race following a sequence of technical incidents. Immediately backed up in their decision by the owners of Gitana Team it was still a very tough call for the two competitors, but one they don’t regret. Most importantly, Sébastien Josse and the five-arrow team were able to bounce back and turn the situation to best account with the desire and the need to get out sailing again as quickly as possible… indeed, with eleven months to go until this major meeting on Imoca’s race schedule, the countdown to the Vendée Globe has certainly begun and every bit of time spent on the water will enable some precious lessons to be learned: “Following our retirement and the varying degrees of damage observed among our rivals during the Transat Jacques Vabre, it would seem that the latest generation monohulls have a few teething issues to erase. In consultation with our in-house design office and the naval architects - notably Guillaume Verdier – it was agreed that Edmond de Rothschild’s structure should be reinforced. In the Jacques Vabre, in our ‘misfortune’, we had the opportunity to retrace our steps early on and in this way we were able to make the most of this precious time to quickly make the necessary reinforcements. It was a short turnaround time, but we were able to make effective use of it so we could make the start of this Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt, which is hugely satisfying. I often repeat this, but in our race for reliability and performance, nothing replaces miles covered on the water and everyone knows that those racked up in race configuration are worth their weight in gold! Having these two transatlantic races on the clock – the outward journey in crewed configuration and the return journey in singlehanded race format – is important for the next stage of our programme and I think it will be an advantage,” said the delighted skipper of Edmond de Rothschild, very much aware of the strong growth the project is enjoying.
To be on the start line of this Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt is an indication of Gitana Team’s determination. Indeed, to pull off this feat, once again, the members of the racing stable fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild have really had to pull up their sleeves and just concentrate on getting the job done: “the team has once again been put under pressure, but as ever it has stepped up to the plate. For a number of months, everybody has been putting heart and soul into the objective of the Vendée Globe and it is fortunate and a real luxury for a sailor to be able to rely on such technicians. It may sound like a cliché, but that is our team’s strength!” enthuses Sébastien Josse.
The only latest generation monohull at the start
On Sunday, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild will be the only representative from the latest generation to set sail for Brittany, which means she’ll be the only boat in the fleet with a ‘moustache’! Indeed, though Morgan Lagravière ranks among the eight entries in the Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt, he won’t be competing on the latest generation Safran, which is currently in refit in France, but aboard a monohull with classic straight daggerboards specially chartered for the occasion.
In sporting terms, this 3,400-mile race between the Caribbean island and the Vallée des Fous in Brittany will have a rather special flavour for Sébastien Josse. In fact, it heralds his return to solo sailing in the Imoca class:“My last solo race aboard a monohull dates back to 2009, it was the Vendée Globe… That’s going back a bit! However, I have since done other singlehanded sailing on a multihull – notably in the last Route du Rhum – which has taught me a great deal in terms of stress management and high speeds for example,” explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild. “I’m really eager and happy to be getting going on this, as it’s another stage in our preparation, another step forward in discovering the potential of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild. Added to that is the objective of qualifying for the Vendée Globe in this race. However, that’s not all as the line-up is good, with some high quality competitors like SMA, Quéguiner and Le Souffle du Nord, and we mustn’t forget that at this time of year, the route can prove to be very demanding with some bracing winter conditions throughout our crossing. We have all the ingredients for a fine transatlantic race!”
The start of the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-La-Forêt will take place this Sunday, 6 December, at 15:00 GMT, just off the port of Gustavia.
The Transat Saint-Barth – Port-La-Forêt
This solo transatlantic race, which is now contested between the Caribbean Islands and France, was first initiated in 2007, with its second edition held in 2011. A ‘return’ transatlantic sprint at the end of the Jacques Vabre, the race that originally went by the name of the BtoB (Back to Brittany) is an integral part of the IMOCA Ocean Masterscircuit with a year to go until the start of the Vendée Globe. The perfect opportunity as well as a full-scale test for those solo sailors keen to head back to Europe in competition mode, the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-La-Forêt is an event that also serves as a qualifier for the legendary round the world race. The weather conditions that the sailors may encounter at this time of year make this a demanding transatlantic race that is likely to sift out the key protagonists.
Singlehanded transatlantic race
From St Barths (French West Indies) to Port-la-Forêt (Finistère, Brittany)
3,400 theoretical miles (direct route)
Start on 6 December at 15:00 GMT, scheduled finish between 16 and 20 December
Positions updated every hour, except between 2200 and 0400 GMT to leave the competitors room for strategic choices
Eight entries: Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest-Matmut / Yann Elies, Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir / Eric Holden, O Canada / Sébastien Josse, Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild / Paul Meilhat, SMA / Enda O’Coineen, Kilcullen Voyager / Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord / Morgan Lagravière, Safran