This year, the Gitana boat saga is celebrating the 140th anniversary of a rather unique family passion. Since the creation of Gitana Team’s professional stable in 2000, the team has experienced several cycles, which place technology at the forefront. With inshore and offshore racing, innovation is more and more in line with the multihull. For the past fifteen years, all the Gitanas have been multihulls save for the monohull Gitana Eighty, skippered by Loïck Peyron in the Vendée Globe 2008-2009 and the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, that will take the start of Les Sables d’Olonne this Sunday with Sébastien Josse.
The exception that proves the rule
When the Multi One Design circuit came to an end in late 2012, the Gitana Team entered a whole new phase. “The stable launched a new cycle with a six-year vision,” explains Cyril Dardashti, CEO. “Starting off with the idea of getting one of the stable’s existing offshore trimarans to fly, the Multi70 Gitana XV, we had a target of designing a large new multihull, GitanaMaxi, whose launch is scheduled for 2017. Once this programme was down on paper, we also had the time and above all the desire to compete in the Vendée Globe. This would mean setting sail in a monohull again for very good reason. On the one hand, Sébastien, like the Gitana Team, had a sense of incompleteness with this race. He had had to retire in the Pacific in 2008 aboard BT, whilst we had to go and get Loïck (Peyron) in the Indian Ocean following the dismasting of Gitana Eighty. On the other, the thrilling prospect of adding foils to the Imocas corresponded with the team’s pioneering spirit. As the class measurement wasn’t as favourable as all that for the new boats, we dug deep to find clever systems and push back the limits in an intelligent manner. Everyone in the team has given their all without a second thought. I’m very proud of everyone’s work as it hasn’t been simple. These boats are very complicated. Like other teams, we’ve had our issues, but that too is one of the ways we prepare a boat. Right now, the wait for the big day is dragging… It must be reminiscent of when a child leaves home. We’ve endeavoured to help it grow, then the day where it flies on its own, you’re happy for it but you remain glued to your telephone hoping everything’s going well.”
Pierre Tissier, Technical Manager, joined the team in late 2014, during the development of the Multi70 Gitana XV and the construction of the monohull Edmond de Rothschild. After having contributed for over ten years to the success of Franck Cammas within the Groupama sailing team, Pierre discovered the Gitana Team family. “This Vendée Globe project is a real high point in the Gitana epic. Firstly, due to the intensity of what’s been done over recent months. The boat has done four transatlantics in the space of a year. We’ve also had four refits. One to reinforce the bottom of the hull after the teething problems that coloured these boats during the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015. At this point in time, several teams have had to do the same. And then there were three other optimisation phases, where the whole team had a massive part to play in each of the sectors to achieve a boat, which today is capable of securing a place at the top of the leaderboard in a fleet of impressive quality. Indeed, in four years the boats have really radically evolved. For the team, Edmond de Rothschild has been a real catalyst. The engineers from the design office, the shore crew, the sailors and of course, Sébastien, as skipper, have worked together in a trusting environment they all enjoy. The Vendée Globe project has enabled the whole of the group to progress, which is an even more powerful base with which to devise and fine-tune GitanaMaxi, currently in build at Multiplast in Vannes. The bridge between these two boats is all the more efficient as we have the same naval architects, Guillaume Verdier and his team. This enables us to directly transpose certain monohull solutions onto the multihull. Few racing stables currently have this firepower and often that takes a long time to be created. I feel like this Vendée Globe has given us a real boost in a very short space of time.”
Finally, Olivier Douillard has shared in all Sébastien Josse’s Vendée Globes. He was already working alongside him with VMI in 2004, then BT in 2008 and is now head of sails and a member of Gitana Team’s performance cell. As such, he’s very well placed to appreciate how important this new round the world is in the skipper’s career. “Over recent years, we’ve clearly seen that every skipper has asserted himself in a particular speciality. To my mind, Sébastien has confirmed his strong points, which are his instinct and his ability to trust in his intuition in order to sail as close to the elements and his feelings as possible. This Vendée Globe is inevitably different to his first two due to the team around him. It’s also a very human project, a point he attaches a great deal of importance to. Preparing a Vendée Globe is inevitably highly intense in human terms. Sébastien knows how to surround himself with the right people and also has a way of doing things that is unique to him. He stays true to himself. I hope he goes out there and enjoys himself because his Vendée Globe story is in front of him.”