Marc, what has been the greatest source of satisfaction for you in this 2004 edition of the race ?
“The crew - the boat's result depends largely on the crew”, answered Marc without the slightest hesitation. “We knew that Gitana X speed potential falls short of requirements before we set out and so had no illusions about the final outcome. However, we were highly motivated to race the course at the maximum of the boat's capacity. We set out saying to ourselves that we might be able to do something in the Saint Lawrence river and at the finish which is exactly what happened. It was frustrating though to see that each time we gained ground from a tactical option, we lost ground right away again, as soon as we found ourselves in the same weather system - without being able to do anything about it. It happened three times – in the Saint Lawrence River between Percé and Saint Pierre, at the Fastnet Rock and one last time in the last two days of the race. I'm most satisfied about the crew having given it everything they've got. I'm just disappointed that the final result does not reflect their extent of their efforts as we finish 10th overall. On the last day of the race we made a last attempt to pull away from Sopra and Covefi whom we'd been battling against for two days. But the outcome was not as positive as expected for us as the wind which Gitana X thrives upon just didn't happen. We just couldn't keep the pressure on our opponents through to the end. Our team is sound, close-knit and on the offensive all the time. We think we've done a good job. I'd like to thank Thierry Duprey, Olivier Wrockzinsky, Luc Poupon, Nicolas Raynaud and Erwan Le Roux and our shore crew – both logistical and technical.”
How did you organise life on board ?
Our highly experienced crew gave us an accumulated total of 11 participations in this race since it was created in 1984. For this course, I chose a crew of helmsmen, with complimentary skills in manoeuvring and trimming. Four of us, Thierry, Erwan, Nicolas and I, continually took turns at the helm to keep the boat driving at her maximum all the time. Luc was at the chart table and Zolive, the boat's MacGyver was ever-ready with his tool box and for manoeuvres. Throughout the whole 9 days, I trusted my crew 100% even when I wasn't up on deck. That's psychologically comforting for a skipper. An ideal crew. We did a fine job. Just one regret though, that Gitana 11 did not see her magnificent sail through to the end.
Can you describe the state of mind of Gitana 11's crew before the start ?
Yann Marilley, crew and Team Manager
We set out to win. We knew that we had the human potential and the boat to realise that ambition. The delivery passage we'd sailed together from Boston, the finish town of The Transat, to Québec confirmed that we were in this to win. After the start, we rounded the first mark in the lead, convincing us still further that our aim was legitimate. As the race went on, we saw that we had the wherewithal to compete against the heavy weights on the circuit, in the likes of Tacchini, Groupama, Géant and Sodébo. The atmosphere on Gitana 11 was excellent from the start to our early finish in Brittany after our collision. It's been quite a while since I've had that much fun sailing crewed. A pleasure clearly shared by all. Yann Guichard who has been pre-selected to sail in the Tornado class at the Athens Olympics joined Gitana 11 only recently. He is a real plus factor to the team from a human, technical and navigation point of view. Although Gitana 11 is a bit short on speed in light air which we sometimes had to make up for by adding extra energy in certain conditions with everyone up on deck, overall we had no trouble staying in the leading group – until Friday's collision after 6 days fighting against our direct opponents.
Your analysis after this short-lived race ?
A two-fold analysis. Firstly, we had no trouble keeping up with the best boats, which confirms that our crew is increasingly efficient. Secondly, none of the results out on the course would have been possible had it not been for the remarkable efficiency of our shore team. The ocean sailing team is a veritable dream team with which we can push the boat as hard as possible without any worries. Gitana 11 had been prepared brilliantly, as we had no gear failure whatsoever, nothing let us down - had it not been for our collision with a floating object at more than 28 knots… The incident turned out to be serious immediately as a result of the ingress of water. Luckily we were able to control the situation rapidly and make the boat safe to continue our route towards the tip of southern Finistère. Our dream had been stopped dead in its tracks by a log, container or a whale. It took us a day to overcome this and to get going again. I should like to emphasise the fine example set by our sponsor and crew, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild in his handling of the human side of this difficult episode in cheering everyone up in spite of his own disappointment as crew. The rest of our route back did not take long at all as we were able to latch onto the south-westerly flow which propelled us at an average speed of 15 knots to our landfall at the CDK yard. The boat was hauled out a couple of hours after her arrival. The task in hand is to get Gitana 11 fighting fit for the Grand Prix in Fécamp which we shall be approaching safe in the knowledge that we have made excellent progress over recent months and that the Gitana Team is more close-knit than ever. As Team Manager, congratulations go to the performance of the Gitana X crew who fought from start to finish over the whole distance.