After having covered more than 1,300 miles mainly close-hauled and fetching, here is a summary of Gitana Xs first outing after her winter refit. A positive summary from a point of view of gear and the guys sailing her, both of whom will be lining up on the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre on 6th November bound for Salvador de Bahia (Brazil). Erwan Le Roux describes the eventful passage :
We had to do a U-turn after having made a false start as we spotted a hairline crack on the boom. We preferred to check it out rather than run the risk of breaking but it turned out to be nothing to worry about. So we got underway again on Saturday morning on the tail end of a depression in a 15-20 knots norwesterly wind to round the first waypoint (an imaginary mark imposed by the organisers of the Transat race) lying NW of Cape Finisterre on the northerly edge of the high pressure zone. After a long leg fetching in crosswinds, we ended up close hauled as the wind veered SW with 15-20 gusting from time to time up to 25 knots in heavy seas, chaotic cross seas. Quite a test for the boat !
The next stage of the passage took us west of Ireland over to a second waypoint in westerly breeze which veered to a 15-20 knot NW, still beam reaching, we sailed with one reef in the main and with either the solent jib or the staysail up, depending on the wind. On our sail back down to La Trinit/Mer, we had the gennaker up for two hours, then beam reaching once again for 400 miles.
Gitana X sails well and we learnt how to use the mast rake to our advantage (the angle the mast leans forwards or aft, thereby changing the centre of the sail plan and the fore and aft trim of the boat as a result). The trimaran reacted well without needing to play around with central rudder foil angle. Everything worked well with the odd exception here and there, minor details really (snapshackle, steering cable and so on). This passage gave us the occasion to validate how she sails on the open sea.
Frdric Le Peutrec and his crew on Gitana 11 completed their second training session alongside Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas) and Banque Populaire-4 (Pascal Bidegorry). Foncia (Armel Le Clach) had split his dagger board and Gant (Michel Desjoyeaux) was having her mast stepped to were unable to take part in this session organised by the Port La Fort Sail Training Centre. According to Yann Marilley, trimmer on board Gitana 11, the trimaran is at ease in a breeze but lacked a little punch as her central rudder is small (designed for offshore racing). On Wednesday, Gitana 11 flew along wind abeam at average speeds of more than 37 knots, handling particularly well ! The trimaran should be returning to her base in Saint Philibert on Thursday afternoon.
On Sunday, Gitana X will be setting out for Saint-Nazaire on an attempt to beat the SNSM record (the French national lifeboat association), a new event in which Gant, Groupama-2, Sodebo and Banque Populaire-4 will all be taking part. The profit-making race is open to all sail boats and will be inaugurated on Tuesday 19th April for the ORMA trimarans over a 284 mile long course from Saint-Nazaire to Saint-Malo. Gitana 11 will not be taking part in spite of the best will of the crew for her to do so, because the boats new trimmer fitted dagger board has to be finished at the CDK yard before the first ocean race, the IB-Group Challenge (Lorient-Nice, start on 8th May), a race which counts towards the Multihull World Championship.