Out of the thirty rounds run since the Grand Prix season got underway this year in Calvi, 25 have been started in wind speeds of less than 10 knots, sometimes even as little as five knots.
The Multihull Championship was marked by light air this year. The last Grand Prix in Lorient may well mark a turnaround in the situation for the six trimarans in the running as the wind is going to blow. Increasing the opportunity for a bit of a fight out on what is a highly technical course between the Island of Groix and the mainland. Just the sort of conditions which the Gitana Team have been hankering after. Gitana X is at her best in wind speeds of more than 10 knots. Both crews have been familiarising themselves with the course since Monday and conditions have been light. But today the wind picked up to a little more than 12 knots and all six trimarans could show what they were made of. Eight windward/leeward loops are programmed along with one coastal race (Saturday – one or two laps round the Island of Groix). A busy agenda with crews having plenty to keep them busy for the race sessions of around six hours each time they set out in winds of more than 20 knots filling the sails !
Daniel Souben, trimmer on Gitana 11, gives his point of view on this Grand Prix and the opponents in Lorient.
« The ORMA circuit improves the level of boats and crews. The whole fleet is much more familiar with the way their machines sail now and are less apprehensive about sailing fast. Fifteen years ago we gritted our teeth at 20 knots. Nowadays, we're cool at 30. Boat performance has improved, crews handle their machines much better than in the past, whether or not they are sailing short-handed. The trimarans are so much safer, much more sea-worthy. Grand Prix have a lot to do with that. The boats are increasingly future-proof, faster to handle and are much less stressful on the open sea. On the Québec-Saint Malo in 2000 you had to be on the ball all the time on Fujicolor II. Four years down the line and sailing Groupama is a much calmer affair altogether ! Without the Grand Prix, the trimarans would not have developed anything like as fast as we drive them close to the limit almost all the time. Even if the risk of capsize is always there, since the Route du Rhum 2000, the boats have become much more reliable all round. And sail even faster !
Groupama-2 has not done anything revolutionary but has improved almost everything. She has incredible course-holding ability, both longitudinally and laterally. The slightest gust is immediately transformed into enhancing boat speed. She picks up speed and sails closer to the wind than any of the other tris on the circuit. She is also lighter and for all the crew is not perhaps the best, it is never the less an excellent one. They are close-knit and highly complementary. Excellent design to start with, optimised construction and a well-prepared crew. Three major assets for Groupama-2. And if she is dominating the circuit this year, she also contributes to pushing the rest of the fleet to achieving better results too. When the wind picks up, Gitana 11 can match her, Foncia with a totally remodelled crew is becoming an increasingly serious threat, Banque Populaire is still very close in terms of potential and Géant's performance has taken a major leap forwards in light air. Groupama-2 is still a step ahead, but the gap is decreasing all the time with each Grand Prix.
Even on Gitana 11, for all that we manœuvre well now, in view of our poorer boat speed. We're working on it ! A badly organised change of tack can represent 300 metres out on the course. It's good to keep a fairly regular crew configuration too as whatever the level, each member has to become familiar with it all. Things happen very quickly on board trimarans. We've progressed since the Calvi Grand Prix, even if Corsica and Marseille were where Gitana 11 did her season's best. Races results are getting closer and closer, particularly between the four - Géant, Foncia, Banque Populaire, Gitana 11. On the last round in Fécamp, we were just four points behind Armel Le Cléac'h, one behind Pascal Bidégorry and on a level pegging with Michel Desjoyeaux ! Any one of the four of us could have made it to second place in the last round !
Since Corsica, most of the racing has been done in light air. We really are hoping for a bit of wind in Lorient. It'll not be easy though, but it is likely to suit our boats better. Back to basics – focus on the essential and don't forget that the other trimarans have also improved performance in stronger winds. If conditions are right for us, and we don't do something good, then we're going to have to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror !
I'm highly respectful of the Gitana X crew which does not have the same potential. It's tough knowing that whatever the conditions, it'll be hard keeping up. They do some excellent sailing – aggressive starts, clean manoeuvres and good tactical decisions, making the most of situations where others put a foot wrong which is what happened in Fécamp. On a boat which is more difficult to handle than the others, they really do turn out some incredible results. »
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (skipper-helm)
Erwan Le Roux (tactics)
Mayeul Riffet (pit-navigator)
Jochen Krauth (trimmer)
Mathieu Tatibouët (mainsheet)
Yann Le Govic (mainsheet)
Caroline Vieille (trimmer)
Arnaud de Boringer (wincher)
Xavier Dagault (wincher)
Antoine Carpentier (foredeck - n°2)
Léopold Lucet (bowman - n°1)
Frédéric Le Peutrec (skipper)
Baron Benjamin de Rothschild (performer-navigator)
Yann Guichard (tactics)
Fred Guilmin (trimmer)
Daniel Souben (trimmer)
Jean-Baptiste Epron (mainsheet)
Alexandre Quiblier (wincher)
Loïc Le Mignon (wincher)
Antoine Mermod (pit)
François Denis (foredeck - n°2)
Christophe Lassègue (bowman - n°1)
Provisional rankings of the ORMA Multihull Championship:
After the IB Group Challenge (weighting : 3), the Grand Prix de Corse (weighting : 1), the Giraglia Rolex Cup (weighting : ½), the Grand Prix de Marseille Métropole (weighting : 1), the Grand Prix de Galice (weighting : 1) and the Grand Prix de Fécamp :
1-Pascal Bidégorry (Banque Populaire) 14 points (0+3+2+4+2+3)
2-Franck Cammas (Groupama-2) 21 points (21+0+0+0+0+0)
3-Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant) 22 ½ points (6+4+1,5+3+3+5)
4-Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) 24 ½ points (9+2+3,5+2+4+4)
5-Armel Le Cléac'h (Foncia) 32 points (12+7+1+5+5+2)
6-Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana X) 41 ½ points (15+5+2,5+7+6+6)
7-Giovanni Soldini (TIM-Progetto Italia) 100 points (51+6+3+6+17+17)
8ex-Thomas Coville (Sodebo) 130 points (51+18+9+18+17+17)
8ex-Yvan Bourgnon (Brossard) 130 points (51+18+9+18+17+17)