Last season already, a link race between the multihulls' technical bases in Brittany and the Grands Prix in the Mediterranean was organised from Lorient to Nice. The intensity was extreme, with much chopping and changing of the leading positions, plenty of tricky weather situations, the withdrawal of Groupama-2 due to mast problems off Malta, and a fabulous final battle between Foncia and Gitana 11 off Nice for third place on the podium; reaching thirty knots with gennaker up and eventually won by Frédéric Le Peutrec with a gap of only twenty seconds after nine days at sea!
This year, with the creation of the Multicup 60', the route facing the six trimarans (Banque Populaire, Géant, Gitana 11, Gitana 12, Groupama-2, and Sopra Group) is an even more tactical one, involving as it does first going down the Thames, then crossing a small section of the North Sea before passing along the Channel and heading out into the Atlantic. These first six hundred miles in particular will be technically demanding for the six crew members on board each boat, as they will have to follow manoeuvres on the river with managing maritime traffic and sand banks as they round England, then take advantage of the sea currents and negotiate thermal breezes or frontal depressions before “de-channelling” and discovering a more open “battle area” in the Gulf of Gascony.
Highly varied weather systems
But after this spicy starter during which the navigators will be especially in demand and the crews will be tested physically, there will still remain over two thousand miles to sail amidst widely varying weather systems. The approach to Cape Finisterre, the north-westernmost tip of Spain, is renowned for its cyclothymic rhythm, where storms and windless zones alternate and anticyclonic beam winds are suddenly transformed into fickle and troublesome cyclonic winds… Not to mention the shipping lanes to watch, Portuguese fishermen to steer clear of, and the coastal effects of the Iberian cliffs!
After all this, the six trimarans will then have to dash into the narrows, in the shape of the Straits of Gibraltar, a passage which can play the part of tiebreaker by transforming a small advantage into a large gap, causing bunching, serving as a buffer zone or having a yo-yo effect… Last season, the multihulls all found themselves in a general assembly, in view of each other after over a thousand miles of racing! And on entering the Mediterranean, the race was far from over at its midway point, with the crews having to hug the Spanish coastline to head for the Balearic islands, then on to Sicily to round a buoy in the ocean off Trapani before heading due North via Sardinia and Corsica, including the famous Bouches de Bonifacio, and then finally crossing the Ligurian Sea.
Consequently, this London-Alpes Maritimes race promises suspense aplenty, as the six trimarans, reunited with the water in April, have all undergone optimization work this winter. As the first confrontations at Port-La-Forêt in mid-April showed, Groupama-2 is fluent as ever, but the pressure behind is strong in the shape of Banque Populaire, Gitana 11 and Géant. Sopra Group seemed a shade under par, while Gitana 12 was not there…
For this return to class, the trimarans must be present in London on 4 May at the latest and the two Gitanas have therefore decided to take advantage of this journey between La Trinité/Mer and the City to get their bearings: Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11), Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana 12) and their crews will therefore leave their base at La Trinité on 1 May to familiarise themselves with the locations. The five days before the start will be given over to preparations for the navigation on the Thames and the visit to the boats by the members and partners of the LCF Rothschild Group.
Gitana 11 crew
Frédéric Le Peutrec
Baron Benjamin de Rothschild
Ronan Le Goff
Gitana 12 crew
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent
Erwan Le Roux
Gitana Team Programme – Multi Cup and Route du Rhum
3 April: launch of Gitana 11
18 April: launch of Gitana 12
18-21 April: training at Port-La-Forêt
1 May: transportation from La Trinité to London
8 May: start of the London-Alpes Maritimes race
20-21 May: Trophée du Conseil Gébéral Alpes Maritimes (Nice)
2-4 June: Grand Prix d'Italie (Trapani-Sicily)
23-25 June: Grand Prix de Marseille Métropole
14-16 July: Grand Prix du Portugal (Portimao-Algarve)
8-10 September: Grand Prix du Port de Fécamp
29 October: start of the Route du Rhum (Saint-Malo/Pointe-à-Pitre)