Accompanied by 11's boat captain William Fabulet and the team's engineer-developer Antoine Mermod, Lionel Lemonchois has been gradually getting to grips with Gitana 11 in preparation for the Route du Rhum. The main aim was to define any modifications needing to be made for this autumnal solo navigation, and the weather conditions were quite favourable for the exchange of points of view and establishment of work schedules with the four people in charge of technical development on Gitana 11. Lionel Lemonchois was also able to sail in solo configuration, namely with the sails adapted to this particular pace and on automatic pilot, while carrying out the onboard manoeuvres alone in order to gradually get into the Rhum cycle.
The results proved fairly positive and the skipper then got stuck into his qualification course, clocking up almost 3,000 kilometres of solo sailing in 5 days amidst highly variable weather conditions and, most importantly, without any technical problems. The first two weeks of August were devoted to training that alternated between daytime trips with a reduced crew and work on the boat to develop its technical details specific to solo format. After seven sea tests, Lionel set off for 24 hours of solo sailing aimed at validating the work carried out.
After being hauled out of the water on Monday 21 August, Gitana 11 underwent a comprehensive check-up. The team had a week to carry out a renewal of the keel, as well as checking the mast and hardware, after the season's 10,000 miles of sailing. The return to the water took place on Wednesday 30 August in Grand Prix configuration, for the crewed delivery of the trimaran to Fecamp ahead of the Grand Prix (8-10 September). A final week's training is planned with the eleven men of Gitana 11 off the Norman port, before the Cafe Ambassador Multi Cup 2006 concludes with this final crewed meeting of the season.
On Gitana 12, Thierry Duprey du Vorsent chose to carry out his qualification for the Route du Rhum on the return from Portugal in fairly windless weather conditions which nonetheless allowed him to set his own solo rhythm. Some minor work followed consisting of improvements to the mast and deck (protective Plexiglas bubbles for the helmsman), before the trimaran was returned to the water on Friday 19 August. The skipper is also going to alternate between outings with a reduced crew and optimisation work on the pontoon at La Trinité/mer. Moreover, a solo preparation programme has been defined and put in place with the collaboration of Loick Peyron. This training takes the form of, for example, 48 hours' sailing, with Thierry leaving alone on the first day and being joined mid-route by Loick to work on the solo specifics.
Lastly, after the Grand Prix du port de Fécamp, the two boats will stop off in Guernsey, where they will take part in the LCF Rothschild Challenge. This annual meeting is organised over two days, 12 and 13 September, by the LCF Rothschild Group. It consists of the validation of a record between the two main Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey. This record is currently held by Thierry Duprey du Vorsent on Gitana X in 55 mins and 21 secs.
To find more information: http://www.lcfci.com/en/guernsey/presentation/rothschildchallenge.asp.
The skippers will return from Guernsey in solo format to head for their home port, as this section of sea is essentially similar to the start of the Route du Rhum course and therefore constitutes excellent training. The two solo sailors will leave at the same time, setting themselves race targets in order to quickly get up to speed. And before heading back up to Saint-Malo at the start of October, Lionel Lemonchois and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent will be at Port-La-Forêt from 26 to 29 September for a friendly confrontation with the other trimarans on the circuit during a last solo training session.
At the same time, with the 2007 season in mind, the technical team is already working on possible changes aimed at cutting the gap between the Gitanas and the current leader in the Cafe Ambassador Multi Cup, Groupama-2.