The trimaran preparation phase has required both the time and energy of the skippers and, alongside them, a full technical team has toiled to adapt the multihulls to this transatlantic race and to meet the specific requests of each single-handed sailor. It was a task that took several weeks, not to say several months, in alternation with ocean forays designed to test the platform. Then came the last few days of fine tuning in Saint-Malo under the glare of the media spotlight which can destabilise even the steadiest temperaments. Now the hour of departure approaches and the soloist has to tune into the ocean whilst at the same time responding to the most mundane of questions: it's a mental balancing act that requires singular skill… For single-handed multihull sailing can be likened to a high-speed train hurtling along a rough old track without stopping at any stations, and doing so for ten/twelve days with a single driver who has to watch out for other traffic, operate the points, provide the catering service and maintain the machinery…
Everything ship shape
In the days leading up to the start what is most important is the performance of a final check on the boat's communication, computer and electronic systems. Within the Gitana Team, there is always a boat captain and his assistant among the crew: William Fabulet and Sébastien Thetiot for Gitana 11, Léopold Lucet and Richard Loncle for Gitana 12 take care of any last-minute “tweaks” alongside Richard Bastide, the team's embedded systems specialist (Inmarsat, Iridium, Fleet, image sending, etc.). By this point, the soloists need to have acquired a perfect grasp of the instrumental processes so that they can access them very fast and waste as little time as possible once the starting line has been crossed. For the two Gitanas, the last four days before the start sees a meeting held every morning to analyse the weather information with the skippers Lionel Lemonchois and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, in the company of Sylvain Mondon from Météo France and the “routers”, Mayeul Riffet and Yann Guichard, who track the boats from on land, and also Loick Peyron, who is supervising the Gitana Team's strategy.
The good news to emerge from Saint-Malo over the last few days is that the weather conditions for the start will be very manageable, if a little rough and changeable. Essentially, the breeze should remain gentle and variable for the exit from the Channel and, up until the Azores, the trajectory should be straightforward. The atmosphere around the Vauban Basin is calm with no perilous low-pressure front exiting the Channel, as was the case four years ago and on other Route de Rhums. The forecast also alters the skippers' mental preparation as they prepare for the drink….Yo, ho ho and a bottle of Rum!
Ensuring a smooth start!
For the start, two Gitana Team dinghies will be on the water and three crewmen will board them from the trimaran just ten minutes before the cannon sounds: they will disembark after having raised the sails and carried out the final adjustments to help the skipper. Like the majority of the other technical teams, the Gitana Team has loaded two vans with two dinghies which will leave at 15:00 on Sunday for Perros Guirec so as to organise a possible pit stop should one of the boats require it. The idea here is to be able to reduce to a minimum the detour taken by the boat and the length of any stop. The team can very speedily pick up a spare sail or a piece of rigging, change electronic equipment or a defective automatic pilot, etc…
Once the trimaran exits the Channel, the technical team stays on stand-by for possible intervention abroad, namely at the tip of Spain, in Portugal or in the Azores: Jean, Olivier, William and Léopold thus form a “hit squad” capable of resolving all manner of technical problems.
On land during the race, a weather assistant collects the daily reports and the information from all over the world in order to have a range of sources that's as diverse as possible. The “land routing” team then establishes, in conjunction with the skipper, a general strategy that takes into account the position of the other competitors. “Virtual gateways” are indicated for the skipper to pass through within a given time, or whether it is better to go as fast as possible or simply stick to a precise course.
The solo sailor can call the team at any time of day or night through the intermediary of an allocated contact for all interventions concerning the boat or the weather situation on the water. In fact, the majority of phone calls are made in the sea-land direction so as not to disturb the skipper who would have to disrupt his routine in order to answer a call.
After that, it's a case of steaming into the home straight and getting ready for the finish in Guadeloupe…
Gitana Team shore crew :
*Loïck Peyron, General director
*Jean Le Huérou-Kérisel, technical director
*William Fabulet et Sébastien Thetiot, Gitana 11
*Léopold Lucet et Richard Loncle, Gitana 12
*Laurent Rivals, logistic
*Jean-Pierre Trottet, Daniel Le Digabel, Marie Dixneuf
*Sylvain Mondon, météo