Gitana XI – A boat which has matured
As Marc Guillemot and his X-team sail for the first time on Gitana X today, after having put their multihull back into the water, the XI sailing team is running a battery of tests on the sails, appendages, rigging and fittings off La Trinité sur Mer and throughout this week in Port la Forêt, in the company of the other trimarans on the 2004 circuit.
After a winter lay-up of three months in the shed, the first trials on Gitana XI are matching the crew's expectations. Over the past two weeks or so, several outings to fine tune a number of details and speeds tests, some of which were run alongside Banque Covefi in the last week of March, instill confidence in the Team, which feels that they are in possession of a winning machine.
After four sessions in perfect weather, a steady wind and a calm sea, the tests on Gitana XI demonstrate that she is perfectly balanced at the helm. Early analysis tends to suggest that her current configuration gives her better performance in offshore races rather than in Grand Prix. What has struck the crew most of all, has been the boat's speed and velocity together with great stability at the helm. Over the past fortnight, Gitana XI's wardrobe has been given the once over. This first series of trials with the sails has turned out to be very positive indeed as only the odd detail with regard to cut here and there needs any attention.
Gitana XI is looking good for both boat and crew, the latter having undergone a recent reshuffle.
Changes in the crew of Gitana XI
Lionel Lemonchois will not be taking part in this page of Gitana's history. He has decided to withdraw from the Gitana Team after more than three years of flawless service at the head of Gitana X, in a context which was often difficult and thankless. Lionel has planned his departure with discretion by recruiting a talented co-helmsman a few weeks ago for Gitana XI, in the shape and form of Fred Le Peutrec, one of the « finest helms in the kingdom » and former skipper of the trimaran Bayer. Fred, whose background is in Olympic sailing, will be taking over the helm of the XI along with the sailing team put together by Lionel for the 2004 season.
Another change has occurred with the arrival of the young Breton sailor, Yann Elies, bringing crew numbers for the XI up to 11. At the age of 29, the guy who Loïck Peyron readily says « it is better to sail with him than against him » has a list of achievements which could be much envied in the world of ocean racing, the high point no doubt being that he is co-holder of the Jules Verne Trophy on the maxi catamaran Orange I. Mariner like his father and grandfather before him, Yann quite simply has the sea in his genes. He started sailing on Optimists off Saint-Brieuc on Brittany's northern coast, before moving onto Olympic dinghy sailing. By the time he was 18, he had discovered offshore sailing and spurred on by the first Vendée Globe, decided to make sailing his career. He finished training spending 4 years as master sailmaker before launching out to sail competitively. Eight years later, he is one of the most sought-after yachtsmen around and a much-feared competitor on the solo circuit.
Portrait of Frédéric Le Peutrec
Born in Paris on June 20th , 1965, Fred lives with his wife and two children in Séné in the Morbihan region, not far from La Trinité sur Mer. When the family dinghy was replaced by a sports catamaran, he became an unconditional supporter of multihulls. Fred is fascinated by the sensations procured when sliding over the water, intoxicated by speed, loves precision in trimming and playing with the limits of these machines. To such an extent in fact that he gave up his architectural studies to devote himself entirely to competition.
From 1988, he clocked up three successive Tornado preparation programs for the Olympics (89-92, 93-96, 97-2000). In 1996, he finished 6th in the Atlanta Games alongside Franck Citeau. Along with this background on small high-performance catamarans, Frédéric experienced what it was like to sail ocean-racing multis early on, thanks to old « sea dogs », by the likes of Philippe Poupon, Jean Maurel, Marc Guillemot, Grant Dalton, Bruno Peyron and Loïck Peyron. Sought after for his abilities as a tactician and remarkable skill at the helm, Frédéric crewed on Allianz Via (1992), Harris Wilson (1993), Explorer (1995), Fujicolor II (1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999), Explorer (1999), Biscuits La Trinitaine (2000), and Club Med (2000 and 2001).
Back from his victorious RTW voyage in The Race, Jean Maurel, Project Manager of the then new Bayer CropScience trimaran called upon him to skipper the Irens-design multi. After two years on the ORMA circuit, the chemical-pharmaceutical group decided to withdraw from yacht sponsorship leaving Frédéric available to contribute his rich experience to the crew of Gitana XI.
First confrontation at sea for the crews of the ORMA circuit
From Friday 9th to Monday 11th April, most of the ORMA multihulls sailors will be racing in La Trinité sur Mer on the occasion of the Spi Ouest France. For the past two years, several teams have taken part in regular training sessions on Open 7.50's, a 7m 50 monohull sailed by a crew of 5. These races are hard fought battles and enable the crews to perfect their maneuvering skills and to put their fitness to the test. Both of the Gitana Teams are entered on the list of 20 or so competitors who will be racing off La Trinité sur Mer for 4 days in this classic Easter weekend series. This racing will be an excellent preliminary to the first event on the ORMA calendar scheduled for April 29th.