The bay of Quiberon served up rather windy conditions for the 2011 edition of the Tour de Belle-Île. It was in a SE’ly wind kicking out 25 knots of breeze and heavy seas that the race committee set the 485 racers going shortly after 1030 GMT this Saturday. There were also a number of stormy squalls rolling through to further spice up proceedings. The resulting spectacle was stunning but it was important for the crews to focus on being vigilant: “Nearly 500 boats on the same start line makes things pretty busy! It was full-on, especially with the wind and sea conditions. We were particularly attentive during the start phase as Gitana 11 was a lot faster than the majority of the fleet.”
For his first race as skipper of Gitana, Sébastien Josse opted to sail with Sébastien Thétiot and David Boileau, the préparateur-sailors from Gitana 11, Florent Chastel, as bowman, Antoine Koch, doing the navigation and Jean-Baptiste Epron on the manœuvres. The skipper of the future MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild Group gave us his initial impressions on his return to the port of La Trinité-sur-Mer: “This Tour de Belle-Île was my baptism of fire aboard Gitana 11 in race mode. It was a lively introduction but it was perfect for getting my teeth into things and straightaway getting the measure of the boat. I’ve yet to find my automatic reflexes at the helm. I’m in training mode on this craft as I await delivery of the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild Group scheduled at the end of October, and I was keen to take it calmly, especially as the crew gathered together for the occasion were sailing as one for the first time. With this in mind, we decided not to unfurl the gennaker (big offwind headsail) if the wind was in excess of 24 knots. I’m really enjoying finding my way around Gitana 11 as it’s a fantastic trimaran.” This discovery phase that Sébastien Josse is referring to didn’t prevent Gitana 11 demonstrating part of her potential though and the crew enjoyed some fine peaks of speed above 30 knots.
By completing the 41 mile course in a time of 2 hours and 42 minutes, the 77 foot maxi-trimaran has deposed the previous event record holder, the trimaran Actual, which took the event record last year with a circuit time of 3 hours and 24 minutes. “The Multi 50s were right on our tails, but there’s nothing surprising about that. Behind us were crews who were broken in to the exercise on steeds they were very familiar with, helmed by skippers who, in the most part, had already competed in transatlantic races at the helm of their boats. These are references and they were a good source of pressure for the Gitana Team and it was good knowing they were hot on our heels” concluded Sébastien Josse.
From Monday, Gitana 11 will head offshore again for some further training sessions as she awaits the next races on the maxi-trimaran’s programme, namely the ArMen Race, the start of which is scheduled for 2 June, as well as the Record SNSM, for which she is the current record holder, in mid June.