In the vast shed at the team's base in La Trinité sur Mer, nothing but calm relaxed expressions on the faces of the members of the Gitana Team². Everything is ready for the second confrontation of the season and the first transatlantic race on the 2004 calendar. Since the end of the first Grand Prix two weeks ago, one line after another has been crossed off the never-ending check lists by folk who are tired with relieved to be getting through the work at a good pace. The Gitana X and Gitana 11 shore teams readily give each other a helping hand to get certain technical details moving along.
As a result of this complicity, the extremely tight schedule has been respected from start to finish. Both of the Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's trimarans are ready, each of the skippers Fred and Marc are rested, concentrated and determined. Shore teams are ready to hop on the Roscoff ferry Plymouth bound this evening with the teams' RIBs and assistance vehicles, hotels have been booked and the minutiae of paperwork sorted out. The two Gitana are ready to cast off from their home port.
Around 9h00 this morning, in magnificent sunshine, Gitana X and Gitana 11 left La Trinité for a 230 mile short-handed delivery voyage. Lack of wind will make the first couple of hours a little laborious, but thereafter the boats should pick up speed as a northerly 20-25 knot wind should kick in as they reach the tip of Brittany. A rather speedy end to the delivery passage which in fact does not leave that much time for the assistance team to make it over to the pontoon in the Mount Batten Peninsula Marina in Plymouth, mooring lines at the ready to help the two Gitana boats berth.
From Friday, the countdown is on British time on the other side of the Channel, where the Entente Cordiale is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, an event upon which the race will be focusing.
D – 10 for 40 single-handed racing yachtsmen
Ten days from now on Monday 31st May, the 40 competitors qualified to compete in the « English Transat » will be setting out at 15h00 (French time) on a 2,900 mile ocean passage. More than 5,500 km separate Plymouth (GB) and Boston (USA), over a stretch of the North Atlantic renowned for its bitter and sometimes hectic conditions at this time of year – particularly upon the approach to the banks of Newfoundland, with its share of threatening growlers, thick cold damp fog and heavy trawlers which work in those waters.
Forty single-handed sailors representing 8 nations, divided out into 4 classes :12 60-foot multihulls including the Gitana X and 11, 18 60-fott monohulls, 5 50-foot multihulls and 5 50-foot multihulls. There are three perfectly well clued-up women entrants, Karine Fauconnier in the 60-foot multihull class, Anne Liardet and Karen Liebowici in the 60-foot monohull class to battle it out for ten days with their male equivalents. The same courage, alone on a tough sea and in what are very often horrendous conditions.