For their first outing in both double-handed and race configuration, the men of Gitana Team chose a prestigious event. Indeed, at noon on Sunday, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier set sail on the Rolex Fastnet Race. For its 45th edition, the great Anglo-Saxon classic enjoyed a packed line-up, with the entry list boasting a record 347 yachts.
On his arrival in Plymouth, after 48 hours at sea, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild ran through the race scenario: “We’re tired but happy to have completed this race and qualified for the Jacques Vabre. The weather conditions pretty much echoed the forecasts with a really physical start to the race… We exited the Solent close-hauled in a building breeze – an average of 12 to 15 knots – and those few miles were intense with a great many tack changes to be performed. During these manoeuvring sequences, we clearly lacked muscle power to drive the boat in the way we’re used to doing in crewed configuration. Fortunately the 150 miles between exiting the Solent and Lizard Point were easier to handle, because the minute you have some open water it’s less of a strain on a physical level. In the Celtic Sea, we had more breeze than forecast with an average of 17 knots, which peaked at 25 knots. There were short and fairly choppy seas, which weren’t very comfortable. As planned though, as soon as we rounded the Fastnet, we switched to a run. It was a great night in this configuration. This morning, the wind totally died away with just 10 miles to go till the finish. We were virtually at a standstill for 4 hours and we had to be patient as we waited for the south-westerly breeze to kick back in and steer us towards the entrance to Plymouth Sound, where the finish line was set.”
For the Edmond de Rothschild duo, this test run of over 600 miles has certainly been a physical challenge, but it has also taught them a great many lessons, as Sébastien Josse explains: “It was really interesting to participate in the Rolex Fastnet Race in double-handed configuration and it will really pay off in our preparation. There were a lot of things to take into account with a start line, fellow competitors and a course to be respected. Completing our qualifier in conditions such as these has enabled us to push back our limits a lot further than if we’d just stuck to training on home waters offshore of Lorient. Over the initial miles of the race, we most likely had to perform more tack changes than we will for the entire Jacques Vabre! Edmond de Rothschild was a lot easier to handle downwind, under gennaker, than upwind. We noticed during this race that it was really complicated to leave the boat under automatic pilot when we were sailing close-hauled in quite heavy seas. We’re going to have to work on that and find the right trim for the Jacques Vabre. During the Transat, we’re going to have to keep things simple. The boat is very demanding and powerful, which makes all the navigation full-on. On a physical level, the manœuvres are difficult, especially given that once these manœuvres are complete, you have to focus and get a feel for the helm so that you can find the boat’s balance again. The recovery periods are really short.”
The minute the crew were across the finish line, the triamran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild made straight for her port of registry. Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier took on two members of their shore crew so as to complete the return delivery trip in the best possible conditions. Edmond de Rothschild is expected into Lorient in the early hours of tomorrow morning as the wind is likely to be pretty light as they approach the Breton coast. Once the one-design is moored in the BSM (Kéroman submarine base), Gitana Team will enjoy a few days’ holiday. Indeed, from early September, a dense programme awaits the Edmond de Rothschild duo with two months till the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Rolex Fastnet Race, aboard the MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana XV)
Cowes – Fastnet Rock – Plymouth, 610 miles to go
After leaving Cowes on 11 August at 1100 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild crossed the finish line in Plymouth on 13 August at 1108 GMT with a race time of 48 hours and 8 minutes.
Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier rank 4th in elapsed time, thus qualifying for the Transat Jacques Vabre.