It’s not an original exercise, as the 60’ Orma multihulls made up the Transat Jacques Vabre line-up through until 2007, but it remains a first for the MOD70s, which were originally designed to be raced offshore by a crew of six. As such, as Gitana Team’s sports coach Tanguy Leglatin points out, the September challenge consists of switching from a crewed logic to a double-handed arrangement. To achieve this, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier aren’t taking any chances. In the weeks running up to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre (3 November 2013), the two sailors have drawn up an intensive sailing programme, alternating between group training sessions with the Pôle Finistère Course au Large in Port-la-Forêt and sea trials lasting in excess of 24 hours offshore of Gitana Team’s base in Lorient.
Last week, as 12 million students headed back to school in France, Sébastien and Charles linked up with Oman Sail and Virbac Paprec in Finistère’s yachting stronghold of Port-la-Forêt; a site which the duo are particularly familiar with as both hail from this special network. In fact it’s alongside Christian Le Pape and his team that the two former Figaro racers started out their careers as offshore racers: “For our first session in Port-la-Forêt, the focus of our work was on the manœuvres and handling during coastal courses. The significant new feature and the major appeal for us was the chance to do battle with our future adversaries for the first time. Charles and I switched our positions, the ones we usually have in crewed configuration, so he took the helm and I devoted more of my time to the manœuvres. In the Jacques Vabre, we need to be interchangeable in every position. A second training session is scheduled for the last week of September, but it will be more geared around ‘offshore’ racing, with at least one night at sea,” Sébastien Josse explains.
During these training sessions, the duos enjoyed some mild weather conditions, which the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild was quick to describe as perfect for the resumption of activities: “Flat seas, sunshine and a medium breeze of around ten knots or so for the first two days, before increasing to over eighteen knots on the final day. It was the perfect way to kick things off. From this week onwards though, we’re going to move things up a notch by hunting down a steadier wind so we can put our on-board organisation to the test. The Bay of Biscay, with which we’ll be beginning our transatlantic race, can be tough-going in November, so we need to come against these types of conditions prior to the race.” In fact, this afternoon Sébastien and Charles are casting off for a 24 to 30-hour sea trial in the Bay of Biscay: “The training sessions enable us to get a grasp of a vast number of situations, but longer sailing sessions, where we can choose the weather conditions, are essential: dealing with the bad weather, anticipating the passage of a front… all the parameters we need to get a handle on when we take the start of a race like the Transat Jacques Vabre. The preparation time – solely devoted to double-handed sailing – is fairly short. However, we’re implementing all the necessary measures to make the most of the days available to us. I’m also of the belief that racing the double-handed Fastnet in mid-August and having done a few double-handed sea trials prior to the start of the crewed races means we have a good advantage today, which gives us confidence to tackle this home straight,” Sébastien Josse admits.
“Physically, the Jacques Vabre promises to be a full-on race as multihulls are very powerful boats and the machine can very quickly get the better of you. That’s why, in conjunction with our sea trials, we have a fairly substantial schedule involving our physical preparation: cycling, swimming and a few days of ‘oxygenation’ at the Domaine du Mont Arbois… everything that’s good for the cardiovascular system and something that Charles and I can do together,” the skipper of Gitana Team explains.
Reminder: Edmond de Rothschild the first to qualify
In mid-August, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier opted to compete in the famous Rolex Fastnet Race in double-handed configuration, whilst the majority of the large multihulls they were up against were in crewed format. The race and notably the opening miles in the Solent, where Sébastien and Charles linked together a series of tack changes at the pace of a six-man crew, proved to be far from restful. However, a lot of lessons were learned in the 610-mile race and after over 48 hours at sea, the duo headed back to Brittany having earned their ticket for the Transat Jacques Vabre.