Gitana 11 in at the deep end
Four months to the day since going into her base in St Philibert, Brittany, for her winter refit, the maxi-trimaran Gitana 11 was relaunched late afternoon this Wednesday 17th March. The work carried out by the technical team from Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s ocean racing stable, focused on erasing the youthful indiscretions of the giant to improve both performance and reliability. Back in her element, Gitana 11 is now all ready to attack the numerous training sessions on the schedule for skipper Yann Guichard.
On shore, when Gitana 11 is being refitted, Yann Guichard entrusts the technical responsibility for the maxi-trimaran to William Fabulet. Boat captain for the multihull, William supervises a team of around fifteen people, ensures the consistency of the work schedule, as well as using his skills as a composite specialist to gladly lend a hand: “a number of parameters had changed when Gitana 11 was extended. As such we had to find the right adjustments so that the boat is as high performance and reliable as possible with a view to the Route du Rhum. Following last autumn’s test sails, Yann shared his thoughts on the experience with the architects and our in-house engineer, Bernard Pointet. These collective considerations guided the jobs list.”

A review of the studious winter:

Moving the foils forward

These load-bearing planes made entirely of carbon and situated either side of the trimaran, enable her to reach high speeds whilst limiting the drag in the water and relieving the stresses on the floats.One of the big projects over the past four months has been to move the foil casings forward in order to improve the general equilibrium of the platform: “It was necessary to move them forward without modifying the shape of the hull. This massive task kept two technicians busy full-time for three months.” During this period, new appendages with an identical profile were manufactured at C3 Technologie to replace those temporarily on loan from Gitana 12.

Adopting of a new image for the central and float rudders

Essential to Gitana 11’s performance, as much through their position as their profile, the trimaran’s rudders have been considerably modified over the past few months. A revised shape and a new location have been required for the float rudders, to increase effectiveness and control of the boat at the helm. The central rudder, which benefited from a new shape to improve sensitivity at the helm, is a home-made product fabricated in the boatsheds at St Philibert.

Setting up of the measuring instruments on the trimming equipment

Pressure sensors have been installed on the hydraulic lines for example. The aim of this work, initiated by Pierre Bourcier and Benoit Piquemal, is to acquire and record a whole host of data, which once processed, will enable Gitana 11’s performance to be enhanced as well as improving safety onboard.
In the nature of refits, weight saving was at the fore once again this winter and thanks to some new spectra trampolines, the platform has been slimmed down by nearly 70 kg. Finally, the technical team has made a thorough revision of the deck fittings, the hydraulic circuits and the onboard electrics.
From the theory to practice
Though returns to the yard remain essential for fine tuning these fabulous oceanic multihull prototypes, the team’s delight was evident this Wednesday when the 77 foot maxi-trimaran’s hit the water:The timing of this winter refit was perfectly adhered to by the team. Everyone worked relentlessly for this to be the case and it’s always a great satisfaction to see Gitana 11 back in the water. On a personal level I can’t wait to put in my first tacks of 2010”admitted Yann Guichard, just metres from the blue bird.
On Monday, Gitana 11 will cast off with her skipper and members of the shore crew involved in the main winter modifications. These short-handed test sails will enable everyone to get their bearings and, most importantly, validate the choices made on site. Very soon after that the Gitana Team helmsman hopes to set sail on his own to begin his solo training: “Of the sailors participating in the next Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale I am aware that I’m one of the least experienced solo sailors on this type of boat. However, we’re lucky to be on the water relatively early in relation to our future competitors, which will enable me to multiply the sessions on the water so I can discover and tame my steed” admitted Yann Guichard. 
Besides his sailing programme on Gitana 11, the Breton sailor will also take the helm of an Extreme 40 for the second year running. Indeed a 40’ catamaran, rechristened Edmond de Rothschild Group, will rank among those participating in the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series Europe. The five dates currently registered in the championship calendar will be a chance for Yann Guichard and his three crew to confirm the potential expressed in 2009. For the record, they scored a very fine 2nd place in the final ranking. It should be noted that on this European circuit, the skipper of Gitana will be up against one of his future adversaries from the Atlantic, Franck Cammas. It will be the perfect opportunity to hone his skills in preparation for the start of the transatlantic race on 31st October 2010.
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