Built in 2001, with the name Belgacom, this 60-foot trimaran joined Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s stable in 2004, where she became Gitana 11. In 2009, the multihull was lengthened by 17-feet to compete in the Ultime Category in the Route du Rhum.
GITANA 11Given name
|Category Multihull, ORMA60 then Ultime||Length 23.51 m|
|Year of launch 2001 (2009)||Naval architect(s) VPLP yacht design|
|Upwind sail area 310 m²||Downwind sail area 450 m²|
This trimaran is one of the emblematic multihulls from the golden age of the ORMA class. Launched under a Belgian flag in 2001, she was bought by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild three years later so as to mix things up a bit within the Gitana fleet and prompt the stable’s rise in power. Indeed, though Gitana X has the role of a ‘training boat’ dedicated to the detection of young talent, Gitana 11 was purchased with the aim of winning medals. Successively helmed by Frédéric le Peutrec, Lionel Lemonchois and Yann Guichard, this trimaran secured a series of prestigious podiums, ensuring Gitana’s name earned a place on the winners’ list of a number of races. However, her finest hour was surely in November 2006 on her crushing victory in the legendary Route du Rhum. A fan of major refits, the Gitana Team modified the multihull twice over. Over the course of the winter 2005-2006, the central hull was cut 50cm above the waterline so as to graft on a new section of hull below and a new daggerboard casing. The cockpit was also redefined and the reinforced floats were equipped with curved rather than the standard straight foils. In 2009, following the publication of the Notice of Race for the Route du Rhum 2010, which was opening the event to yachts from the Ultime class, it was decided to transform Gitana 11 into a 77-foot maxi-multihull.
A new lease of life in ten months: review of the broad outline of Gitana 11’s transformation
Transforming an existing boat rather than building a new craft, such is the bold challenge the Gitana Team set itself in 2009 to defend its title in the Route du Rhum 2010, turning Gitana 11 into a competitive boat capable of competing with rivals of giant proportions.
Following weeks of work, the members of Gitana Team, naval architects VPLP yacht design and the structural engineering company HDS, turn in their reports. The studies are complete and now it’s time to get down to business. It’s a few days before Christmas, in the privacy of the technical shed at Saint-Philibert, south-west Brittany, that the work to transform Gitana 11 begins. The technical team starts by stripping the trimaran’s platform right back before releasing her old floats.
2009 gets off to a cracking start. The construction of new floats, entrusted to Southern Ocean Marine, kicks off in the Antipodes. Meantime, the creation of a new bow for the central hull begins in Arcachon, south-west France, at the Larros yard. In Saint-Philibert, the technicians at Gitana Team tackle the cutting out of the bow and the lengthening of the aft section of the central hull, whilst the engineers in the offices are modelling the pods, which will house the helming stations on the one hand and the cockpit on the other.
The design and installation of the helming stations are one of the thorny issues in this transformation. Two members of the technical team work on it full-time for nearly four months. Once the plans for these pods come to an end, the technicians are able to proceed with the construction of the moulds that will form the different parts. At the same time, on the multihull platform, another group is busying itself with modifying the deck layout. Originally, Gitana 11 had dual helming stations to leeward and windward, but in order to make the boat better geared up for solo sailing, it is decided to position all the controls in the cockpit. To do this, the most notable changes are the repositioning of the existing primary winches and the creation of a central coffee grinder.
The beams, which are among the few parts retained from the original design, need to be considerably beefed up so as to support the new floats. Indeed, the new configuration of the trimaran and notably the lengthening of the hulls translate as greater stresses on the platform.
In order to optimise the system for balancing the boat and boost Gitana 11’s power in certain conditions, Yann Guichard is keen to add a ballast tank (to the two that already exist) to the central hull, below the companionway. Ballast tanks are essentially carbon tanks, which have valves to enable the latter to be filled. The manufacture but above all the implementation of such a part is never an easy operation, given how cramped the chosen sites are.
The pods are in place and the team in charge of this section are now busying themselves with the fit-out: installation of specially designed seats, manufacture and adjustment of the Perspex, which extends the pods… Modifications have also been made to Gitana 11’s mast. Indeed, though the trimaran’s sail plan is similar to that of the 2006 version, the hooking systems (solent hook for example) have been designed to guarantee performance and safety.
On 6 June, the first float built in New Zealand arrives at the hangars in Saint-Philibert. The appearance of this wide load from the port of Le Havre heralds the start of assembly. The positioning and grafting of this first key piece of the puzzle will take nearly three weeks so as to get the dihedral angle between the two planes just right.
No downtime for the team’s experts since the second float makes its appearance on 2 July. It heralds the repeat of a similar operation to balance out the maxi-trimaran. A few days later, the bow of the newly received central hull is the next addition. The positioning and adjustment of this new section spanning nearly 7 metres involves some tricky, meticulous structural work.
On 17 August, the team launches into the home straight of the ambitious refit. The structural work of the platform is complete and the members of Gitana Team busy themselves with the installation of all the equipment that is essential to its smooth running: reassembly of the deck hardware, the finishing touches to the electronics installation and computers, followed by tests to validate the new systems, rigging of the halyards, blocks and numerous other lines which are required on such a boat.
On 7 September, the eagerly awaited moment has arrived. Gitana 11, the second of that name, is launched and her new lines are unveiled.