The 2009 season nevertheless marks a turning point for the team. Indeed the start of the year accompanies the announcement of Loïck Peyron's departure and the officialising of an innovative race programme, which is more in harmony with the director's current wishes. It is guaranteed that the experience acquired and the renewed support of the shipowner and the LCF Rothschild Group will enable the Gitana Team to successfully open this new chapter in its history.
After over nine years on the offshore racing circuit, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and the Group he presides over are still testifying to their attachment to sailing by committing to a new circuit – the iShares Cup – and by starting on modifications to Gitana 11 alongside the members of Gitana Team : “In a banking world where the multinationals are thriving, our own establishment, whilst continuing to progress, has been keeping to its original philosophy and remains a human size enterprise. I wish for it to be the same within the Gitana Team. Sailing is a family passion, a story of love and conviction. My forefathers sailed on Lake Geneva, my father specialized in monohulls, and me in multihulls some years later. These boats have always fascinated me. They are incredibly elegant and the gliding sensations you get from them are something else. However, beyond this enthusiasm, our commitment is based on a desire to pass things on and be innovative. As such, our arrival on a new circuit, the work initiated on one of our fleet's flagships and the desire to provide a young talented sailor with the opportunity to flourish, all fall within the scope of this lineage.”
Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and Loïck Peyron, the exceptional skipper of Gitana Eighty and team manager of the stable since 2006, have jointly decided to bring their collaboration to an end. This decision, though it occurred a few weeks after the retirement from the Vendée Globe due to a dismasting, is in no way linked to the damage in this race. Instead it has been guided by the future developments planned for the team, which don't correspond with the wishes of the skipper from La Baule. Indeed, in 2009, given the current economic context and the desire to get back to a more coherent structure, it has been decided that the fleet's sail area will be reduced and, most significantly, entail the sale of Gitana Eighty : “Gitana Eighty was designed and built with a specific goal in mind: the Vendée Globe. With this legendary round the world race drawing to a close, our adventure at the helm of this monohull is also coming to an end. Faced with this decision, Loïck Peyron doesn't wish to continue working solely as a manager, which we perfectly understand. It was a great privilege for us to have him alongside us for the past three years and we greatly appreciate the way he has boosted the team. We wish him the best of luck for the future” concluded Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, before letting Loïck Peyron take the floor : “It's the end of a story but today I am proud and happy to have been able to contribute to writing a few fine lines in the Gitana saga. In 2006, when I became the head of the Gitana Team, it was a sizeable challenge and I think that with the help and motivation of the team members we've taken it up brilliantly...”
Of particular note is the fact that Gitana Eighty has been bought by the Fundació per la Navegació Oceànica de Barcelona (FNOB), an organisation which aims to promote ocean sailing in Spain. After a technical fine tuning at La Trinité-sur-Mer, the boat, in its new livery, will begin an intense preparation programme with a view to participating in the second edition of the Barcelona World Race. This double-handed round the world race, contested aboard IMOCA monohulls, will set off from Barcelona on 31st December 2010.
In 2009, the Gitana Team will rank among the crews participating in the European circuit of the iShares Cup. Contested on 40 foot one-design catamarans – Extreme 40s – the racing will begin in May and end in October. The season's schedule will only be fully finalised over the coming weeks, though we already know that five events will see the 2009 participants racing in Italy, France, UK, Germany and Holland.
Launched in 2007, on the initiative of Offshore Challenge Events, this circuit has attracted a host of international teams, and the French have also shown an interest in the event. Indeed the Groupama team has already announced its participation this season and other compatriots may well imitate them. Racing with four crew, the Extreme 40 races are aimed at enabling the public to witness the nautical jousts close up by favouring race zones which are close to the shore and, where possible, at the very heart of the chosen towns. The Extreme 40 circuit combines the clever mixture of sport and spectacle, which proved to be a tremendous success for the owner of Gitana Team during the multihull Grand Prix circuit.
Yann Guichard, a regular in the Gitana Team since 2004, is joining the stable's ranks as a skipper-helm aboard the Extreme 40 Gitana. This young 34 year old sailor is just as much at ease racing around the cans, as a result of his Olympic career, as he is sailing offshore using his transatlantic experience. As such he will now have to show what he's made of on this new medium, which is tailor-made for his talent. Indeed, it's worth remembering that Yann Guichard is a grand specialist on these sports catamarans as his three Olympic preparations on the Tornado, as well as his 4th place in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 bear witness.
Built in 2001 under the name of Belgacom, this 60 foot trimaran joined the Gitana stable in 2004, where she went on to become Gitana 11. She was successively helmed by Frédéric Le Peutrec and Lionel Lemonchois and the multihulll won her greatest acclaim in November 2006 when her skipper sailed her to victory in the legendary Route du Rhum.
Constantly improved on by the experts from Gitana Team since its purchase, Gitana 11 has remained competitive and feared by its latest generation adversaries. These indisputable qualities, which bear witness to a boat of noble descent, and the Notice of Race for the Route du Rhum 2010, have strengthened the desire to give her a new lease of life.
“This refit, which globally consists of going from a 60 to a 70 footer, is aimed at making up our deficit in muscular sailing conditions in comparison with the large oceanic trimarans, whilst maintaining the qualities of our boat in the light conditions thanks to its high power/weight ratio. We're seeking to make her more versatile”. These few lines perfectly summarize what has led to Gitana 11's refit and the leading principles which are today guiding modifications to the 18.28 metre trimaran.
The modifications to the trimaran began at the very start of 2009. Thanks to the great autonomy achieved by the Gitana Team since its creation, which groups together the majority of the skills in naval construction, the bulk of the work is done in-house. This ambitious refit was managed by William Fabulet, who knows the trimaran inside out through having been the boat captain, and it has been carried out under the trained eye of Yann Guichard, who brings to the project his experience of sailing aboard the 60' on a daily basis.
The trimaran and its new lines will be unveiled during the course of the year.