Back in Lorient
On Monday evening, shortly before 18:00 GMT, after over 24 hours among the front runners, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier contacted their shore crew via the intermediary of its Director Cyril Dardashti. The Edmond de Rothschild duo informed him of its decision to turn back and retire from the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015. It was a mutual decision made between one sailor and another that was tough but carefully thought out given a string of technical issues with the rig, which no longer ensured the complete integrity of the most recent addition to the Gitana fleet in what were forecast to be difficult weather conditions. The Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild made it back to her home port of Lorient last night. For Sébastien Josse and the men of Gitana Team it's now time for an analysis and complete check-up of the boat, though the skipper does not intend to spend very long on shore.
The reasoning behind the retirement
A little over 30 hours since their retirement and after a return delivery trip of some 450 miles, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier are back in Lorient. It was at midnight last night, when the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild tied up to the dock at La Base. Inevitably both sailors are disappointed, but they are also confident about their decision, which was welcomed by their team.
On its arrival, the crew went over the facts that led to it turning back on Monday evening: “As we said very early on, we haven't suffered any major damage, rather it was a string of separate incidents, which together, given the tempestuous weather forecast announced (35-40 knots on the grib files and waves in excess of 6 metres), could have left the men and the boat in a dangerous situation. There was no hope of a weather window in which to effect repairs ourselves at sea within an acceptable time frame,” Sébastien Josse pointed out before going into further detail: “We have several minor breakages related to the rig, starting with the device for preventing the mast from moving out of its correct position. Put plainly, on the deck there's a mast foot bowl on which Edmond de Rothschild's wing mast sits. At the front of this bowl, there's a composite plate, which keeps the spar captive on the bowl and prevents it from shifting sideways of its original position. This plate moved and pulled out of the deck, thus undermining the rig support. This discovery was coupled with another area of damage, which occurred earlier in the day. During a classic check of the platform, we noticed that the pad-eye on the starboard outrigger* had broken. This small piece attached to the freeboard forward of the foil is not crucial, but it does form part of the system for attaching the outrigger, so that it is supported in the right position and does not come out of its housing. It's a bit like a shoulder with its ligaments. If they are broken or very loose, that's how you can dislocate the shoulder. A direct result of this dislocation on the boat would have been her dismasting In a location such as that and with the expected sea state.”
* As mentioned above, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild is equipped with a wing mast, which is made up of a classic tube and then on either side of the latter, two tubes called outriggers, which fit together level with the mast foot.
“There's not a huge area of breakage of course so it's still debatable but Sébastien and I had the same feeling at the same time and we let our seamanship do the talking. Despite all the hard work by the team, who have spared no effort since the boat's launch, the boat is still suffering a few teething issues. Naturally we are disappointed, especially as we were in such a good position, but we mustn't look back, rather we should concentrate on the future and the preparation for the Vendée Globe, which is the primary objective for the project and the team with this boat. We've retired from the Transat Jacques Vabre, but that won't stop us from continuing to spend time on the water with our work schedule fully geared towards the Vendée Globe. Every time we go out to sea, we learn valuable lessons, as much about how to trim this new boat as the improvements we need to make. It's a project of good birth built on solid foundations and above all with unquestionable potential, which is something we got the chance to see, even though it was cut short sadly,” explains Charles Caudrelier, the co-skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is a boat owner with real passion, whose taste for victory is as heightened as his awareness of the difficulties that need to be overcome in order to succeed. He fully supports Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier in their decision: “The Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild project is in line with a long term vision and despite all the respect we have for the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is a very fine race, the main objective on building this new boat is to seek out victory in the Vendée Globe. The decision made by both skippers to retire from the race is a courageous one. They are born competitors and being forced to give up for safety reasons is a real sacrifice for them. However, this risk management at sea is reminiscent of what we experience in the financial markets. The more volatile and hence dangerous the market is, the more you stand to win but the more you can lose too. Sometimes, it's better to cut off your hand rather than your arm. This is something Sébastien and Charles quite rightly understood. The wisest and most intelligent decisions are often the most painful. The team is solid and will be able to very quickly bounce back from this. We'll naturally be there to support it.”
Review of the race start at the head of the pack
On Sunday 25 October at 12:30 GMT, the fleet competing in the famous Coffee Route set sail from Le Havre bound for Itajai in Brazil after a 5,400-mile course. In what were unseasonably light conditions, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild and her rivals initially set a course for Etretat and a 16-mile coastal sprint prior to heading offshore. Very inspired as the starting gun fired, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier formed part of the key group, to windward of the bulk of the fleet. However, with a beat up towards the chalky cliffs, the winner of the 2013 edition had to wait for its moment to shine. This rough section was quickly swallowed up though because once around the Etretat marks, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild could finally hoist her spinnaker and crack the sheets a little. However, it took until shortly before midnight with the Cotentin headland in their wake before the pace shot right up within the Imoca class.
With a south-easterly breeze of 20-25 knots offshore of Cherbourg, conditions were ideal for enabling the true potential of the foils on the new boats to be demonstrated. The Gitana duo didn't need any convincing! The approach on the Channel Islands meant it was time for some options, the fleet splitting into two groups (those to the West and those for the direct route to the south-west). It was also the point where the most recent addition to the Gitana fleet set the speedo spinning: 22.4 knots over the 140-mille stretch between Raz Blanchard and the Western Approaches with some peak speeds in excess of 29 knots Edmond de Rothschild was making her mark and made good her escape at the front of the pack heading due West. However, along the route selected by Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier, the situation is far from simple and the weather conditions deteriorate. Indeed, looming up in front of them is a violent Atlantic low, its teeth bared, spitting out over 35 knots of breeze and waves that are peaking at 7 metres in the worst of this phenomenon. The boat, which it is worth remembering was launched on 7 August 2015 and hadn't had a very long phase of fine-tuning, began to show a few teething issues. In this way, a string of incidents coloured their decision not to go and play Russian roulette in the storm.
And so it was, after 30 hours of racing, that the crew of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild tacked and set a course of 100 degrees, bound for its home port of Lorient. Gitana Team's Transat Jacques Vabre is over; the disappointment is very evident, but the satisfaction at bringing the boat safely back to port very quickly prevails within the racing stable founded by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.