The Québec-Saint Malo yacht race as seen by Fred Le Peutrec
After having taken part in this crewed transatlantic yacht race from west to east, Fred Le Peutrec is not exactly about to tread untrodden ground. Here is his point of view on this race which mixes a sail down the Saint Lawrence river, an Atlantic passage and a coastal stretch in the English Channel.

After having kicked off the season with a Grand Prix in La Trinité-sur-mer (France), followed by The Transat sailed solo from Plymouth (UK) to Boston (USA), Fred Le Peutrec is about to set out on a unique race with five crew on Gitana 11. The Québec-Saint Malo is very special indeed as it starts off with a regatta down the Saint Lawrence river, followed by a coastal run from Gaspé to Newfoundland, and a transatlantic passage to the Fastnet Lighthouse off the southern coast of Ireland, finishing with a coastal stretch in the Channel, between the coasts of England and Brittany.

« The first time I ran the Québec-Saint Malo was back in 1992 with Jean Maurel on ex-Elf Aquitaine, renamed Allianz Via Assurances, the trimaran which subsequently became Gitana IX ! My second time was on the last edition in 2000, with Marc Guillemot on Biscuits La Trinitaine… »

« It's the only crewed ocean race on the ORMA circuit. It gives us the opportunity to push the boats 100%. After The Transat, it's useful to have new pairs of eyes to confirm or contradict the perceptions we have. This time, it's a « return » trip in summer bringing us back « home »… There is a strong chance that we will be essentially running downwind, pushed by the wind. We've got two coastal stretches which will be really exciting – a race along the coast of Québec on the Saint Lawrence river, with its share of coastal effects, thermal breeze, current and another one after the Fastnet rock off the south of the Irish along the coast of the Channel. The middle stretch is the transatlantic where we are likely to have a front with wind abeam and gennaker up. A bit racing a Grand Prix offshore… only longer ! We're sailing short-handed, six up instead of eleven in Grand Prix, but with an ocean passage into the bargain, not to mention night time sailing, the length of the course, crew management, and handling factors of fatigue and energy… «

« The first day and night – the first 200 miles – will be pretty intense with lots of manoeuvring, tacking, gybing, calm and puffs of wind to cope with. Lots of battles between the twelve multis ahead, with its share of breakaways, regroupings and so on. There'll be someone up on deck all the time. We're going to have to be highly attentive and reactive. Messing up one tack can make you lose a lot of time ! Simplifying things a little, the further the fleet goes down the rive, the more wind they will run into. If you're out in front, then you'll be first to hit the wind and break away into the lead, distancing the rest of the fleet before attacking the Atlantic. After that, there's just one level crossing when you reach the English Channel – the last chance to make up for lost ground… It's really important to reach Newfoundland first or well placed if you are to be in with a chance of latching onto the first low pressure system which happens to be passing by ! A very exciting regatta all in all as at this latitude, the Atlantic part of the passage is very short – just four days. What's more, this year, the fleet is very hommogenous. There's not much separating the potential of the twelve multis. All the crews are top notch. Not much time to sit back and think… »

Gitana 11

« Gitana 11 is an excellent trimaran for downwind sailing in a blow. She is healthy, steady and safe downwind with a great potential for speed. She doesn't demand too much of the crew as she does not take much water on. The lift of her foils and the powerful sail plan give her nice balance. The faster she sails downwind, the more reassuring she is. A brilliant boat with perhaps just one small downshot. It's not always easy to make her change tack as the helm, mainsheet and main traveller have to be perfectly synchronised. A bit tricky Grand Prix racing where you have to change tack really quickly but out on the open sea, she holds her course really well, her platform is stiff and so it's not so much of a problem.

As for the crew, we have worked out a rhythm of systematic recovery as soon as possible so that we avoid problems of exhaustion, particularly after the first day which is tough all round. But the sooner we make it out of the Saint Lawrence, the sooner we'll be able to rest… Otherwise, Yann Guichard and I will be taking turns on the helm and navigation, tactics, weather and strategy. « Bambino » (François Denis) will be spending most of his time up front, manoeuvring. Yann Marilley, Fred Brousse and Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will be taking care of trimming, bearing in mind that on the open sea everyone has to chip in as needed, that the crew are  fully interchangeable. »

« On Tuesday we went out with Gitana 11 on the Saint Lawrence to try the sails, get a bit of training done, manœuvres, try to get a feel for the local waters, spot what might be special in preparation for the start… The boat is ready, the shore team has done an excellent job – we just need to add water ! In any case, given the weather we had yesterday (light breeze with thermal wind), the start is going to be lively and interesting to say the least. An outward passage upwind and the return passage downwind off Québec before heading off downstream, the whole in light air… it's likely that we'll see gaps from the start ! »

Facts & figures :

- 12 competitors in the 60-foot Open multihull class : Banque Covéfi, Banque Populaire, Foncia, Géant, Groupama, Médiatis Région Aquitaine, Sergio Tacchini, Sodébo, Sopra Group, TIM Progretto Italie and of course ….Gitana X and Gitana 11.
- 6th edition of this great classic. The 1st edition of the
- Québec – Saint Malo was held in 1984, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the arrival in Canada of Jacques Cartier, born in Saint Malo.
- Start :  11th July at 12h 50 (local time) for the ORMA 60-foot Open multihulls, 12h 35 for the Class II 50-foot monohulls and multihulls.
- Time difference with France : - 6 hours
- A 3 000 mile long course (5 560 km), 371 down the Saint Lawrence river.
- Record to beat : Fujicolor - Loïck Peyron in 1996 : 7 days, 20 hours and 24 minutes.
- Titleholder : Groupama – in 2000 : 9 days, 23 hours, 16 mn.
Québec – Saint Malo 2000 : 1st participation in a transatlantic race of a multihull racing under the colours of the Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, Gitana IX. 

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