Identifying problems
Out of 30 ORMA Grand Prix rounds to have been run since the start of the 2005 season, light air has dominated, particularly in Fécamp. Conditions which are not that appreciated by the Gitana Team as both boats have a tough time of it in winds of less than 10 knots. Hydrodynamics analysed.

Since the Grand Prix de Calvi, of the 30 rounds raced in Corsica, Marseille, Vigo and Fécamp, only three were started in winds of more than 18 knots and two in more than 15 knots ! Unusual for autumn in Normandy. Most crews were expecting to have windy Grand Prix conditions as in the past. For a few hours never the less, wind speed did exceed 15 knots. Of the 8 rounds run off the Norman port, only Round 2 had a steady wind of more than 12 knots.

Light air does not suit Gitana X one little bit. Her banana-shaped floats drag a lot before lifting the central hull. In winds of less than 12 knots, the trimaran can do nothing at all in terms of pure speed. For Gitana 11, the problem is slightly different. The form of the central hull lies at the heart of the problem. Several competitors changed their central hull during the winter layup. (Foncia, Géant). The previous form is not as reactive and cannot be developed to the same extent. Here are a few explanations from both skippers at the end of the Grand Prix du Port de Fécamp – a little short of wind.

Round 1 : W (265°) 5 knots, increasing to 8-10 knots before decreasing to 6 knots, calm sea, windward/leeward loop (windward mark : 1.8 miles), three laps of the course before finish off Fécamp.
Round 2 : W (270°) 10-15 knots, windward/leeward loop (windward mark : 2 miles) two laps of the course before finish off the port of Fécamp.
Round 3 : W (275°) 12-15 knots, decreasing to 6-8 knots, windward/leeward loop (windward mark at 1.8 miles) two laps of the course before the finish off Fécamp. 
Round 4 : SW (230°) 15 knots decreasing to 10 knots, then to 5-7 knots, start of incoming tide, coastal course n°3 (offset buoy at 1.5 miles), triangle between Fécamp and Yport with finish off Fécamp.
Round 5 : SW (230°) 3 knots increasing to 5 knots, W, and then decreasing to 2 knots, outgoing tide, two laps of windward/leeward course, finish off Fécamp.
Round 6 : S (210°) 5 knots, end of outgoing tide, windward/leeward loop, (windward mark : 1.7 miles) with finish off Fécamp.
Round 7 : W (270°) 5-8 knots, start of incoming tide, two laps of windward/leeward loop (windward mark : 1.7 miles) with finish off Fécamp.
Round 8 : N/NW wind (250°) 8-10 knots, mid-incoming tide, three laps of windward/leeward loop (windward mark : 1.7 miles).

Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) :

« Although the results are disappointing, what is positive about it all the same, if that we took part in this Grand Prix in light air, conditions which are far from ideal for Gitana 11. This has enabled us to put our finger on the boat's problems. After one week in this configuration, (training days + Grand Prix), we now know that we have a hydro-dynamic problem. Compared with the boats who changed their central hull during the winter shed sessions, (Géant, Foncia), and thereby improve their rotations, picking up speed after having changed tack and the boat's reactivity in light air. Gitana 11 does not hold her course as well as she ought to. Her V-shaped hull increases drag until there is enough air to lift the hull clear of the water. She needs winds of more than 8-10 knots to achieve her full potential in relation to the rest of the fleet. 
What's more, at wind speeds of less than 8 knots, Gitana 11 is stuck in rails and not reactive at the helm. In Fécamp, the wind changed a lot. Not easy for us to keep up in such circumstances. The problems we have already managed to identify have now been clearly determined – central hull and underside forms do not enable us to perform as well as the other trimarans. 
We cannot pretend not to have made mistakes. But when we lack speed, we have to adopt a different approach to the other boats, try out certain things which are a little risky perhaps, particularly here in Fécamp. There is a lot of current here which ties our hands a little. We are not so much at ease as the others and cannot gain speed as quickly which means that we have to change tack as little as possible. In the last round, for example, Géant tried to force us to change tack to free themselves from our control. Form the first time we changed tack, it was obvious that they gained at each rotation, and we were left standing. We managed to win one round on tactics though. Gitana 11 is the only boat for the time being to have beaten Groupama-2 twice since the start of the season ! »

Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana X) :

« In terms of weather, it was not a piece of cake this weekend. But we didn't do too badly overall, as we have made a lot of progress in terms of trimming. I have a better feel for the helm now and we are getting better all the time at manoeuvring. Erwan did an excellent job on tactics, reading the course really well. We finished a round on Saturday in almost no wind at all. Fourth gaining two places and even on Sunday to finish we managed to make an excellent start and keep up with Géant. As a result, even if conditions were not perfect for Gitana X, we managed to do one or two good things here and there. What we really need is a Grand Prix where wind speed exceeds 15 knots. That is the only way we will find out whether the work carried out over the winter lay-up has been truly effective or not. Apart from on day in Calvi, we have never had more than 15 knots in the 30 rounds raced in this season's Grand Prix, most of which were run in 5-8 knots of wind ! A light air year… I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at the end of September we will finally have some strong wind  ! »

In the world of sailing, the name Gitana is inseparable from the French-Swiss branch of the Rothschild family. It conjures up century old images of a particular lifestyle where passion, team spirit and the quest for excellence come together. Under the aegis of the Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, the Gitana history turned to multihulls in 2000 when the Gitana IX entered the Transat Québec /Saint-Malo. For the second year in a row, the Baron has entered two trimarans - Gitana X and Gitana 11 – in the ORMA Championship. The Gitana X, is devoted to the training of young talent and the objective for Gitana 11 is excellent performance at the top level. Tradition, innovation and transmission…
Photo Image Bank : Yvan Zedda       Video Image Bank : Néfertiti Production

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