« Last season's results were a little mixed. Entering two boats on this circuit is a major undertaking in its own right. All of the problems linked to logistics and setting up assistance teams ashore had to be resolved. The experience and skill of Gitana X's skipper, Marc Guillemot added a lot to the project. He contributed to improving the boat's previously lacklustre performance. Although we could not realistically expect her to win a Grand Prix, he played the game and did manage to upset fellow competitors out on the course. The main aim was The Transat, the single-handed race from Plymouth to Boston. Unfortunately he broke a dagger board the very first night. That was tough to take as Marc was up to taking one of the top three places, even winning the race. He adapted to the boat well. Marc is without any doubt the most experienced solo yachtsman on this type of boat.
For Gitana 11, the main aim was a Grand Prix win. Fred Le Peutrec's goal on The Transat was to gain single-handed race experience for the Route du Rhum 2006 and to make it across the Atlantic in a decent place - which he did. The Québec-Saint Malo race did not end quite so favourably for Fred who had to withdraw following a violent collision with a non-identified floating object at a time when the boat was in the « top 3 ». Later on in the season though, she won the Grand Prix de Calvi and made it onto the podium in Fécamp and Marseille. Which demonstrates that the Gitana Team features in the best three teams on the ORMA circuit. In 2004, we were also able to create a close-knit technical team which is our major asset.
Winning in the firing line
For 2005, both boats will be competing on the ORMA circuit. Gitana X is now in the hands of Thierry Duprey, formerly Gitana X's boat-captain and skipper of Gitana 9. Mr de Rothschild has decided to chose young sailors with an average age of 25 and to trian them in the art of racing 60-foot multihulls. Thierry's job will be to develop that sector as best he can right across the board throughout the events on the 2005 calendar. The major goal is the Transat Jacques Vabre. Both the boat and the Thierry Duprey-Erwan Le Roux team can expect to do well in that race. All the more so given the gigantic work which has been put in during the trimaran's winter refit. More than 7 000 hours of labour have been spent working on Gitana X in her shed in Saint Philibert. All done in-house by the Gitana Team and not outsourced to a shipyard for reasons of economy and speed. The team has made a great effort to make the boat lighter, shedding some 250 kg, the equivalent of three crew in a Grand Prix !
As for Gitana 11, hardly any changes have been made to her technical team. Following the end of year analysis pinpointing her weaker points, the trimaran went into the CDK Technologies shipyard in Port-La-Forêt for her winter refit. The solutions opted for are simple, reliable and familiar. The mast has been changed and her chord increased to the maximum allowed under the rules (800 mm). Her dagger board now has a trimmer (multi-directional trailing edge) to improve her upwind course holding capacities. Shrouds (cables which hold the mast laterally) have been moved aft to allow for a bigger gennaker (downwind sail), the boom has been changed, thereby saving 60 kg and the transmissions have been modified for more sensitive helming. Last but not least, she now has a lifting central rudder (after what happened in the Québec-Saint Malo race) for offshore races. We know that Groupama 2 will be tough to beat in Grand Prix but Gitana 11 performs well in blue water races. This year's programme has two high-point ocean races - Lorient-Hyères (start on 8th May) and the Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre to Salvador de Bahia (start on 6th November).
One or two changes have occurred in the crew line-up. Yann Eliès was unable to take par tin all of the events as he is racing in the Solitaire du Figaro this summer. Antoine Mermod, who was engineer and developer for Sergio Tacchini last year will be replacing him in the pit. Nicolas Berthoud bows out to Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant, master sailmaker with the Incidences loft in La Rochelle, a major trump card for the Gitana Team as he is widely recognised as being the crew on the multihull circuit. He will be overseeing the making of new sets of sails for both trimarans. Loïc Le Mignon, who already won the Transat Jacques Vabre with Loïck Peyon, becomes Gitana 11's boat captain. Finally, Jean-Yves Bernot is joining us as weather wizard and navigator on the first race, from Lorient to Hyères. One of the most highly-experienced maritime meteorologists in the world.
Winter training sessions
In between seasons, from the end of November to mid-March, it was important for team cohesion that the helmsmen and tacticians continued to sail. Throughout the winter, every fortnight in La Trinité/Mer, the guys spent their weekends racing on Open 7.50s, a small, fast and highly technical 7.50 m one design monohull which behaves in a very similar way to multihulls. The level of racing is very high indeed and many of the fellow ORMA yachtsmen take part (Alain Gautier, Armel Le Cléac'h, Michel Desjoyeaux, Charles Caudrelier…). We have two boats entered with Thierry and Fred at the helm with the clear aim being to put on a brilliant performance in the Spi Ouest France, the event which marks the close of the winter training sessions, where 500 boats enter into battle from 25th to 28th March. This year 24 Open 7.50's will be taking part. »