Realising that the Gitana 11 was still a high-performance sailing boat, very sound and easy to steer in the wind but lacking scalability in a light breeze, Frédéric Le Peutrec and Antoine Mermod (research & development), together with the architects VPLP (van Peteghem-Lauriot Prévost), looked into ways of alleviating this deficit without damaging the boat's overall potential. The most technically straightforward solution, already applied to Michel Desjoyeaux's trimaran last season, consisted of cutting the central hull above the water line and grafting on a new bottom. The aim was to raise the Gitana 11 in the water by increasing the volumes, with the original highly pronounced “V” shapes becoming more supportive “U” shapes.
The “rake” effect when changing tack and gybing should therefore be significantly reduced, allowing the Gitana 11 to move more easily without being blocked when tacking. This phenomenon used to result in inferior acceleration after manoeuvres and consequently more problems controlling rivals on the water, getting out of tricky situations or opting for a short tack, etc. These small minuses, added to a difficulty relieving the central hull by less than eight knots of real wind (and the Orma 2005 Grand Prix saw primarily slow winds) placed the Gitana 11 in difficulty several times, at Marseilles, Vigo and Fécamp.
Since this decision was taken even before the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Gitana Team have had a new central hull bottom made, with all the work over the winter being carried out at its Saint-Philibert base. Taking advantage of the arrival of the Gitana 12 (ex-Bonduelle), the technical team has acquired a new machine that strips paints and coatings by projecting starch powder. As a result, the Gitana 11 was stripped totally “bare” (down to the external carbon layer) in order to reduce the weight, then the central hull was cut approximately fifty centimetres above the water line. At the same time, the centre-board box was also modified to adapt it to a new shorter profile but with the same draught (5.00 m) by reinforcing the mid-shaft structure.
The overall improvement in terms of weight on all these items comes to approximately 200 kg. Parallel to this, a new centre-board was constructed, a central ballast of 500 litres installed to bring it into line with the new Route du Rhum regulations, the floats strengthened, the whole of the rigging (dormant and current, i.e. guys and lines) changed, and the hydraulic mast transfer system re-examined to accelerate the swing manœuvre. Lastly, a changing programme was set up for the validation and pooling of parts with the Gitana 12 (sails, rudder blades, etc.…) by means of joint testing once the trimaran led by Thierry Duprey du Vorsent has left the boatyard on 14 April.
Frédéric Le Peutrec and his crew will therefore be devoting the coming days to testing this new version of the Gitana 11 at sea, before participating in the training session at Port-La-Forêt from 18 to 21 April. The trimaran will then head for the English capital to take part in the first race of the Multi Cup 2006, London-Alpes Maritimes, scheduled to start on 8 May. The skipper will be joined on this 2,500-mile seafaring event by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, François Denis, Daniel Souben, Ronan Le Goff and Fred Guilmin.