Shore Team. Guardian Angels.
You'll see them running around the boat, taking care of the last few details, then escorting the trimaran out of the harbour aboard their tender. You'll find them at the yard in wintertime, imagining new solutions, optimising the machine. They're Gitana X's close guard, the men who take care of the ship, making sure nothing is missing. "Juju", also known as Patrick Jullien, tells us about the job he shares with Olivier Staub and "Napo" also know as Jean-Yves Le Govic, the three of them forming the shore assistance team.

"It's thrilling to work on that kind of boat : it's the universe of prototypes, it's exceptional", says Juju. Organising, being ready at all times, taking care of logistics : these are the main preoccupations of the shore assistants when the boat is racing. "For the Route du Rhum, adds Juju, we unfortunately had just enough time to get all the gear into the truck and drive back to La Trinité-sur-Mer (Atlantic coast) when we learned that Lionel was coming back". All the equipment had been cautiously put back into place, the tender was ready, its tank full of petrol, as usual. As soon as the assistance team arrived at the base, Lionel's retrieval had to be planned for. "On a race like the Rhum, we know that if the skipper comes back home, he does so within the first 48 hours, because afterwards, the boat is already too far away. If a stopover has to be made, it's generally in Spain, if not in the Azores. In this case, we would have been sent there... everyone has to be ready to leave. Our experience makes long lists and endless checks unnecessary, we all know precisely what we need to keep at hand".
Once the boat is back to her home port, the maintenance operations, the repairs or the optimisation sessions may begin. Because when Gitana X is not racing, she still requires a lot of attention ! "We're permanently working on these machines, there's always something to do, something to improve".

Skills and Versatility

"In the Gitana Team, everyone is autonomous. And if there are specialists and specialities, we all get to work in various domains. That's one of the interesting aspects of this job". Juju like his job also because he feels he contributes to the whole adventure – even though he admits the boat spends more time at the yard than on the water. That's the price to pay : "as soon as we're sailing, we realise how extraordinary these boats are. We talk a lot with Lionel Lemonchois who, being the skipper, tells us what he wants and needs. Starting from there, we have to imagine solutions and put them into application... We go from conception to the finished product". Because a boat – all the more when it's as innovative as is Gitana X – in is perpetual evolution : work has to be done if the fields of performance, reliability, new parts have to be designed, not to mention all the "secret tricks" R&D... All teams have such secrets ! Yet, paranoia and over-protective behaviours (as can be seen in Formula 1 pit lanes, for example) are out of the question. Here, seamanship and the spirit of solidarity that sticks to it rule : "between teams, equipment is lent or borrowed on a daily basis, we never refuse to give a hand : when the Bayer trimaran came back home after having had auto-pilot problems, there was 45 knots of wind in the harbour entry. Napo jumped aboard the Gitana Team tender to offer his help".

About the Route du Rhum

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