So 12 multihulls and almost 70 yachtsmen, including 3 women, will be setting out on Sunday 11th May at 15h for a 2734 mile long crewed race, covering three seas (English Channel, Mediterranean, Adriatic) and one Ocean (Atlantic), a race which will last some ten days or so. The yachtsmen will encounter varying weather conditions with "twisted" local characteristics. Nor'easter, Nor'wester, So'wester, Trade, Levanter, Sirocco, Tramontana, Mistral, Levanto and Bora will each come into play for better or for worse for these Formula 1 racing machines.
Lionel Lemonchois, Gitana's skipper : "One thing is certain, is that it's not going to be easy. But I'm not apprehensive about the changing weather. Moreover, the in the open sea the boat seems to be more at ease, particularly downwind". It is likely that the suspense of the event will keep going right through to the end, into the last few miles of Rimini, on the shores of the Adriatic sea, in cineast Federico Fellini's homeland.
Gitana in the starting blocks
Everything is ready for the Gitana Team. The Grand Prix de Lorient (Atlantic), which was held three weeks ago enabled several points to be validated on the boat's sails, appendages, and crew cohesion. The new all carbon dagger board made with the latest digital milling technology, should make her easier to helm and improve speed and course-holding performance. This afternoon Gitana had her last pre-start outing to check the finer points of one or two adjustments to the mast and sails.
On form !
Gitana's six-strong crew is ready. After five months in the yard and optimisation, Lionel Lemonchois, Benjamin de Rothschild, Marc Guessard, Yann Marilley, Olivier Wroczynski and François Denis cannot hide their impatience to get down to the business of racing against the rest of the fleet.
As for strategy, Richard Silvani and Sylvain Mondon from Météo France got to work on a detailed study of the weather and setting out a precise inventory of local phenomena in order to fine tune the choice of course best suited to current knowledge of the trimaran.
Benjamin de Rothschild, owner and crew on board Gitana for all the crewed races of the 2003 season : "In spite of the fact that the boat has only sailed 3 000 miles since she was launched last June, we are beginning to obtain precise information about her speed potential under certain points of sail thanks to data recorded on board with software we developed ourselves. I hope that the innovative options we have wished for Gitana will be confirmed in this 2nd Challenge Mondial Assistance".
Watch out for the wind
For Sunday's start, the wind will no doubt be unstable in direction, not exceeding 15/20 knots in speed (28/36 km/h), but should strengthen in the second part of the night. As the fleet comes out of the Channel, conditions will be a little rough, with a breeze which should be veering north-westerly, thus a headwind blowing directly at the competitors, with strong gusts of up to 40 knots (75 km/h). Acrobatic conditions but ones which ought to be favourable for Gitana which appears to be more at ease in a blow at the moment than in light airs.