Gitana 11, 2nd in the ORMA Championship after the AS Lease Challenge
The AS Lease Challenge came to a close this Sunday 20 May, after a prologue, an offshore race and a multihull trophy. We look back a splendid first sporting week of this new season for Gitana 11 and the other 60-foot multihulls, or the “return to school”, as Gitana 11 skipper Lionel Lemonchois jokingly described it.

After the AS Lease Challenge, Gitana 11 is in 2nd position in the 2007 ORMA Championship for 60-foot multihulls. For Lionel Lemonchois and his crewmen, following on from the magnificent win in last year's Route de Rhum, it constitutes a decent start to this new season which will gradually hot up with the approach of November's big ocean encounter, the double-handed transatlantic race between Le Havre and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.

After a prologue not counting towards the official classifications, the Gitana Team skipper and his men had to face a first offshore race of the campaign characterised by complex weather conditions on a route passing primarily through the Gulf of Gascony. Starting from Lorient, the course involved having to pass a marker off the north coast of Spain, and then round Fastnet Rock to the south of Ireland before heading back down to the finish at Lorient. Courtesy of winds of between 15 and 35 knots on the whole of the course, choppy seas and temperatures more akin to the month of November, neither the crew nor the boats were given an easy ride. Gitana 11 finished second behind Groupama 2.

The continuation of the AS Lease Challenge offered the excitement of close-contact racing between the 4 multihulls over a long weekend marked by summery conditions on the Saturday followed by a more autumnal feel on the Sunday. 3 rounds were contested on Saturday 19 May and 2 on Sunday 20 May. Groupama 2 skippered by Franck Cammas won four of the five rounds, with Banque Populaire IV clinching the fifth. Gitana 11, meanwhile, finished third in five of these coastal jousts.

Lionel Lemonchois offered us his thoughts on a diverse week's racing notable for disparate weather conditions, while also looking ahead to the next clash of the season, namely the SNSM Trophy on 24 June between Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Malo.

Where the weekend's concerned, I would have to say ‘could do better', but we finished the Multihull Trophy on the podium and took a nice 2nd place in the ORMA Championship! Groupama 2 is untouchable in these conditions and Banque Populaire IV's not far behind her either. In this weekend's type of racing, it was always going to be tough to finish above 3rd place. These days, Gitana 11 is much more geared towards ocean racing. In the offshore race, it was tough but we gave a good account of ourselves, finishing 2nd after making up ten or so miles on Groupama during Wednesday night. Our chief objective is the Jacques Vabre and that's what we're working towards. My partnership with Yann Guichard has clicked nicely over the last week. He's a capable and pleasant guy to work with and I think we'll make an effective team. Gitana 11's next race is at the end of June in the SNSM Trophy. It's a short race but it's technically complex as there are always plenty of surprises in store going round the coast of Brittany”.

Gitana 11 crew – AS Lease Challenge offshore race:

Lionel Lemonchois – Skipper
Loïck Peyron – Helmsman
Yann Guichard – Tactician/helmsman
Jean Baptiste Levaillant – Trimmer
Ronan Legoff – Trimmer
François Denis – Bowman

Gitana 11 crew – AS Lease Challenge Multihull Trophy:

Lionel Lemonchois – Skipper
Yann Guichard – Tactician/helmsman
Jean Baptiste Levaillant – Trimmer
Ronan Legoff – Trimmer
Christophe Lassègue – Bowman
François Denis – 2nd bowman
Léopold Lucet – Mainsail trimmer
Cyril Dardashti – piano.

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