Gitana back in the Atlantic
After having spent 6 and a half days at sea and covering some 1,660 miles (3,074 km), Gitana has returned to her home port of La Trinité-sur-Mer, completing her qualifying passage for the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race into the bargain. A highly instructive training session for the boat's skipper Lionel Lemonchois and her navigator Marc Guessard, the duo comprising the crew fro this express delivery.

Even if this is not a speed record - changeable weather conditions - the pair did drive Gitana as fast as possible to bring her back to Brittany, pulling out all the stops as they finished crossing the Bay of Biscay. Lionel Lemonchois : was brilliant. A north-westerly wind picked up to around 25 knots (46 km/h). The sea had not started to swell. With two reefs in the main and the small working jib up, we sped along for 150 miles (280 km) at between 27 and 31 knots (50 and 57km/h). We made an average of 25 knots (46 km/h)". Marc Guessard : " was magical to fly along like that in the middle of the night..."

During this short week at sea, the two sailors had the opportunity to fine tune their complementarity for the season's leading event which sets out of Le Havre (Manche) on 2nd November bound for Bahia (Brazil). Marc Guessard : "...It's a first for us on this sort of boat. We needed to see how to sail her two-handed out on the open sea. We got some incredible sensations. Helming on your own in the middle of the night at 20/25 knots (37-46 km/h) when your fellow crew is asleep, is a rare experience, even if it's hard. Ditto when you are falling asleep and you can hear the boat vibrating all over and that there is someone up on deck sailing her fast ...".

No doubt about it, Lionel and Marc have made a major advance in their preparation for this short-handed transatlantic race, and particularly fine tuned their connivance. Marc Guessard's impressions : "... I had a great time. Such a small crew on such a big boat - you feel so small when you have to manoeuvre. But I'm lucky to have a great teacher. Lionel is really at ease and always calm. It's impressive to watch him at work...".

A compliment which the trimaran's skipper receives with irony: "...let's hope that it lasts ! ...We asked Marc months ago if he would like to come and sail this race with me. He was able to make himself available and I'm really pleased about it. I already appreciated him two years ago on another trimaran for his crew management qualities. He does an excellent job of that on Gitana. Today he confirms that he is an excellent co-skipper. There aren't that many people in fact with whom I could sail two-handed. Marc is one of them...".

Back into the shed

As from Monday, Gitana is going back to her original builder, Multiplast, where she will be hauled out for two or three weeks for the first mid-season improvements (cf Previous press release "After Marseille" on Lionel Lemonchois : "...We'll be staying there as little as possible before the Grand Prix de Fécamp, and then getting back to training. She'll be back in the yard in September to complete the improvements and the preparation for the Transat Jacques Vabre...".

The Gitana Team has therefore embarked upon a rather studious summer interlude to be fighting fit for the 4th Grand Prix of the Ocean-Racing Multihull Association (ORMA) World Championship in Fécamp (Manche) from 28th to 31st August.

Looking back over a short week at sea by Marc Guessard

Wednesday 9th July - Start

Left La Ciotat (next to Marseille) at the end of the day, after two days spent preparing and fine tuning the boat to be sailed two-handed. Manageable head wind.

Thursday 10th July - Day 1

Wind now following. Clam sea. Boat just slips effortlessly along. Calm conditions lie ahead as we approach Majorca. Gennaker (big balloon jib) up.

Friday 11th July - Day 2

Wind increasingly changeable. Gitana under engine power off Majorca. The island looks really desert-like and mountainous. We're using the return of the wind to sort out the finer adjustments of our automatic pilot. Gybing downwind and in the evening we should pass Alicante on the coast of Spain to enter the Alboran Sea.

Saturday 12th July - Day 3

The wind has abandoned us again. Engine power once again before the westerly wind picks up to pass Gibraltar. There's even the odd puff at 30/35 knots (55-65 km/h). We're slaloming between cargo vessels in the strait.

Sunday 13th July - Day 4

Crossing the Gulf of Cadix (south-west Spain), headed for the Cape of Saint-Vincent, extreme tip of the Iberian peninsula. Very changeable head wind. We're heading out to sea to pick up more wind.

Monday 14th July - Day 5

Not the right sort of weather for writing. We're in a shaker, head to wind with strong winds and seas, 100 miles (185 km) from Cape Finisterre (north-west tip of Spain).

Tuesday 15th July - Day 6

Home is in sight. 320 miles (593 km) from Belle-Ile (opposite La Trinité-sur-Mer). Waiting for strong westerly winds. Looks like we're in for a lively finish.

Wednesday 16th July - Day 7

The strong north-westerly forecast is here. Gitana is flying along in the middle of the night. Rattled through the last 150 miles (80 km). For one hour, we've had between 27 and 31 knots (50-57 km/h). Magic...Gitana. At 11h00, we dock in the harbour of La Trinité.

More information about the ORMA World Championship on :

More information about the Transat Jacques Vabre on :

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