Cyril Ducrot, a newcomer to the heart of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s ocean racing stable, will assume technical responsibility for the one design throughout the season. He explains the rather atypical assembly of this sports catamaran to us: “The boat arrived in separate pieces in a container. It was a puzzle which had to be assembled and indeed this will be the case throughout the events. The initial assembly took around 4 days but it was important to learn about the boat. The builder, Tornado Sport, came to help us and give us some very useful tips.”
The Gitana crew all present and correct
Yesterday, Wednesday 11th March, the launch of the new Gitana craft saw the first tacks in the bay of Quiberon. It was an opportunity to discover the craft as well as being a big first for all the crew who will be sporting the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group throughout the season on the European circuit of the iShares Cup. Indeed, out of the six rendez-vous which make up the 2009 programme, Yann Guichard will have the firm support of three highly experienced and talented sailors. The first of these, Pierre Pennec, is none other than Yann’s former crew, with whom he sailed the Tornado for seven years. Together the two men defended the colours of France during the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. Their complicity will doubtless be a great asset for the Gitana crew. Hervé Cunningham and Christophe Lassegue will be in position up forward, both to trim the sails and control the manoeuvres. These are the key positions in singular race formats where the windward leeward stretches are particularly short.
The process of getting the feel for the boat and training in La Trinité sur Mer will come to an end on Sunday, at which point the one design will return to the cosy comfort of Gitana’s hangars. It will then be time for Hubert Corfmat, the team’s “artist painter” to adorn the catamaran in her new finery; this innovative decoration designed by Jean-Baptiste Epron/Odouce.
Next on the programme will be another crew training session on the Spanish waters of Valencia. From 6th to 17th April, Yann Guichard and his three sailors will pit themselves against some other teams... teams which are in no way insignificant. Indeed two weeks of work and racing are scheduled with two boats from BMW Oracle and the Extreme 40 Groupama; an initial confrontation which the skipper of Gitana is thrilled about: “Aboard our boat, neither of the four of us has ever sailed an Extreme 40’. It’s not a handicap but we’re still going to have to get our bearings as quickly as possible. And for me sailing with the top names of the moment is the most effective way of getting there. These work sessions are indispensable in making headway quickly.”
Up till the first event of the season, which will be held in Italy from 15th to 17th May in the magical town of Venice, Gitana Team’s training sessions will become increasingly intensive. However, though Yann Guichard’s sporting career is essentially focussed on preparation for this Extreme 40 season, the young sailor is organising his schedule to combine X40 sailing with work sessions centred around Gitana 11. The winning trimaran in the Route du Rhum 2006, which began its refit in Saint-Philibert at the very start of the year, is continuing its metamorphosis.
iShares Cup 2009 Programme
- Venice (Italy) from 15th to 17th May
- Hyères (France) from 3rd to 5th July
- Cowes (England) from 1st to 3rd August
- Kiel (Germany) from 28th to 30th August
- Amsterdam (Holland) from 25th to 27th September
- Almeria (Spain) from 10th to 12th October
Crew of the Extreme Gitana / LCF Rothschild Group
- Yann Guichard / skipper-helm
- Pierre Pennec / mainsail traveller trimmer, tactics
- Christophe Lassegue / headsail trimmer, control of manœuvres
- Hervé Cunningham / headsail trimmer, control of manœuvres
Interview with Yann Guichard, Gitana skipper
Forming a top level crew is always tricky, what were the qualities that guided your choice?
“Above all else, the three sailors who will be accompanying me this year are experienced sailors. They have considerable experience in racing and multihulls. Our new steed lays claim to some unquestionable physical qualities; she’s a demanding boat and the Grand Prix format involves a number of legs and some long days of sailing as a result. However, it was also very important that they had a great capacity to adapt. In fact we’re going to have to sail on some very specific race zones, close to the coast and between buildings at times… Responsiveness, lucidity and adaptability will be the key words aboard I think. Finally, the Extreme 40 class measurement doesn’t impose any weight restrictions on the crew, but as there aren’t many of us aboard, this factor was also important. The Gitana crew will I hope be a good compromise between all those elements.”
The 2009 line-up is continuing to expand with each day that passes; is this a source of pressure or rather additional motivation?
“I am a competitor at heart and I’ve always thought it was more appealing to perform or even win against choice competition. The 2009 line-up, where helmsmen such as Franck Cammas, Loïck Peyron as well as James Spithill are announced, is thus an additional source of motivation. The Extreme 40 circuit today is the only European circuit with such a high sporting level. After four years as a crew and co-skipper within the Gitana Team, I’ve been given the opportunity to express myself at the helm of one of the boats. It makes me feel extremely proud and I’ll be giving it my all to thank Baron Benjamin de Rothschild for the trust he has shown in me.”
Finally, parallel to this already very full sporting project, you’re monitoring Gitana 11’s refit on a daily basis, can you tell us how the work is progressing?
“We’re currently working on modifications to the deck layout. Everything has been thought out and transformed with a view to single-handed racing. A considerable amount of work has also gone into reinforcing the beams and the central hull, because as we’re extending the floats and the central hull, there will be bigger stresses on the platform. This structural element must be finalised for the arrival of the central hull scheduled for the end of April. From that point, the grafting of this new section built in Thierry Eluère’s yard in Arcachon will begin. The refit is being supervised on a daily basis by William Fabulet, who will be Gitana 11’s boat captain on its launch. William knows the boat inside out, he has sound technical experience and I completely trust in him. Another unquestionable quality is that he knows his men and understands each of their schedules perfectly so that everything is done harmoniously in as effective a manner as possible.”