Promising start to the season
Highly changeable weather for this May Day holiday weekend Grand Prix in La Trinité sur Mer - seven bitterly fought rounds in changeable weather with lots of rain. It was not until the eighth and final race had been run that the verdict was announced. In spite of the top notch line-up, the first confrontation of the season soon turned out to be a one on one battle between the crews of the only woman skipper on the circuit, Karine Fauconnier and the current ORMA championship titleholder, Franck Cammas. Speed and crew cohesion on both machines came close to sheer arrogance.

Only a minor lack of concentration on the part of Sergio Tacchini (Fauconnier) in the last race enabled Groupama (Cammas) to take first overall at the very last minute, getting its 2004 season off to a good start, the two boats alternating winning the rounds. With the exception, that is, of the coastal race on Saturday afternoon, won by Géant. Fred Le Peutrec skipper on Gitana 11, qualified the round as « anthological » and put up a brave fight, referring to images of the ten multihulls steaming along at full speed, flying their hulls, in the drizzle and through the sprays of seawater at more than 30 knots for most of the course.

The crew of Gitana 11 took 5th overall, meeting the challenge that was set at the beginning, to test the boat's potential against the main boats of the 2004 season. A promising result as the Grand Prix de La Trinité marks the firs time that Fred Le Peutrec has sailed this boat in a race with a new crew. The boat has a new mast, new sails and new foils. Consequently, there are lots of details to get sorted out for both the team and the gear and yet Gitana 11 could have laid claim to a top three places had it not been for a damaged rudder on Saturday afternoon which prevented them from taking part in the fifth round.

Gitana X has a tougher time of it though, in spite of her crew's excellent tactical skill on the start line. Marc Guillemot's crew is a mixture of the older experienced yachtsmen and bright young things but this was just not enough to overcome Gitana X's handicap downwind. They finished at the bottom of the league table. The sailing team and outside observers never the less confirm that the work carried out on the boat to optimise her – the new central rudder and foils have given the boat more balance and greatly improved her upwind performance.

Marc Guillemot – skipper of Gitana X

« We're still in the process of getting to know the boat. She is quite complicated to sail and I think that we can do better. Perhaps not in terms of overall result, but by positioning ourselves better in the heart of the race. All in all, if we take a positive approach to this first event in the Championship, we have managed to do one or two things really well. A couple of our starts were particularly successful. We even managed sometimes to sail on a par with the top boats, including Géant and … Gitana 11 in the 7th round. But she never the less remains a heavy boat to sail and however hard we try we know that we cannot make it into the top three. But I am extremely satisfied to have been able to share these moments with people I like a lot. And let's not forget that whatever happens it's better to be out on the race course than on the dockside. Our main aim right now is to prepare ourselves for The Transat which is not far off at all now (31st May). I want to continue getting to know my boat as best I can. I've got three weeks ahead of me now to train solo and to fen tune my weather analysis with Pierre Lasnier, Luc Poupon, Yann Guichard and Sylvain Mondon. »

Frédéric Le Peutrec – skipper de Gitana 11

« After having raced for three days, we know that we can sail fast. We even did quite well on one or two rounds. We've still got quite a bit of work to do in terms of crew cohesion. The whole stable has to chip in on this front if we are to perform well. As far as I'm concerned, apart from Xavier Dagault with whom I sailed on Fuji and La Trinitaine, I've never sailed with the other crew members of Gitana 11. We are at the stage of getting to know the boat and trying to find common markers. Once or twice we came close but missed out on a couple of tactical opportunities. Those are some of the things we have to sort out. We also had one or two minor technical problems (mainsail hook, winch fixation points, central rudder) which caused us to lose out on a round. In fact, we were really fighting against Géant and Banque Populaire for a place on the podium but the fact that we did not enter the 5th round as we had to repair the rudder put us out of the game a little. Over the weekend, we have seen the boat's true potential. Our job is to exploit that to the full when sailing crewed. For the time being, we are looking to The Transat, the English single-handed transatlantic race from Plymouth to Boston. Now the boat has to be put into solo configuration (automatic pilot, energy on boar, check over the general reliability of the gear and rigging, installation of sails for the Transat, etc…).

Philippe Durr (Swiss) – Gitana Team coach

« The season has got off to a good start. Gitana 11 is giving us what we expected. She obviously performs very well whatever the point of sail, with a slight preference for stronger winds. The crew has obviously got the feel of her and is fast to react up on deck in spite of the odd technical hitch which upset the pace from time to time. The boat has confirmed her potential. The crew is still being run in, and has to perfect her synchronisation in manoeuvres if they are to be competitive in a field where the others top crews have been together for a number of years. The new main sail will be ready for the Grand Prix de Fécamp, in the beginning of August. Gitana 11 will be powered up in light air. As for Gitana X, I'm impressed by Marc's starts in strong winds but we know that the boat is not at her best downwind. Basically what she gains on a beat whe loseds on the runs. That said, the boat has been greatly improved by the work done on her this winter. Marc and his crew have got quite a tough job on their hands if they are to remain motivated throughout the season when the results are essentially a forgone conclusion. But as far as I can see, the guys on Gitana 10 know what they are about.

The shore team

Fred Le Peutrec paid official homage to the Gitana Team², Jean, Laurent, Léo, Pierre, William and Jean Pierre who went to great lengths throughout the Grand Prix so that the Gitana Team ² could sail in the best possible conditions, often requiring commando type interventions between rounds out on the course particularly on Gitana 11. « They were mega-reactive. We bust quite a few pieces of gear on board Gitana 11. They pulled out all the stops in rotten weather, in physically very testing conditions - particularly spending hours at the top of the mast in driving rain or inside the central hull to repair the rudder when the sea was really rough. It is thanks to these guys that we were able to take part in all but one of the rounds of the Grand Prix in the first place. These machines are highly technical and the shore crew play a central role in our being able to push the boat as far as we can. »

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