The hour has struck for the initial confrontations
Despite the very windy conditions which are currently being dished up on the tip of Brittany, the most recent of the Gitana fleet, the 70-feet one-design trimaran Edmond de Rothschild Group, was relaunched on Tuesday afternoon. Sébastien Josse and the members of Gitana Team made the most of a brief period of calm to get her back into salt water in record time. After a refit of just a matter of weeks, the bulk of which was devoted to the maintenance and checking over of the sensitive sections of the boat, the multihull fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is ready to attack the 2012 sailing season. Indeed the coming year is going to be an eventful one, though the key meetings will unquestionably be the Krys Ocean Race in July, and the European Tour in September.

For Sébastien Josse’s crew, the countdown to the first official event of the Multi One Championship has begun. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group and his men, will compete in four pre-season events during the two months that precede the Krys Ocean Race. The aim is naturally to weigh up the benefits of their winter training session in Morocco, as well as continue with their preparation with a view to the inaugural transatlantic race of 2012: “Aside from a few training sessions with several other boats, we’re still lacking references. As such the whole team is keenly awaiting the initial confrontations in race mode. This winter, during our work sessions in Agadir, we focused on technique, fluidity in the manœuvres and onboard communication. In short, we got a handle on all the reflex actions which have to become automatic when we’re out on the water. The phase we’re now entering, involving four pre-season races, is a more psychological phase where we’ll be able to gauge how the crew copes when there are stakes at play. We’ll be in competition mode, up against rivals who have the same technical qualities as us on paper, where the human element will be what makes the difference”, explains Sébastien Josse.

The Tour de Belle-Ile for starters

It’s with the Tour de Belle-Ile that the one-design Edmond de Rothschild Group will kick off her competition season. This annual race, which this year celebrates its fifth anniversary, gathers together small and large boats on the same course, thus enabling professionals and amateurs alike to rub shoulders on a shared start line. For the 502 boats registered[1], the starting gun will sound out across the Baie de Quiberon on Saturday 28 April, shortly after 1000 hours local time. The fleet, as original as it is disparate, will have to complete a 44-mile course taking them around the island of Belle-Île, an island which has to be left to port. Particularly interested by the fact that the race will be playing host to two other 70-feet one-designs (Foncia and Spindrift Racing), it’s very likely that Sébastien Josse will also be keeping a wary eye on the time. Indeed the record to beat - 2 hours and 42 minutes – is none other than the one set last year by Gitana 11.

Grand Prix Guyader, ArMen Race and SNSM Trophy before heading offshore

The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group and his crew will be taking a few days break – given the Mayday holiday – before setting sail for nearby Douarnenez, where the Grand Prix Guyader will run from 3 to 6 May. On the programme are two days of long coastal courses followed by a weekend coloured by speed runs. The dual format of this meeting will enable the Gitana Team to validate the adjustments they’ve made, especially during the long legs where they’ll be up against Michel Desjoyeaux’ crew. In mid May, after another training session at the designated centre in Port-la-Forêt, Gitana XV will be back in the Baie de Quiberon to take part in the ArMen Race, which involves a big 300-mile looped circuit from La Trinité-sur-Mer with the course marks of Sein and Île d’Yeu to the West. During this event, Sébastien Josse will be welcoming Pierre Pennec aboard. The skipper of the Extreme 40 Edmond de Rothschild Group will thus take up the ‘offshore’ format again, with a view to his participation in a leg of the European Tour: “I’m very happy to have been invited along by Sébastien and I’m sure I’ll really enjoy getting back aboard a large oceanic trimaran. They’re such fabulous machines… These few miles offshore will also enable me to combine physical preparation and my passion, so I’m keen to get going!” admitted Pierre Pennec last week in Qingdao. Finally, as is the case each year, the Gitana Team will also be in Saint Nazaire to support the SNSM (equivalent of the RNLI in the UK). The start of the eighth edition of the record for the benefit of the lifeboat men and women, will take place on Sunday 3 June.

Sébastien Josse and his men have a busy pre-season programme ahead of them then. However, this schedule, concocted by the skipper himself, will enable them to rack up some precious miles and have greater confidence in their abilities when they set off on the Krys Ocean Race (start on 7 July 2010 in New York). In the meantime, and from this afternoon, Edmond de Rothschild Group will be joining two of her future rivals (Foncia and Oman Sail) in the context of a two-day training session organised by the Pole Finistère Course au Large (Offshore racing hub) in Port-la-Forêt. The warm-up promises to be pretty boisterous with a wind of between 25 and 30 knots this Thursday.

[1] With 502 entries, the Tour de Belle-Ile is enjoying a record participation, thus confirming its status as the number one sailing event in France, which it secured last year.

The dates for the 2012 programme

Tour de Belle-Ile: 28 April

Grand Prix de Douarnenez Guyader: From 3 to 6 May

ArMen Race: From 18 to 21 May

SNSM Trophy: From 1 to 3 June

Krys Ocean Race (Crewed transatlantic race): start on 7 July from New York – estimated finish in Brest on 14 July

European Tour (Crewed configuration): start from Kiel (Germany) on 2 September

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