A breezy ArMen Race
Setting out from the bay of Quiberon, no two races are the same for Gitana Team. Last Saturday, aboard Gitana 11, Sébastien Josse’s crew were at the start of the Tour de Belle-Ile. After four hours labouring around the course in very light airs, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild ranked in 2nd place after a considerable course reduction. A few days on, the men of Gitana Team are back in the Breton port of La Trinité sur Mer to contest the 3rd edition of the ArMen Race with the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild. This morning, a few hours before the start, discussions again involved a shortened course, but for very different reasons this time around. Indeed the very light airs have given way to a pretty strong westerly breeze, which bodes well for a fast, lively race.

Whilst last Saturday’s Tour de Belle-Ile, saw Sébastien Josse and his crew having to deal with a very light wind, this Thursday there’s a rather generous breeze set to accompany the ArMen Race fleet throughout the competition. As such the course has been reduced down to 320 miles (instead of the initially planned 330), the route of which has been modified due to the weather conditions: “The course has been shortened by around ten miles, but most importantly the route has been modified so that we bypass the Occidentale de Sein and Baie d’Audierne sectors. The grib files are indicating a 3m swell around Audierne then 4 to 5m off the Occidentale de Sein. The decision taken by Race Management to send us towards the island of Yeu for two laps is a wise decision,” commented the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.

The new course has been geared up so that the fleet of large craft, of which Edmond de Rothschild is part, head for the island of Yeu after keeping to La Teignouse channel and leaving Belle-Ile to port. Once the fleet are around Yeu in France’s Vendée region, Sébastien Josse and his crew will begin the long beat towards the island of Groix, offshore of Lorient, Brittany. At that point they’ll sail downwind back towards Belle-Ile en Mer, where a mark will be awaiting them off Le Palais. It will then be time to launch into the final loop of the circuit towards the island of Yeu:It promises to be bracing with the wind forecast to be between 20 and 25 knots. The weather is pretty shifty, so we’re sure to have gusts of around 30 knots, particularly late afternoon or tonight,” announced Sébastien Josse at the final crew briefing. “The course modification announced this morning alters the deal quite dramatically. The tacks will be a lot shorter at around two hours between each island. The coastal phases will call for a number of manoeuvres to be performed by the crew. The course is relatively open, but given the weather forecast, the tacks will be predominantly compulsory, alternating between upwind and downwind. The difference will be made as we round the different islands, with good control required on the approach and rounding of Belle-Ile, Yeu as well as Groix.”

It is at 1455 hours local time, bringing up the rear of the general fleet, that the three competing MOD70s will set sail from La Trinité-sur-Mer. They’ll be accompanied by around fifteen other boats – a mixture of Ultimates, Multi50s and 30-foot Multis – in a westerly wind of 20-25 knots. It promises to be a superb spectacle and the reference time for the event, held by Gitana 11 since 2011 with a time of 14 hours and 5 minutes, will doubtless be in the sights of the largest craft, namely Banque Populaire VII and Prince de Bretagne!

With one month to go till the Route des Princes, a tour of Europe aboard multihulls which Edmond de Rothschild will compete in, the ArMen Race is the first of the class’ confrontations for Sébastien Josse and his six crew. Indeed, they’ll be on a level pegging with Virbac-Paprec and Oman Air: “This race is a good rehearsal for the Route des Princes. The forecast conditions are perfect to come and size up the competition. The last routing indicated a time of around fifteen hours to complete the course. As such, it’ll be a real sprint, with everyone on deck and a solid relay system between the different helmsman so we can get the very most out of our machine.”

According to the latest estimations in the MOD70 category, the first one-design should make it back to the channel in La Trinité-sur-Mer in the early hours of tomorrow, just a short time after the Ultimates. However, given the shifty nature of the weather conditions and the sea state, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild isn’t ruling out a night finish. Whatever happens, the race is likely to be fast with no sleep on the programme for the men of Gitana Team.

Track the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild’s progress at: www.dolink.fr/carte/armen-race-2013


Sébastien Josse (skipper)

Charles Caudrelier – Thomas Rouxel – Florent Chastel – Olivier Douillard – Jean-Christophe Mourniac

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