Fifteen days away from setting sail for Le Havre
Departure time is fast approaching for the ninety sailors signed up for the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre! The capsize of Virbac Paprec 70 offshore of Lorient yesterday is naturally on everyone’s minds, but the incident won’t call into question the participation of the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. As such, in a fortnight’s time, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier will bid farewell to their home port of Lorient bound for Le Havre, where the start of the 11th edition will be given a few days later. Indeed it’s on Sunday 3 November that the fleet will officially set sail on the famous transatlantic race whose destination this year is Brazil. At this stage in the sailing calendar, the MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild, along with the duo who will helm her across the 5,400-mile course, is obviously ready for action. However, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier have no intention of downing tools between now and the big day. Instead the two sailors are going out for day sails to keep on the pace, as well as making the most of their final days on shore to hone their physical preparation; a point which is likely to prove extremely crucial aboard these large multihulls.

With just four weeks to go until the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the MOD70 class has suffered another severe blow. Yesterday, as she was training offshore of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Virbac Paprec 70 – one of Edmond de Rothschild’s adversaries in the race – capsized. The incident occurred in some manageable if shifty wind conditions. According to the various elements communicated by Jean-Pierre Dick’s team, the duo was taken by surprise by a gust of wind. At present, the Absolute Dreamer team has not yet indicated whether or not the 70-foot trimaran will take the start in Le Havre. However, given the remaining time and the damage caused during the capsize, it would seem rather unlikely that the team will participate. Sébastien Josse expresses his views on the matter with his first words directed at Jean-Pierre Dick and his men: “We feel sorry and very sad for the Virbac Paprec team as we know how difficult and demanding it is to line up for the start of a race and how much work it represents both for the shore crew and the sailing crew. This capsize is also bad news for us as there will now be just two of us (with Oman Sail) in our category participating in the Transat,” lamented the skipper before going on to discuss safety: “In multihull sailing, the risk of capsizing is in evidence every time you go out on the water, at every moment. They are very taxing boats. We know that a momentary lapse of concentration can cause you to spin off the track. It happened to Jean-Pierre and Roland yesterday, but nobody’s immune to it and you have to constantly bear that in mind when you sail these boats. Edmond de Rothschild will certainly be at the start in Le Havre. We’ve put a lot of care and attention into preparing for this race; the team’s been geared towards this objective for nearly a year. We’ve modified the MOD as a result, through the addition of an aft ballast tank as well as the installation of an anti-capsize system. Apparently Virbac didn’t have this system on their boat. We’ve installed all the safety points that are currently known about so that Charles and I can set off with confidence. We know our limits aboard and we make sure that we keep in mind the fact that these boats can flip over. That’s all part and parcel of sailing such boats!” the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild admits.

The team have a target of Friday 25 October 1200 noon, which is the deadline set by the organisers for all those competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013 to arrive in Le Havre. As such, the week of 21 October will be synonymous with a significant ‘transhumanist movement’ towards Upper Normandy for those craft based on Atlantic shores. This will be the case for the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, whose departure from Lorient is scheduled between 21 and 23 October according to the weather conditions. Indeed, though the 320 miles separating the two towns is likely to be devoured at quite a lick by the MOD Edmond de Rothschild, the wind gods will have to be on her side.

By taking the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier are preparing to complete their first transatlantic race sailing a multihull double-handed. And yet the two sailors certainly aren’t rookies as far as offshore racing is concerned: Solitaire du Figaro, Vendée Globe, Jules Verne Trophy, Transat Jacques Vabre as well the Volvo Ocean Race… the list of achievements racked up by the men of Edmond de Rothschild speaks volumes about their vast experience. Benefiting from a start to the season in crewed configuration aboard the 70-foot trimaran, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier have gently got the measure of the exercise that awaits them. Winners of the ArMen Race back in May and then the Route des Princes (Multihull Tour of Europe) in June, the duo has since been racking up a number of sea miles in double-handed mode and didn’t have a moment’s hesitation at the prospect of lining up in this same configuration at the start of the legendary Rolex Fastnet Race back in August. In addition to qualifying for the Jacques Vabre, the 600-mile course between the Isle of Wight and Plymouth (via the famous Irish lighthouse that gives the event its name) took them on a steep learning curve and enabled the Edmond de Rothschild pairing to make the definitive switch to double-handed configuration. As such it’s a honed crew, determined to perform well, that will present itself in Le Havre over the coming days.

Avoiding dropping off the pace between now and the start

“With a month to go until the start, we’re still going out for day sails, but now it’s much more about not dropping off the pace and losing our automatic reflexes. After a few days without sailing, we get our bearings again pretty quickly on the boat, but you really get the sense that it’s not as fluent as when we’re doing intensive sailing. It’s very important to keep our sea-legs and to stay in contact with the boat, particularly given the fact that once we arrive in Le Havre, we can no longer leave the Bassin Vauban before 3 November. Our delivery trip is scheduled for a fortnight’s time. As I said before, these few miles to get to Le Havre will be our last chance to sail before the prologue so we’re going to try to ensure they’re educational. Next week, the shore crew will carry out a final major check-up of the boat and get her into race mode so we’re ready to cast off,” Sébastien Josse explains.

The Bernot – Koch pairing, weather routers for Edmond de Rothschild

“Sébastien and I will make the most of next week (week beginning 14 October), once the boat is alongside the dock for her final inspections by the shore crew, to head down to La Rochelle. It’s here that Jean-Yves Bernot and Antoine Koch will work, who are our weather routers for this race. We have the advantage that we know them very well and Antoine boasts the dual profile Sébastien and I were looking for. He naturally has a solid understanding of the weather, but above all he’s a sailor. He has a perfect understanding of how the boat handles in the different conditions we may encounter and he also has a very good vision of how we will react aboard; how we handle stress and fatigue etc. It’s Jean-Yves’ job to decipher the general grib files and it’s down to Antoine to adapt them so as to draw up our strategy on the water. Today, it’s still much too early to know how this transatlantic race will pan out. However, we’re envisaging a tough start, with a low rolling through over the opening hours of the race. At this time of year, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to have to deal with such conditions. If it pans out differently, so much the better, but we’re prepared for it,” Charles Caudrelier says assuredly.

Finally, the physical preparation is still just as much of a focus on Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier’s schedule. With cycling, swimming, running and stretching, the duo is linking together a long series of training sessions. At the end of September, they also allowed themselves a few days training at altitude to round off their programme with some climbing and walking in the mountains. Accommodated in Megève, at the Domaine du Mont d’Arbois, which belongs to the Rothschild family, the sailors of Gitana Team were able to get some fresh air into their lungs as well as recharge their batteries.

The Edmond de Rothschild duo

Sébastien Josse, skipper
38 years of age, lives with his partner
6 Solitaire du Figaros, 2 Vendée Globes, 1 Volvo Ocean Race, 1 Jules Verne Trophy
2011, joined the Gitana Team and performed his first tacks on an oceanic multihull
3rd participation in the Transat Jacques Vabre, 1st on a multihull
To find out more about Sébastien Josse:

Charles Caudrelier, co-skipper
39 years of age, married, two children
8 Solitaire du Figaros, 11 transatlantic races, 1 Volvo Ocean Race
4th participation in the Transat Jacques Vabre, 2nd on a multihull, including 1 victory in 2009 in the Imoca class with Safran
To find out more about Charles Caudrelier:


Transat Jacques Vabre

11th edition, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
Double-handed transatlantic race between Le Havre and Itajaí (Brazil)
5,400 miles to cover over a direct route
4 classes of boat entered (Class40’, Imoca60, Multi50 and MOD70), 45 duos competing
Prologue for the MOD70s*: Sunday 3 November
Start for the MOD70s: between 3 and 8 November (exact date to be announced on 1 November according to the weather conditions)

* An inshore course of around forty miles with a sprint between Le Havre and Etretat and back. This prologue will count towards the overall ranking as the MOD70s will take the start in the order that they complete this preliminary course.

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