The Atlantic with four hands
With 4 days to go till the official start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Edmond de Rothschild duo is back in Le Havre. On the programme: safety briefing, media interviews, not to mention the daily weather sessions to enable the crew to start getting a handle on what awaits them. Sailing a 21-metre trimaran doublehanded is not a trivial matter. Aboard the multihull fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier will be giving their all in what is the longest course in the history of the event. Indeed, no fewer than 10,000 kilometres separate Le Havre from the port of Itajai in Brazil, which equates to nearly quarter the way around the world. Despite intense preparation and a victory in the Route des Princes in June, the duo are tackling this transatlantic race with the utmost humility.

Though both started out in the Figaro class and have raced an Imoca monohull and competed in the Volvo Ocean Race, traversing the Atlantic in a multihull and in doublehanded configuration to boot, remains a first. Sébastien has racked up a great many miles in his three years at the helm of the trimarans fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. For his part, Charles prepared for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2005 aboard the Orma trimaran skippered by Yvan Bourgnon and won the European Tour 2012 with Michel Desjoyeaux. Though the two men are sharing their respective experiences, there will be no bragging involved. “Sailing the Multi70 doublehanded is a lot more stressful and physically demanding than in crewed configuration,”Sébastien affirms: “It’s not something new, nor is it impossible as a lot of sailors raced doublehanded back in the day of the Orma trimarans (60-foot) in the nineties and early 2000. Today our boats are less powerful and less flighty, but it’s still a tough exercise, which requires the utmost vigilance. Charles and I know that for around 14 days we can’t let our attention stray for an instant, which is very different to our experience of racing monohulls. We’re heading into unknown territory here. It’s not a fear, but rather a fresh challenge and when you’re a professional sportsman, having the opportunity to push back the limits is incredibly stimulating.”

Striking the right balance

When they detail how things are organised aboard, the ability to adapt appears to be crucial for these two offshore experts. “The points of reference we’ve acquired stem from crewed racing so we have to break away from those,” Charles explains. “It’s not about striving to push the boat along at full pelt, instead it’s about striking a balance in order to make fast headway whilst remaining upright as the risk of capsize is still felt everywhere on a multihull. The danger lies in trusting in your instincts gleaned from crewed configuration and not correcting these reflex actions to doublehanded sailing, which ultimately consists of racing singlehanded for half the time.”

In fact, what usually takes six people to do will have to be done by two. Helming, trimming the sails, manoeuvring, making strategic decisions, everything will have to be combined with the minimum amount of sleep and meals that are as balanced as possible. “We’ll have two modes” Charles explains, “In manageable conditions, one of us will be able to get some rest. However, when conditions are feistier or we’re really on the attack, the person who isn’t on watch will remain on stand-by so as to be able to react as quickly as possible. Other than that, all the manœuvres will be done by both of us so as to save time and share the physical effort. After that it’s up to us to master the essentials as best we can over the two-week race.” 

Life on the edge

The Multi70s are one-designs that were originally intended to be sailed in crewed configuration, so a few measures had to be implemented to adapt the machine to doublehanded configuration. “We’ve added some jammers, an aft ballast tank and we also have an anti-capsize* system, which is in no way a control tool, rather it serves solely as a safety system in the event that the boat lifts up to a critical point, Sébastien explains. “Nothing replaces the responsiveness of a crew however and we have the main controls within reach when we’re at the helm. As such the main issue will revolve around constantly striking the best balance between speed and taking risks.”

A far cry from the notion of a contemplative sailor, the pilot of the multihull does become involved in a certain type of introspection. Living with the stress, noise and humidity and bearing the burden of managing such a boat for half the time forces you to listen to what your body is telling you so as not to overdo things. Knowing that you need to sleep before you become exhausted, getting enough sleep to double up the effort again when you need to, all these elements have an impact on performance. On the other hand, the very idea of taking a book along to read raises a smile; only Sébastien will listen to a bit of music to extract himself from the boat and get off to sleep. There are no gastronomic extravagances to report either, aside from cheese and cooked Corsican meats as well as ready meals cooked up by the chef of the Domaine du Mont d’Arbois to embellish the freeze-dried menus.

This long race from the North to the South Atlantic is sure to put the sailors through the mill and one thing is certain: the arrival on Brazilian shores is likely to have a very fine flavour!  

* Electronic device that triggers a dumping (easing) of the mainsail or the headsail when the trimaran exceeds a certain heeling angle, which is defined by the sailors beforehand.

Note to editors

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 Multi70s*: Sunday 3 November
Start for the Multi70s: 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 Multi70s will take the start in the order that they complete this preliminary course.

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