The Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild in her Rhum configuration
Gitana Team’s week couldn’t have got off to a better start. Indeed this Monday 12 May marks the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild’s refit completion and her return to the liquid element. With this same trimaran, Sébastien Josse will take the start of the Route du Rhum in a little less than six months, on 2 November 2014. Up against the giants of the Ultimate Class, the boat fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will be one of the smallest trimarans of her category and the challenge promises to be a significant one. For all that, Sébastien Josse and the members of Gitana Team have left nothing to chance over the past winter in their bid to optimise the existing platform and adapt her to the task of solo sailing. However, the three month refit, away from prying eyes, has also been an opportunity for the team with the five-arrow logo to create and implement a brand new set of features; a system which ought to prove its worth over the coming weeks during the boat’s commissioning and sea trials.

Originally built to be sailed by six or eight men, the Multi70 was put through her paces in double-handed configuration during the Transat Jacques Vabre. Back in November, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier won that particular duel against the crew of Oman Sail. The rhythm maintained by the four sailors throughout the 5,400-mile sprint between Le Havre and Itajai seriously impressed onlookers. On his arrival in Brazil, Sébastien Josse stepped back on dry land with one certainty: he wanted to take up the gauntlet of competing in the next Route du Rhum aboard this same multihull, solo. In a little less than six months, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild will set sail from Saint Malo to contest his very first Rhum at the helm of a trimaran.

In order to be up to this legendary transatlantic, the most recent of the Gitana fleet has passed through the expert hands of the Gitana Team at her technical base in Lorient, south-west Brittany:The team has done a remarkable job over countless hours as the timing was tight given the boat’s late return from Brazil. In the ensuing three months, we knew we couldn’t launch into a major transformation where the boat would have been extended for example. As such the idea was to use the existing 70-foot base, thus retaining the boat’s key potential, then optimising anything that could be improved within this deadline in readiness for a single-handed transatlantic,” explained Cyril Dardashti, Gitana’s team manager.

A balance between performance and safety

Weight saving was one of the main focuses in the jobs’ list for the team led by David Boileau, the aim being to make the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild lighter and hence more versatile. Hunting down any surplus ounces led to the installation of a new motor, the removal of interior fittings, as well as the creation of a new sail wardrobe by North Sails.

Ergonomics were also a major concern, so as to enable Sébastien Josse to get the very best from his machine during the game of acrobatics he’ll play in the Atlantic: “The Rhum is a solo 10-day sprint. On these boats, you can never be very far from the helming stations as you can spin off the racetrack in an instant. That’s why we decided to shift the chart table (telephones, computers, navigation lights…), which was originally in the central cockpit, and move it up on deck beneath the cuddy. The chart table has been reduced in size, but the cockpit has been effectively increased in volume so as I can live there throughout the race,” explains Sébastien Josse.

Finally, the existing automatic pilot system (which takes over when the skipper isn’t on the helm) has been doubled up for improved safety. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild will have to familiarise himself with this essential bit of kit and ensure it is reliable during the numerous training sessions scheduled, because these instruments are the only things that will enable him to get a few breaks during the race.

The first phase of development

Making ever faster headway, such is the leitmotif for the offshore racing teams. Last summer, the AC72s – the winged catamarans from the America’s Cup – propelled the multihulls towards a new era: that of flying boats. Benefiting from the expertise and experience of the Cup teams in this field, the Gitana Team has in turn launched into the adventure.

As a result, one of the major new features from this winter refit is visible on the aft section of Gitana XV’s floats. The classic float rudders, which previously kitted out the 70-foot trimaran, have been replaced by some rather unique appendages for this type of boat. Indeed the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild is now equipped with T-foil rudders; a device as imposing as it is specialised. Sébastien Josse explains its purpose: “The aim of these new float rudders is to reduce the boat’s pitching in the sea. This increased stability should enable us to make significant gains in terms of average speed and boat handling. The idea isn’t to get Edmond de Rothschild to fly… not yet anyway,” smiles the skipper.

“The time available to us this winter was too short to complete all the modifications we’d previously envisaged: rudders, foils, work on the sail plan… These new appendages are only the first stage in a system we hope to implement further down the line. The aim is to develop the Gitana XV platform even more,” explains Antoine Koch, in charge of Gitana’s design office.
These new rudders are the fruit of what is a close collaboration between Antoine Koch, the naval architect Guillaume Verdier, New Zealander Jamie France and American Bobby Kleinschmit, as well as the company, Pure Design, all of them members of Team New Zealand. The precious parts which make up the rudders – the blade and a lifting surface – were manufactured in the Antipodes at the Core Builder yard, based to the north of Auckland, and arrived in Europe a few weeks ago, so that the members of Gitana Team could adapt them to the protective elements made in-house.

“I’m very keen to get out on the water to observe the modifications we’ve made. I’m really going to go at it hard with my preparations for the Rhum, with some shorthanded sailing for starters before I really get into the thick of things singlehanded. Six months is quite a short space of time to prepare for a meet like this but I’m lucky that I can devote my full attention to it,” concluded the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild, delighted to see his steed tied to the dock again in her home port of Lorient.

With the launch of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, the refit phase is complete and it’s now time for some fine-tuning and sea trials. The cards are now firmly in the hands of Sébastien Josse. True to form, the sailor knows that nothing replaces training, time spent on the water and miles on the clock with his steed to prepare for the Route du Rhum… in just six months’ time!

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