All the solo sailors intending to compete in the Route du Rhum have to complete a qualifier of at least 1,000 miles to validate their registration for the prestigious transatlantic race. Aboard the Multi70 fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse is no exception to the rule. Making the most of a favourable weather window, the skipper of Gitana Team left Lorient last Wednesday, 13 August, for a looped circuit around the Bay of Biscay.
On his return to the port in Brittany’s Morbihan region, the sailor described the conditions he encountered along the way: “During my two and a half days at sea, I had some very varied conditions, between 8 and 28 knots of breeze, which resulted in a full-scale dress rehearsal with upwind and downwind conditions and a lot of manœuvres. I didn’t want to do my qualifier in light airs as they wouldn’t have been representative of the conditions likely to await me as I leave Saint Malo in early November, but over the past few weeks it hasn’t been easy to find any breeze. As such I just had to sit tight for a bit. I set off with a good 28 knots of breeze and I had to negotiate a fair few stormy squalls on the first night, close-hauled in the Bay of Biscay with quite heavy seas. The first tack southwards led me to the north-west of Cape Finisterre before changing tack to head due North towards the middle of the English Channel. After that, conditions pretty much leant themselves to taking a route via the Raz de Sein and then dropping back down to Lorient. It was very interesting to do a spot of ‘pebble-hopping’ in this sector, because according to the conditions, we may be able to take that route at the start of the Route du Rhum.”
Sailing singlehanded is a remarkable and demanding exercise, where being familiar with your steed is just as essential as the sailor’s experience. In this way, besides being compelled to do so by Race Management, completing a qualifier to confront the reality of sailing offshore is an excellent opportunity to go through the moves and see how you handle things: “On this boat, I still have the false references left over from sailing her in crewed configuration, whether that be in terms of speed, trimming or sail configuration… Naturally sailing singlehanded is very different and you have to find and work on a new set of directions for use. To pull that off, there is no miracle cure: you have to increase your time on the water and relearn your automatic reflexes so that everything runs smoothly whatever the conditions… Every sea trial is precious in the bid to gain experience and the necessary reflex actions and this qualifier was the perfect opportunity to continue my apprenticeship. The modifications made to the boat over the past winter have largely been validated, but that’s an ongoing process and we still need to make some improvements, especially with regards to the sailor’s comfort,” admits the skipper of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild.
Between now and the start of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, Sébastien Josse will be making the most of every remaining day to hone his preparation through until the race start on 2 November. On the programme for the skipper then are more and more miles on the clock so as to make the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild reliable and find the essential sailor/boat osmosis that is required for a 3,500-mile transatlantic race in solo configuration on a multihull.
For further information about Sébastien Josse, his career and his achievements: http://www.gitana-team.com/en/gitanateam.sailors.aspx?sebastien_josse
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