Sébastien Josse relishes his status as an outsider, a status that enables him to approach his first solo transatlantic race on a multihull with confidence and a relaxed state of mind. With some 72 hours until the start, which will take place on Sunday at 1400 hours off the corsair city, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild tells us his objectives and aims on the 3,542-mile course that separates Saint Malo from Pointe-à-Pitre.
Three questions to Sébastien Josse, skipper of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild
Do you have any aims in terms of a result in this Route du Rhum?
S.J: “Usually, when I line-up at the start of a race I’m in it to win it. This Route du Rhum is pretty unique in this regard as we’ve known since the start that on paper we don’t have the boat to win this 10th edition. However, signing up for such a race is not something you refuse. It’s an incredible experience to be part of the star class at the helm of a 21-metre trimaran… even if she’s one of the ‘Tom Thumbs’ of the Ultime (Ultimate) Class. Given the line-up and the giant multihulls, which will set sail alongside me on Sunday, I’d say that finishing 4th would already be a very good result. Such a place would mean that I’d sailed well, making the most of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild’s potential. A podium place is always a possibility, but to my mind that’s only feasible if there are some rather exceptional occurrences during the race… You have to remain humble and the primary goal is to get to the other side of the Atlantic.”
What are your strengths in light of the competition?
S.J: “The preparation has been meticulous both on a technical level, as Gitana Team has done an incredible job, and in the time spent at sea since the boat was relaunched in May. I have absolutely no fear of setting sail singlehanded. I feel good aboard and I’m at ease in all the different conditions. Since we received the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild at the end of 2011, I’ve done a huge amount of sailing on her, whether that is in crewed configuration or the later double-handed sailing with the Transat Jacques Vabre. Today, I know the boat like the back of my hand. Though technology is of course essential in our mechanical sport, the alchemy of the sailor-boat pairing is also very important and it can lead to differences in certain phases of the course.”
How do you gauge the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild’s potential in the Ultime class?
S.J: “It’s hard to answer this question as we haven’t yet sailed against the big boats like Banque Populaire VII, Spindrift 2 or Sodebo Ultim. Over the past year, we haven’t had any proper opportunities to size each other up in racing conditions. However, if we stick to the simple law of physics, namely that length is an unquestionable advantage, logically they’ll be in front of us. The Ultime class is clearly split into three sections: that of the large craft, an intermediary branch with Idec and Prince de Bretagne, and that of the three Multi70s. In up to 12 knots of breeze, the Multi70s have the advantage thanks to being lightweight and having the ability to adapt more quickly, but in excess of 17 knots, it’s our rivals in excess of 30 metres who will be in their element. They’ll be able to lengthen their stride, without being overly pressured in the manœuvres and the piloting. This is particularly true if we encounter big seas. However, the race remains open and we may have a few moves up our sleeve, especially if the tradewinds aren’t where they should be or are weaker than usual.”
A supercharged Multi70
Adapting her to solo configuration, retaining the seaworthiness of the trimaran, whilst striving to make up for the speed differential between the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild and her rivals, in certain conditions at least, such were the sources of the Gitana Team deliberations.
Not having enough time to lengthen the boat, the team very quickly opted for an innovative solution by replacing the classic float rudders with lifting surfaces, which have been highly prized appendages since the last America’s Cup, though they are still rather unique for an oceanic trimaran: “The aim of the winter refit was to make the boat as versatile as possible with the framework we had, whilst retaining the strengths of the platform, namely its reliability and sturdiness. The addition of T-foil rudders on the floats has been successful. After several months of fine-tuning, the system created by Guillaume Verdier and the Gitana Team’s design office, and manufactured in collaboration with Team New Zealand, comes as a great satisfaction. This isn’t restricted solely to the pitching and the drag, which constitutes a safety element. Indeed we’ve gained up to 2 knots on certain points of sail,” Sébastien Josse explains.
With Gitana Team’s ultimate plan being to take this idea further, the lessons learned by Sébastien on the Route du Rhum will be very precious for the future developments that the team wishes to implement over the coming months.