An emphasis on solo sailing with three months until the Route du Rhum
Since the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was relaunched back in May, the members of Gitana Team, like her skipper, have been making the most of every opportunity on the event schedule to develop, validate and make the Verdier design even more reliable prior to the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe. In this way, over recent weeks Charles Caudrelier has been able to tick off his qualifier for the legendary transatlantic race. A week ago to the day, the five-arrow giant and her crew also managed to secure victory in the Finistère Atlantique - Action Enfance after an epic six-day sprint between Concarneau, the Canaries and the Azores, which involved a bitter duel with Banque Populaire XI. However, time is ticking by very fast, too fast even, and with just over three months until the main event in Saint Malo, the schedule is very tight. As such, just back from a double-handed 48-hour sea passage, it has finally been decided not to make for Cherbourg and the start of the Drheam Cup, but rather to continue training and testing in solo configuration, with a focus on autopilot matters.
Technical changes prior to the Rhum   

Over the coming days… weeks, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will be kitted out with new appendages to switch over to her definitive Route du Rhum configuration. However, this new mode naturally involves some test phases and further validation in situ.     

Indeed, for the major autumnal meeting, the flying maxi-trimaran will boast a new set of foils, a Mk2, which Gitana Team has been working on for the past two years and more: “These new foils are larger than the previous ones and above all their shape has been optimised to erase any issues with cavitation, which we may encounter at high speed. Initial testing began last year, but they didn’t have the expected results, so we’ve had to revise them to come up with this new version. The sea trials over the coming weeks – early August for the first one and late August to early September for the second – will be very important, as they will determine which version crosses the Atlantic,” admits Sébastien Sainson, Director of Gitana’s design office.     

That’s not all though, since the start of the autumn season in September will also be punctuated by the installation of a new central daggerboard ‘shaft’ as explained by Pierre Tissier, the team’s Technical Director: “Along with the improvements to the foils, we’re also working on a new central daggerboard for which we’ve optimised the profile and the junction between the elevator and the ‘shaft’. The Maxi is making faster and faster headway so logically we need to gradually develop the appendages in a bid to homogenise the flow and thus address cavitation issues.”   

Finally, the composites team is also ready to get down to fine-tuning the Maxi’s ergonomics for solo sailing, with the emphasis on making the modifications requested by Charles Caudrelier, which involve a customised watch station being introduced at the centre of the cockpit. This is a strategic move given that the solo sailor’s comfort is directly linked to the boat’s performance. 

Qualification mission for Morgan Lagravière 

Crewing aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild since 2019, Morgan Lagravière has been selected as Charles Caudrelier’s replacement skipper in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe. More than just a title, this role comes with numerous responsibilities as well as obligations, including completing a similar qualification course to that of Charles. Given the aforementioned technical schedule, Gitana Team’s aim is to tick off the required 1,200-mile sea passage in solo configuration as soon as possible, before the end of the summer. In this way, getting straight back to business just five days after their victorious arrival in Concarneau, the two men headed back out to sea on Wednesday for a first 48-hour test run: “Despite the experience racked up aboard the boat and the miles covered in crewed configuration on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, I really got a sense of the change of dimension when sailing double-handed with Charles. These boats are full-on and setting sail on my qualifier in solo format requires a great deal of preparation. We’re currently working towards that and it’s thrilling.”   

Solo format instead of the Drheam Cup 

Expected to take the start of the Drheam Cup, a race they won back in 2020, Charles Caudrelier’s men have finally opted not to head over to Cherbourg-Octeville on Sunday. Indeed, their various technical constraints and the objectives discussed above are not in line with a crewed race spanning several days. Charles Caudrelier explains this choice in more depth: “In 2020, we were lucky enough to participate in the Drheam Cup, which was an excellent race for training up our young crew prior to our Jules Verne attempts. This year, we had wished to repeat the performance, but we have to face the fact that we have a very tight schedule. With just three months until the Rhum, you have to make a choice and despite the quality of the event and the route on offer, crewed sailing is no longer our priority. Morgan and I have just got back from 48 hours of sailing. We hunted down some strong breeze offshore of Cape Finisterre, which enabled us to inject some intensity into this sea passage,  with downwind and upwind conditions, but essentially the primary goal was for Morgan to get a feel for sailing double-handed, so he’s more comfortable sailing singlehanded for his qualifier. In addition to this qualification, which we hope to complete as quickly as possible so we can devote all our time to technique and making the boat reliable prior to the Rhum, I clearly need to cover some miles in solo or shorthanded ‘config’. Amidst the technical constraints and the constant tweaking on these boats of ours, every hour spent sailing in performance mode counts. We’ve been sailing in crewed format for the past 3 years and now it’s time for solo sailing and the Route du Rhum, which is my primary concern and something I want to focus all my energy on.”    

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