Gitana in the wake of passion

By creating Gitana Team in 2000, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has transformed into a school of excellence what is a family passion first etched out by his forebears in 1876 on the shores of Lake Geneva. Due to celebrate its 140th anniversary in 2016, the Gitana legend is a reflection of its creators: innovative, modern and resolutely geared towards the future.

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Gitana, a legendary saga

For nearly 140 years, “Gitana” has conjured up images of a line of boats, which tell of a family passion that has constantly been nourished by a taste for excellence. The Rothschilds are continuing a maritime tradition of life management skills and innovation, performance and daring.

Once upon a time… in 1876

The history of the Gitana fleet began on the shores of Lake Geneva with Baroness Julie Caroline de Rothschild. This woman certainly boasted a sturdy character, but most of all she was known for her immoderate taste for speed, provided it was in the wake of a boat. In 1876, she commissioned a boat at the Thornycroft yard in Chiswick. Built in England then, on the banks of the River Thames, this first craft would be dismantled, put into crates then definitively assembled near Lausanne. At the helm of Gitana, the first of that name, a very chic 24-metre auxiliary schooner, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s great-great-aunt was the first to exceed the 20-knot barrier and in so doing secured the title of fastest Yachting Lady on the water: it’s 3 April 1879. The industrial revolution is underway and innovation at that time is combined with the powerful inspiration of steam engines. In the fabulous alpine setting, Gustave Eiffel himself is racing against the Gitanas aboard his famous Walkyrie. Reputed to be very fast, French destroyers soon put paid to Baroness de Rothschild’s record. That’s just too bad… she launches Gitana II, which is bigger and above all faster. Aboard this latest creation, “Gitane” secures a new record, just over 26 knots or nearly 50 kilometres an hour. The Gitana saga has begun and soon it is to enjoy a taste of the saltwater as suddenly the bluish setting of Lake Geneva is no longer enough.

The Gitana saga is born of an incredible passion for speed across the water

Much more than fine living

At the tail end of the 19th century, the ‘first’ Baron Edmond de Rothschild played a decisive role in the development of the Yacht Club de France alongside his cousin, Baron Arthur, the President of the Republic Félix Faure and the explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot.
In the 60s, the ‘second’ Baron Edmond, his grandson, revived the family’s keen interest in boats by transforming it into a genuine passion for sailing. He traded motorboats for sailboats and demonstrated a penchant for monohulls. Edmond de Rothschild was to give rise to some of the best craft of his day. From Gitana III to Gitana VIII, designed by the most prominent firms of naval architects, his boats scoured the English Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, making a clean sweep of the prizes: RORC races, Giraglia, Nioulargue (Les Voiles de St Tropez) and the legendary Fastnet Race, on which in 1965 Gitana IV broke the 26-year old event record!
Baron Edmond de Rothschild developed a real passion for these big boats, where the crew takes on its true meaning and it was in this spirit that he launched the A Class or “Maxi” in 1984, of which he was the founder and first president. However, his taste for beautiful boats also led him towards the international 6-metre class (6mJI), genuine jewels of elegance and rapidity. Gitana Senior, nicknamed the Piano, was to be the first of this line, whilst Benjamin de Rothschild also launched himself into the adventure aboard Gitana Junior I, II and III, particularly during the Régates Royales in Cannes. The story wouldn’t be complete without referring to Gitana Sixty, an 8mJI launched in 1986 to compete in the World Cup for the series in Cannes and so christened to celebrate Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s 60th birthday that same year. The crew put together around Benjamin de Rothschild and helmsman Philippe Durr went on to win the event hands down, the son offering the prestigious title to his father.

Each generation carries on the maritime tradition and leaves a singular imprint

When professionalisation rhymes with passion

Edmond de Rothschild passed on the sailing bug to his son. A loyal member of the crew aboard his father’s yachts, sailing and what is more sailing competitions are an integral part of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s genes. However his preference very quickly focused on multihulls, fabulous machines that combine technology and speed and which, very early on, he perceived as the future of sailing.
After several years sailing aboard Force Cash, a 40-foot catamaran, on the waters of Lake Geneva, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild couldn’t resist the call of the open ocean. He purchased the ex-Elf- Aquitaine, a 60-foot trimaran, which was to go by the name of Gitana IX. The adventure is very much on and the owner of the five-arrow team opens a chapter on multihulls in his family’s prestigious maritime history.
From 2000, Gitana X, Gitana 11 and also Gitana 12 rank among the major protagonists from the golden age of the Orma class. However, this notoriety is soon to stretch beyond France’s borders with the maxi-catamaran Gitana 13’s record campaign on all the globe’s seas, and, in another style entirely, by the Extreme40 Edmond de Rothschild’s 4-year campaign on the international Extreme Sailing Series circuit. In 2010, with the Route du Rhum opening its doors to multihulls in the Ultime class, the links with craft of gigantic proportions are renewed. Gitana 11, the trimaran that became legendary after her dazzling victory in the Route du Rhum 2006, would be extended to 77-feet (compared with the original 60) to integrate this category. It was during this same period that construction began on the MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild, rechristened as a Multi70 since the demise of the Multi One Design. In 2013, it was the turn of the flying boats to put in an appearance in the watersports arena; a technological turning point that the team founded by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild would not miss for all the world. This approach is reflected in the modifications made to the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, as well as the acquisition of a GC32, a small 32-foot flying catamaran, which perfectly encapsulates the revolution that is underway.

From the unfailing support of passionate boat owners and the relentless work of a team are born a series of unforgettable human adventures and resounding victories: Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre, Transpac, New York - San Francisco Record, Tea Route and also the legendary OSTAR (The Transat)… An historic multihull protagonist on a global scale for the past 15 years, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has transformed a family passion into a school of excellence.

Though the multihull remains the stable’s favourite craft, a selection of monohulls has found a place for itself here. An agreed ‘departure’ from its course comes about for the sheer beauty of a race that goes by the nickname of the Everest of the Seas and the human and sporting challenge it represents: the Vendée Globe. In this way, over the course of the winter 2006-2007, a 60-foot Imoca class is built with the utmost discretion in New Zealand. Launched in July 2007, the yacht is to be christened Gitana Eighty in tribute to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s father, Edmond de Rothschild, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday during her launch. This year, a brand new monohull designed by naval architect Guillaume Verdier and built by the Multiplast yard in Vannes, is also making its appearance in the Gitana fleet. It’s at the helm of this latest generation yacht that Sébastien Josse will defend the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group during the next round the world race via the three capes without stopovers and without assistance, the start of which is scheduled for 6 November 2016.

In 2016, the Gitana Saga will celebrate the 140th anniversary of its incredible history.

The Legend

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