Gitana Gears Up for First Encounters

With the newly christened, foiled Mono60s lining up for the Azimut Trophy, Gitana is preparing for the first competitive encounter.

Sea trials showed promise for the Gitana's Mono60 when the boat hit the water in August.Thierry Martinez

In exactly three weeks time, the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015 fleet must be in Le Havre, the historic start venue for the 'Coffee Route'. In one month today, the forty-two duos competing in the 12th edition of the famous transatlantic race will set sail for Itajai, Brazil. The countdown is very much on then for Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier, who are participating in the Trophée Azimut today. This annual meeting in Lorient, south-west Brittany, which consists of a long coastal course starting and finishing in the Morbihan region, is their first encounter with their future rivals. It is therefore an important moment, though clearly with a brand new boat launched just a few weeks ago, the Gitana Team sailors can with all honesty say that they are still familiarising themselves with the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild and have yet to be fully in tune with her.

The first competitive encounter
On launching Edmond de Rothschild in August, the Gitana Team knew that the weeks running up to the Transat Jacques Vabre would be fully packed. As such, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier are making the most of every opportunity that comes their way to familiarise themselves with the boat and get in some serious practice so as they are as ready as can be on 25 October

"The Imocas are complicated boats, which call for a great deal of fine tuning. The Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild has been in the water for just a month and a half and we must have done about ten or so sea trials. Every moment we spend on the water teaches us a huge amount but there is still a long way to go before we can master the subtleties of this jewel of technology. However, let us remember that the goal of this project is that I can set sail on the Vendée Globe in a years time, with a boat that is both reliable and fully optimised. The Trophée Azimut is an excellent test run for us. It was out of the question to miss out on these few miles in race configuration against the class' top players. However, we are approaching it without any pressure for a result given the timing," admitted the skipper of Gitana's new Mono60.

180 miles to size up their performance
Since 2011, the Azimut company has been an annual event for the big names in yachting and is made up of a start and finish in Lorient. In the run-up to this autumn's major offshore event, the sailors are making the most of this offshore race in order to size up the competition one last time. Like last year, the Imoca class boasts a sizeable line-up with some twelve 60 footers setting sail offshore of Groix.

The course put together by Jacques Caraës, the event’s Race Director, is a long 180-mile looped circuit, which will initially lead the fleet towards a waypoint to the south-west of Lorient, around 50 miles offshore of Saint Nazaire. Once around this virtual point, the monohulls will set a course for the SN1 landing mark at the entrance to the Loire estuary. With the SN1 in their wake, they’ll link onto the return leg and the waters off Lorient. Prior to that though, the duos will have to climb further north and leave the yellow Les Glénans mark to starboard before returning to their starting point.

In terms of the weather, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild shed some light on the latest forecasts shortly before leaving the dock: "We will have to head off downwind in a very light WNW'ly wind, bordering on complete calm. This wind is set to veer round before settling in the north-east as it builds. At around midnight, we are likely to have around fifteen knots or so and this breeze is due to remain established until we start heading back towards Lorient. This weather situation will dish up some varied points of sail with some downwind, some upwind as well as some reaching."

Express refit
Last week, the Mono60 returned to the comfort of Gitana Team's technical base for a few days. On the schedule was an express refit aimed at adding a few finishing touches to the interior layout, as well as making some improvements to the ergonomics of the cockpit. Finally, the team made the most of this period to repair the boom, which was damaged during the duo's qualifier for the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Stay up to date with the latest new from the IMOCA 60 class and the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre here.