Saturday, 4 June 2011
The ArMen Race is a qualifier for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2011
Gitana 11. Image copyright Christophe Launay/Tour de Belle Ile/www.sealaunay.com
by Kate Jennings
Whilst awaiting delivery of the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild Group, Sébastien Josse is snapping up every opportunity to rack up the miles at that helm of Gitana 11. The ArMen Race, a newcomer in the French sailing landscape, where professionals and amateurs race along an original course between La Trinité-sur-Mer, Ile de Sein and Ile d’Yeu, was an opportunity not to be missed. After setting off yesterday, Thursday 2 June, shortly after 1530 GMT, the maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was back in its home port in the early hours of this Friday morning, at 0540 GMT precisely. Sébastien Josse and his five crew benefited from optimum weather conditions to set the first reference time of the event. As such, they completed the theoretical 330 mile course in 14 hours and 5 minutes, which equates to an average of 23.41 knots.
The only trimaran of the G Class to take the start, Gitana 11 was logically the first to cross the finish in the ArMen Race this morning at the entrance to the channel into La Trinité-sur-Mer, SW Brittany. However, more important than the ranking, Sébastien Josse and his men were aiming to set a reference time: “The 300 mile race went just about perfectly and we had to put in very few manœuvres, which enabled us to set a good course time of 14 hours and 5 minutes.
"The weather scenario was ideal. We had between 18 and 25 knots of North-Easterly breeze and relatively flat seas throughout the race, except for the approach of the Occidentale de Sein (a course mark lying to the West of the ArMen lighthouse). At that point we had a two metre Westerly swell which was picking up heavy seas that were running counter to the strong currents that characterise the zone. Aboard Gitana 11, that led to some lively wave-jumping action but it was a fantastic spectacle, heightened by the fact that we rounded the mark at sunset,” admitted Sébastien Josse once back on shore.
The ArMen Race was the second race aboard the maxi-trimaran Gitana for Sébastien Josse. And though the skipper is clearly itching to take the helm of his future steed, MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild Group, at the end of October 2011, and see how she fairs against the competition, he’s also savouring his accelerated multihull apprenticeship: “Before we set off, Antoine Koch ran the routing for us which called for us to race at 90% of the boat’s polars and we respected that, which means that we were able to sail Gitana 11 at the height of her potential.
"This race enabled me to discover the boat in steadier conditions with some long tacks, which wasn’t the case during the recent Tour de Belle-Ile. Each time I go out on the water I learn a great deal. The more time I have on the water, the more at ease I feel with the boat. The speeds we recorded are something you can really feel and last night we achieved some peak speeds of 38 knots! I’m incredibly lucky to have the chance to learn on one of the finest boats in the world and each time I sail her I really enjoy it, even though the stress in multihull sailing is always palpable”, recalled the sailor from Nice.
In a little over a fortnight’s time, Gitana 11 will be in Saint Nazaire to take part in the Record SNSM (French RNLI equivalent), the start of which is scheduled for Sunday 19 June at 1700 GMT. The only multihull of its category to compete last year in what is now a classic race for the benefit of the lifeboatmen, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will this year be joined by Banque Populaire V. Measuring 130 feet in length, which equates to a waterline 20 metres longer than Gitana 11, she will doubtless prove to be a ‘sizeable’ adversary.
However, rather than imagining that they’ll be able to race on equal terms, Sébastien Josse and his crew will be keen to improve on the previous time set over the 360 mile course by the Gitana Team back in 2010, which amounted to 19 hours 39 minutes and 58 seconds.
The crew of Gitana 11 on the ArMen Race
Sébastien Josse - skipper / David Boileau - Florent Chastel - Cyril Dardashti - Olivier Douillard – Antoine Koch
The next races for Gitana 11
- 19-21 June: Record SNSM starting out from Saint Nazaire
- 14 August: Rolex Fastnet Race starting out from Cowes (Isle of Wight)