Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Gitana 11 au Record SNSM. Image © Bruno Bouvry / Record SNSM.
by Kate Jennings
The seventy boats participating in the 7th edition of the SNSM Record, set off yesterday at 1900 hours from Saint Nazaire on France’s Atlantic coast. Thanks to weather conditions which favoured her ability to slip along, Gitana 11 crossed the finish line, situated at the foot of the eastern pier in the port of Saint Nazaire, this Monday morning at 08h18’45’’ GMT, two and a half hours after the brand new record holder. The maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild covered the 360 miles of the theoretical course, which involved two looped circuits between Saint Nazaire and Sainte Marine (southern Finistère), in 14 hours 18 minutes and 45 seconds. Measuring 40 metres longer, it came as no surprise that Banque Populaire V snatched the new event reference time. However Sébastien Josse and his six crew were able to fully appreciate this second place, which they earned after a coastal sprint at an average of more than 25 knots, compared with 18 in 2010! The skipper of Gitana 11 and his men were thus 5 hours quicker than the time set last year by the 77 foot maxi-trimaran.
On an express ride in a grey, wet atmosphere for his fourth participation in the SNSM Record, the first as skipper of Gitana, Sébastien Josse barely had time to appreciate the landscape: “The weather conditions for this record weren’t ideal but they were clearly favourable for setting reference times. Overall we had more wind than forecast. We were expecting 18 to 20 knots but it was more like 22 to 23 knots, which we didn’t mind. With the forecast passage of a front during our first climb towards Sainte Marine, we knew the sea state was going to get heavier between Belle-Ile and Groix and it was rough at Les Birvideaux shelf. That’s why we opted for a more inshore option in this sector, so as to protect ourselves from the heavy seas”, explained Sébastien Josse. “The driving rain which hit us a few miles after the start, unfortunately accompanied us throughout the course. The most problematic element of that was the lack of visibility resulting from these weather conditions.
The first descent between Sainte Marine and the entrance to the Saint Nazaire channel was pretty full-on as we crossed tacks with the entire fleet with less than 50 metres of visibility! At the time Gitana 11 was making between 25 and 30 knots. This course required a great deal of concentration from the helmsmen as well as the crew who were constantly scanning the area around the boat.”
In 2010, Gitana 11 was the first maxi-multihull to set off on the SNSM Record. This year, for the 7th edition of the event for the personnel on the lifeboats, the 77 foot trimaran was joined by three other giants from the G-Class, including the record hunter Banque Populaire V. This proved to be a source of motivation for Sébastien Josse’s men, even though the differences in size between the two multihulls left no doubt as to how the event would pan out: “To have such a fast pacemaker was a real incentive for us. On flat seas we managed to keep pace with Banque Populaire, but as soon as the seas became heavier her additional length gave her the edge. Despite all that, her presence pushed us into getting the very best we could from Gitana 11 and we learnt a vast amount from this 360 mile sprint”, said a satisfied Sébastien Josse.
“This SNSM record is another stage in my apprenticeship on this multihull and in the preparation of our future season on the MOD 70. Training sessions will never replace the races but working with my crew and notably our onboard organisation for the first time in such sailing conditions is very positive for the next stage.” Talking of the future, the next meeting for the maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is set for Sunday 14 August, in one of international sailing’s legendary sites. Indeed Gitana 11 will soon be discovering Cowes, the Isle of Wight and the waters of the Solent, which will play host to the start of the famous Fastnet Race. Organised every two years since 1931, with the exception of the period from 1939-1947, this major classic draws the greatest names in professional yachting, as well as enlightened amateurs, on a course between Cowes and Plymouth, including a rounding of the famous Irish rock, from whence the race takes its name.
The crew of Gitana 11 on the SNSM Record
Sébastien Josse – skipper
David Boileau - Florent Chastel - Cyril Dardashti - Olivier Douillard – Antoine Koch – Thomas Rouxel
The SNSM record in a few lines
On the water, the SNSM record involves some return legs between Saint Nazaire and Sainte Marine, ports whose initials spell out the name of the French association SNSM (French RNLI equivalent). However, on shore, this meeting gathers together professionals and amateurs, small and large craft alike on the same start line, so as to promote safety at sea and encourage support for the volunteer lifeboat personnel from the SNSM (National Society for Safety at Sea). Created in 2005, the record unquestionably ranks as an unmissable nautical meeting, largely due to the fact that it combines competition and public-spiritedness.
Le Record SNSM