Gitana 11 claims Tour de Belle Isle
There was a record turn-out for the event, which starts in the Bay of Quiberon and rounds Belle Ile anti-clockwise. The event is aiming to become France's equivalent of the Round the Island Race and this year, the fourth time it has been held 485 boats took part.
Conditions this year were brisk with 20-25 knots of southeasterly wind. Following the start at 10:30 GMT the lumpy conditions on the offshore coast of Belle Ile proved too much for 30 of the boats who turned back.
Josse's 77ft trimaran made the lap of the island in just 2 hours 42 minutes, a new record for the course, but was followed just 2 minutes 38 seconds later by Lionel Lemonchois' Irens-Cabaret Multi50 Route du Rhum winner Prince de Bretagne. The Multi50 race was a close one with Franck-Yves Escoffer on Crepes Whaou! 3 just 41 seconds astern of Prince de Bretagne, last year's winner Yves le Blevec's Actual third ahead of the Alain Gautier on the former Foncia ORMA 60, now called Sensation, just six minutes behind Gitana 11.
The lead multis were followed by monohulls like Groupama 70 and the IMOCA 60 PRB and Akena Verandas. On board the green VO70, Franck Cammas' crew include half the line-up that will sail around the world later this year, including local resident Thomas Coville. Their time was 3 hours 23 minutes.
“Nearly 500 boats on the same start line made things pretty busy!" commented Josse afterwards. "It was full-on, especially with the wind and sea conditions. We were particularly attentive during the start phase as Gitana 11 was a lot faster than the majority of the fleet.”
Sailing with Josse was with Sébastien Thétiot and David Boileau, Gitana 11's shore crew, plus Florent Chastel as bowman, Antoine Koch navigating and Jean-Baptiste Epron.
“This Tour de Belle-Île was my baptism of fire aboard Gitana 11 in race mode," continued Josse. "It was a lively introduction but it was perfect for getting my teeth into it and straightaway getting the measure of the boat. I’ve yet to find my automatic reflexes at the helm. I’m in training mode on this craft as I await delivery of the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild Group at the end of October. I was keen to take it calmly, especially as the crew on this the occasion were sailing together for the first time. With this in mind, we decided not to unfurl the gennaker if the wind exceeded 24 knots.” Despite this conservative approach Gitana 11 still demonstrated her potential enjoying some bursts of speed over 30 knots.
“The Multi 50s were right on our tails, but there’s nothing surprising about that," continued Josse. "Behind us were experienced crews on boats they were very familiar with, helmed by skippers who had already competed in transatlantic races at the helm of their boats. They were a good source of pressure for the Gitana Team and it was good knowing they were hot on our heels.”
More images from Christophe Launay - www.sealaunay.com