Gitana gets into gear

Baron Rothschild's 60ft trimaran rearing to go for her first fully crewed race

Tuesday April 8th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
Next month, the 60ft trimaran Gitana X will be taking part in the Challenge Mondial Assistance, her first ever fully crewed ocean race. Since her topmast broke in the Route du Rhum, Gitana has been undergoing a substantial refit and the race round Europe race will be put to good use in checking the new work carried out on the multihull.

Owner Benjamin de Rothschild comments: "we’re going to try and do everything which we couldn’t get done last year. Since she was first launched, Gitana has only covered 3000 miles (5500 km) and practically no racing at all. We’ve got everything to go for. Our options have to be validated."

Gitana’s skipper, Lionel Lemonchois, agrees wholeheartedly with this statement: "It’s almost as if we were starting out with a blank sheet of paper in terms of our knowledge of the boat. We have to get to know her. But as we’re sailing her crewed, we’ll be able to push her to the maximum, and see how much more work we need to do in order to win."

The 2,734 mile Challenge Mondial Assistance from Cherbourg to Rimini on the Adriatic coast of Italy will give the team the opportunity to test their new boat in different types of weather conditions.

Strategy will no doubt be a deciding factor in this race. Marc Guessard, Gitana’s navigator comments: "Unlike our competitors, we don’t yet have a reference point for the boat.. It’s something of a handicap when it comes to race tactics. But there are so many marks in this race - Cape Finisterre, Gibraltar, Albora Sea or South Balearics, South Sardinia or Cape Bon, the strait of Malta or Messina, coastal phenomena in the Adriatic – that the weather options will also be of the utmost importance. All the more so as in the Mediterranean, it is impossible to be accurate to within more than 48 hours. You have to seize the opportunities as and when they arise."

Weather assistance (routing) is prohibited on this race, so pre-race preparation is extremely important to the final outcome. Sylvain Mondon (Météo France), Gitana Team weather assistant explains: "Our main job involves both us and the crew, studying the climate of the four key points of the course (Channel, Atlantic, West Mediterranean and the Adriatic), listing local phenomena, knowing how to recognise them and adapt to them”.

The race will leave Cherbourg on 11 May and is due to finish in Rimini between 19-23 May. On board Gitana X for this race will be skipper Lionel Lemonchois, plus Benjamin de Rothschild, Yann Marilley, Olivier Wroczynski, Marc Guessard and François Denis

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