Thierry Martinez / Gitana SA

Edmond de Rothschild tries out her latest kit

The Gitana team's Pierre Tissier and Armand de Jacquelot discuss the latest features on their IMOCA 60

Friday April 29th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The IMOCA 60 Edmond de Rothschild, (Gitana 16), and her skipper Sébastien Josse are rearing to go in the build up to the bank holiday Monday start of The Transat bakerly.

Sitting at her berth in Sutton Harbour, the team is putting the finishing touches on the boat that has been under the knife over the winter.

Designed by naval architect Guillaume Verdier in collaboration with VPLP and the Gitana team's own in-house designer, the latest of the Gitana fleet is a new generation IMOCA 60, complete with giant foils that make her partially fly. Since her launch on 7 August 2015, the boat has continually evolved, notably during last winter’s substantial refit at the team’s base in Lorient.

A fine blend of subtlety and strength, everything about Edmond de Rothschild is geared towards performance. Virtually every part of her is custom made for performance and specifically tailored to her skipper. An exchange of ideas continually takes place within the team, with new ideas and clever tricks and solution to save a few grams or earn extra boat speed.

Prior to the start of The Transat bakerly, Technical Director Pierre Tissier and Armand de Jacquelot, who is an engineer and a member of the five-arrow racing stable’s design team, outlined some of the latest optimisations of the Edmond de Rothschild IMOCA 60.

Target speed

Gitana 16 has 25 knots as its cruising speed and regularly hits 30 - speeds more traditionally associated with multihulls…

Her two transatlantic crossings in late 2015 enabled the team to build a sizeable performance database, especially allowing the team to learn more about the benefits of her latest generation foils.

Armand de Jacquelot explains: “When the foil is working it creates righting moment that's like having several crew on the rail. There are real gains, but then you have to reduce drag. So we’ve designed a second generation of foils. The geometry of the tip is more slender and offers a greater surface for downwind performance. We have also modified the profile of the shaft to help the boat when she's on the wind which we hope it will be beneficial in The Transat.

"Inside the hull, the ballast tank configuration has also been optimised to better control the balance of the boat.”

Reliability and safety

There’s little benefit to your boat being quick if she breaks. So the quest of IMOCA 60 team is to strike the right balance between performance and safety, based on engineering, complex VPP analysis and very concrete observations.

Pierre Tissier explains: “The whole boat has undergone ultra-sound testing to obtain a precise diagnosis of the condition of her composite construction. The aim is to detect the slightest fatigue in the carbon and prevent potential breakage before they happen through localised reinforcing. Several critical parts, which are subject to considerable stresses have also gone through the scanner. Like the human body, such a device means you can see what’s going on inside the structure and, here too, you can keep an eye out for the slightest problems.”

De Jacquelot adds: “Aboard the boat, the instrumentation, and the fitting of strain gauges, for example on the lower shrouds for example, provides Sébastien with constant information about how the boat is loaded and, in this particular case, the mast.

"In real time, he has this figure on his screens, along with the wind speed, heading, etc. So he adapts his sailing accordingly to preserve the rig. In addition, the foils have been equipped with fibre optics, which enables any tiny distortions to be flagged up and enable the sailor to better control the power. In all, at such speeds and with such stresses, the skipper’s ability to sail on feeling alone is no longer enough. You have to be able to assist him with constant updates and precise structural measurements, which have a direct influence on how he sailed the boat.”

Ergonomics

Driving such a high tec state of the art racing machine requires real strength, both of character and physical. The deck is constantly being swept by big seas so the cockpit is encapsulated to provide the skipper with protection, while manoeuvring. A few moments spent under the cuddy are ample to demonstrate its benefits:

“Increasing the opportunity for adjusting trim was part of the boat’s initial specifications,” de Jacquelot continues. “And, there are a lot of lines for sure! Over the winter, every rope was given its own stowage place. Now Sébastien can use any winch with any line and we’ve also introduced remote sheet control systems so he can wedge himself in wherever he wants and always stay in control. It’s a compact cockpit designed around him and suited to his morphology and way of sailing. Finally, we’ve added a transparent rear that enables him to close off what one might call the pod so as to protect him from the sea shipping into the back of the cockpit.”

Stacking

In a constant bid to sail in the most efficient way, Josse continually tweaks the boat’s trim. To do this, he adjusts his foils and water ballast and the position in the boat of 'the stack', ie all the moveable gear aboard the boat, including the sails that are not hoisted, his clothing and his food… It’s a mammoth task, which on either tack can soon amount to 4-500kg.

“Up top, the cockpit’s very open aft and the mainsail track attached to the sole have proven their worth in assisting with sail stacking. Over the winter, we focused down below, where all much more complicated,” Tissier explains. “The creation of several customised covers has smoothed out the angular surfaces of the bulkheads and other traps that reduce the arduous minutes of exertion shifting a sail a few centimetres to nothing…”

And how does this affect the sailor’s life?

The deal between Josse and the team was clear: performance first, comfort second. “There are no demands at all on that score. He’s a tough guy” concludes De Jacquelot, also a sailor who is familiar with long, uncomfortable days and nights at sea having most recently competed in the 2015 Mini Transat.  “Things have improved a bit aboard Gitana 16 now that Sebastian has a heater, a micro-bead mattress that moulds his body and a new system which enables him to listen to music in the cockpit. However, these are only minor changes…”

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