Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reigning champion Gitana 11 returns to Saint Malo

Route du Rhum 2010

Almost 24 hours ahead of the deadline set by the organisers, the maxi-trimaran Gitana 11 made her entrance into Saint Malo’s Bassin Vauban this morning, after a calm delivery spanning around fifteen hours. It represented the final trip for the multihull fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild prior to the much awaited start of the Route du Rhum on 31st October 2010. However, it also heralds the start of ‘festivities’ in Saint Malo for both the Gitana Team and skipper Yann Guichard.

Wednesday 20th October was reminiscent of a transhumance in the Breton port of La Trinité-sur-Mer, where some of the future participants in the Route du Rhum 2010, including Gitana 11, have been berthed throughout the past year. Following confirmation of gentle, to overly gentle weather conditions over the coming days, the skippers unanimously decided to cast off to make the corsair town within the time limit. As such, throughout the course of the afternoon, the passage of a steady flow of racing yachts continuously livened up the sleepy port.

As such, Yann Guichard and his men left their port of registry yesterday - Wednesday – shortly after 1500 hours, with a coastal sail on the menu, taking them along the Breton shores, past the famous Raz de Sein and the Chenal du Four, which links the Iroise Sea to the English Channel. And so it was in the early hours, in a misty, wintry atmosphere, that Gitana 11 presented herself at the foot of the Vauban’s ramparts: “For this delivery trip I chose to be accompanied by Jean-Baptiste Levaillant, the master sailmaker, and Pierre Bourcier, with whom the Gitana Team has been working for several months to set up and fine tune the automatic pilots, among other things. It was the boat’s last session on the water prior to the start so it was our very last opportunity to adjust certain details which can only be done at sea, so it was an important stage. From today, Gitana 11 will be immobilised for 10 days in the port of Saint Malo. The next time we go through the lock gates will be on the afternoon of Saturday 30th, when we make for the mooring installed for us off Dinard.” Indeed, the day prior to the start, certain yachts from the Ultimate category, will leave the port of Saint Malo to spend their last night tied to a mooring at the foot of the neighbouring town of Dinard.

Ready for the crossing

“Gitana 11 is all ready to go and we could take the start of the Route du Rhum tomorrow if need be. The shore crew has already put the safety gear and spare parts aboard and solely the food supplied by the Mont d’Arbois restaurant is left to be embarked in St Malo in the final days.” Clearly the maxi-trimaran in the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group is in the starting blocks then, but we know less about the skipper, Yann Guichard, who is preparing to race in his first single-handed transatlantic race aboard an ocean-going multihull: “All’s going well for me, with my focus now on recuperating. I’m making the most of these last few days on shore to sort out the day-to-day matters and rack up some sleep before the start. I’m also beginning to have a more regular look at the forecasts from Météo France, though it’s still too early to find out what weather awaits us and to be able to analyse things more precisely. However, together with Sylvain Mondon, who will be my router throughout the race, we’re discussing what trends are taking shape. This weekend however, we’ll begin to get down to the nitty-gritty!” said Yann Guichard assuredly, before adding a few words about the programme which awaits him over the coming days: “The ten days’ wait promises to be long, especially as Gitana 11 is immobilised until the start and it will be impossible for me to go sailing… This period mixing obligations from the organisation and media meetings is all part of the process and I’m ready for it. Added to that, I’ll be able to lie low, far from Saint Malo, from Sunday through to next Wednesday.”

With Gitana 11 tied alongside in Saint Malo and the race start getting ever closer, the countdown is very much on and the atmosphere is gradually changing with every day that passes. For the members of the Gitana Team and Yann Guichard, who have been preparing for this Route du Rhum 2010 for nearly two years, the home straight represented by the coming days is coloured by a mixture of excitement and impatience: that of seeing the reigning champion show off her true racing potential once again.

La Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale 2010…
Ø Start on Sunday 31st October 2010 at 1302 hours
Ø 87 registered yachts, 9 of which are in the Ultimate Category
Ø 3,540 miles to cover between Saint Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre