The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild homeward bound

At the end of last week, just a matter of hours was all it took for the Gitana Team to go from the satisfaction of a record time for its descent of the Atlantic aboard its flying maxi-trimaran to the great disappointment of discovering damage on its rudder, which definitively put an end to its Jules Verne Trophy record attempt. Since then, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has turned back and has spared no effort in what have been tricky weather conditions to reach more hospitable latitudes to the north. Up against a number of logistical constraints, directly linked to the health restrictions in force as a result of the global pandemic, the six sailors, in agreement with Cyril Dardashti and their router, Marcel van Triest, have decided to return to their home port via the sea and under their own steam, which means without stopping off to effect repairs in Cape Town, South Africa, as was initially envisaged.

 

 

Breakage is not compatible with safety or performance

Our decision to abandon our attempt is a result of breaking the rudder stock on the starboard float”, Pierre Tissier reminds us. “It’s still too early to explain the exact reasons for this damage, even though we have had a lot of discussions with the crew and are able to substantiate certain hypotheses. However, access to the area in question is very difficult as the rudder system is too exposed on the boat’s aft section, meaning that lengthy investigations are not possible as yet. This is why envisaging carrying a spare part to make a replacement at sea is totally out of the question”, added the technical director of the five-arrow racing stable.

 

In fact, the question about a spare part has been raised on several occasions following the announcement of the team’s abandon. As such, it’s important to respond to this issue: “It’s worth noting that a rudder weighs around 200 kg and assembling or dismantling such a part requires a special procedure, up to three people and a support rib, and that is when the boat’s in a port and without heavy seas… Offshore, the crew does not have the necessary tooling and, above all, it is not able to access the area in question, which is a long way aft and is protected by the rudder ‘chimneys’”, explained Sébastien Sainson, the director of Gitana’s design office.

 

This damage forced Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew to reluctantly interrupt a record attempt that was in full flight and looked very promising in terms of the upcoming weather… However, plunging down into the Southern Ocean, far from habitation and out of reach of any rapid emergency assistance leaves no room for approximation. At a latitude of 50° south, bordering on a zone prone to ice, the crew has to be able to be autonomous and in control of its trajectory under all circumstances.

 

 

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is equipped with lifting float rudders, which is fortunate because since the damage occurred, the crew has been able to sail almost normally with the rudder raised. In practical terms, had this damage occurred further down the track in our round the world, we may have looked at things differently, however in our case, it’s the safety aspect that prevailed. We’d only just entered the Southern Ocean. We were unable to use one of our float rudders, which meant that the only way to steer the boat was by using the other float rudder and the central rudder” explained Pierre Tissier, with Sébastien Sainson providing more light on the subject: “Thanks to the experience we’ve gained and the numerous miles the Maxi has now covered, we’ve noticed that the central rudder is more exposed to impact than before, which must be down to the addition of the elevators. As a result, there’s an added risk of ending up with two damaged rudders and a boat that is impossible to steer in some of the remotest areas of the globe. It simply wasn’t reasonable and therefore it was unthinkable to proceed.

 

Last but not least, there was the issue of performance. Taking on a speed record involves knowing what goal you want to achieve before you set sail. Given the exceptional time of 40 days 23 hours and 30 minutes recorded by Francis Joyon and his men, the moment we crossed the start line on 10 January offshore of Ushant, the sailors on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild knew that there was no room for error. “If you were to put the safety issue in the Southern Ocean to one side, which obviously is not feasible in the real world, this breakage is a genuine handicap when the boat is sailing on port tack. We reckon that you lose around 20% of the boat’s potential. In the south, where the point of sail is predominantly off the wind, this would inevitably have had a major impact, but during a beat, which involves sailing close-hauled, or on a reach, we envisage that the speeds would have been even worse, except on starboard tack of course (namely pressed down on its port float and appendages) where the boat is intact. It’s tough, but that’s the nature of record attempts and the Jules Verne Trophy”, concluded Cyril Dardashti.

 

Hats off to Boris Herrmann

Just hours away now from the much-awaited denouement of the Vendée Globe, the present scenario is completely unprecedented with eight sailors grouped together within 500 miles. Added to that, a series of time bonuses are yet to be awarded, which should reshuffle the cards for the final podium, and for once this will likely differ from the line honours. At this historic moment, Gitana Team’s thoughts go out to Boris Herrmann. The German sailor, who is attacking his last night at sea in the top trio is the surprise of this 2020-2021 edition. He has sailed a masterful race aboard the Imoca Malizia Sea Explorer and has been proudly flying the flag of the Yacht Club de Monaco during this action-packed round the world. The 60-footer is none other than the former Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, which the racing stable competed on in the race’s 2016 edition and it is a great source of pleasure to see one of the team’s former steeds performing so well. The final ranking will be revealed tomorrow offshore of Les Sables d’Olonne.

The first accounts from on-board at the end of the Jules Verne Trophy attempt

After setting sail from Ushant on 10 January 2021, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild put an end to its Jules Verne Trophy record attempt this Friday 22 January after twelve intense days at sea, a journey which proved to have a steep learning curve. It is with a great deal of disappointment and inevitably a few regrets that this circumnavigation of the globe draws to a close. Justified disappointment because, given how much effort the six sailors put into this first section of the planetary course, they were deserving of so much more. Regrets too as Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew proved that they were right on the pace on this magnificent descent of the Atlantic, added to which the weather forecasts for the coming days were smiling on them… Alas, the story is not theirs to write this year, but this experience is far from over, as one of the co-skippers of the 32-metre giant, Charles Caudrelier, speculated.



The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild abandons her Jules Verne Trophy record attempt

Sailing in the Indian Ocean since yesterday afternoon and their passage of the longitude of Cape Agulhas, the men of Gitana Team were positioned at 48°28 south at 11:00 UTC with a lead of over 860 miles over the record when they informed their shore team of damage to the giant’s float rudder to starboard. After a thorough inspection carried out by David Boileau, the boat captain, the verdict is in. The appendage’s stock is seriously damaged, which means the rudder can no longer be used on this tack. With the six sailors unable to effect repairs in the open ocean as the part would need to be entirely replaced, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has been forced to interrupt its Jules Verne Trophy record attempt. Indeed, it is inconceivable for Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew to take on the Southern Ocean with a boat that is no longer performing at her full potential. It’s a massive disappointment, as much in the roaring forties as in Lorient, at the heart of the technical base, but the most important thing right now is that the crew is able to head into more hospitable latitudes.

 

 

Contacted by Cyril Dardashti, the director of the Gitana racing stable, Charles Caudrelier shared his first impressions:

Everything was going well aboard. We were coming out of what was a tough night, with really heavy seas and a very shifty breeze, but things had improved since our gybe. Franck had just passed the helm to Morgan and a few minutes later there were some odd sensations and more and more vibration at the helm. We noticed that the leeward rudder, our starboard rudder, was moving around a lot from side to side. We brought the boat to a virtual standstill so David could go and look at the back of the float. Unfortunately, he quickly recognised that the rudder stock was seriously damaged. There was no particular impact to report prior to this observation and even though breakages are part and parcel of the history of our mechanical sport, we’re going to need to gain an understanding of what could have happened here. We cannot repair damage like this at sea and we can no longer use our rudder. We’ve raised it and now we’re sailing on port tack with no rudder. We are safe, but we are unable to go fast. The shore team and Marcel van Triest are looking at our options going forward, but one thing for sure is that the current health constraints related to the pandemic are complicating matters. We’ve turned back and we’re now setting a course towards Cape Town, which is around a two-day sea passage from here. In the meantime, we’ll decide whether we’re going to make a pit stop in South Africa or if we’ll make our own way straight back to Brittany.

It’s a massive disappointment for everyone involved! We are so sorry to have to stop here, because we really wanted to bring this Jules Verne Trophy home… for Benjamin de Rothschild, Ariane de Rothschild and all our team.

We’ve had 12 fabulous days aboard with an incredible crew and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has really driven the point home that she is a truly exceptional boat.

Float rudder damage aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

Sailing in the Indian Ocean since yesterday afternoon and their passage of the longitude of Cape Agulhas, the men of Gitana Team were positioned at 48°28 south at 11:00 UTC with a lead of over 860 miles over the record when they informed their shore team that they’d encountered some problems with the rudder on the starboard float, which is the leeward rudder and hence the one under load. Having reduced its speed, the crew is currently carrying out a thorough inspection of the appendages and its connecting systems with its experts onshore. Further information will be communicated over the coming hours.

 

Plunging southwards

Since their successive passages yesterday of the Cape of Good Hope at 11:37 UTC and then Cape Agulhas four hours later, the men of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are navigating the Indian Ocean. The six sailors are having to deal with sailing conditions the crew describe as difficult. Indeed, with strong and shifty winds in terms of force and short, cross seas, the journey south is no picnic, particularly in light of the fact that this dive down towards the austral latitudes is accompanied by a significant drop in temperature. At the 06:00 UTC position report, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew were positioned at 48°28 south and had a lead of 887 miles over Idec Sport.

 

 

In the thick of things

The contrast aboard the flying blue maxi-trimaran is striking. There’s no doubt about it, the crew, now the fastest of all time on the descent of the Atlantic, has switched sailing mode since entering the Indian Ocean, as detailed by Yann Riou, contacted at daybreak: “It hasn’t been a very pleasant night. The wind is particularly shifty in force and it’s very tough to get the Maxi making headway as she should and at a constant pace in these conditions. We’re doing our best, taking it in turns at the helm quite a lot, but it’s not always easy. The sea state is really poor, not big but short and crossed, which is forcing us to helm as the autopilot gets lost in this kind of sea. The conditions are putting a strain on the both the men and the boat.

 

With the crew now sailing close to a latitude of 50° south, the atmosphere has clearly cooled on deck and below the cuddy of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. “From one watch to the next, we can really feel the difference. We’ve been on a south-easterly heading since we passed the tip of South Africa and conditions today are a world apart from those yesterday. It’s been cold since last night and we’re having to equip ourselves accordingly before taking up our watch on deck. We’re here, it’s the Deep South!”, admitted the media crewman.

 

To tackle this new day in the Jules Verne Trophy record attempt, the sailors of Gitana Team have managed to retain a lead of over 887 miles in relation to their virtual adversary.

Best time ever recorded to the tip of South Africa, by way of a tribute to Benjamin de Rothschild

By leaving the longitude of Cape Agulhas in her wake this Thursday 21 January at 15h37’53’’ UTC, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has officially entered the Indian Ocean. After 11 days 14 hours and 3 minutes at sea, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew are attacking the Southern Ocean with a lead of more than 1 day 7 hours and 19 minutes over Francis Joyon and the men on Idec Sport. In so doing, they have become the fastest sailors in history on this descent of the Atlantic; a fantastic time which they naturally dedicate to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, whose passing was announced just a few days ago.

 

 

Two capes and two new reference times 

This twelfth day at sea has enabled the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to secure her first accolades in her Jules Verne Trophy record attempt. After setting sail from Ushant on 10 January at 01h33’46’’ UTC, the six sailors passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope this Thursday morning at 11h27’46’’ UTC after 11 days 9 hours and 53 minutes at sea. In so doing, they improved on the reference time set by the crew on Banque Populaire in 2012 in the Jules Verne Trophy by 11 hours and 55 minutes. It’s also worth noting that until this 21 January, the outright record for this section of the course was held by a solo sailor with a time of 11 days 20 hours and 10 minutes. The latter was François Gabart who, in 2017, posted a staggering performance to the tip of South Africa. Some four hours later, at 15h37’53’’ UTC, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier, David Boileau, Erwan Israël, Yann Riou and Morgan Lagravière repeated this performance at Cape Agulhas, arriving in the Indian Ocean with the best reference time and, most importantly, a lead of 1 day 7 hours and 19 minutes over the current Jules Verne Trophy holder.

 

Less than 11 days 10 hours to get to Good Hope is great going, which means that it was a favourable weather window and we were right to snap it up! That said, we still feel like we lost some time along the way, especially in the doldrums, but we’re happy to be here and to be posting these speeds. Now comes the hard part,” admits Franck Cammas to Yann Riou’s camera.

 

 

In at the deep end in the Southern Ocean 

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is navigating the first miles of her career in the Southern Ocean, as is the case for David Boileau and Morgan Lagravière, who are tackling their first passage across the Indian Ocean. However, the crew is all too aware, this is where things start to get serious! The first reason for this is that over this long section of the course in the Southern Ocean, Francis Joyon and his crew were brilliant and clearly broke new ground in relation to the Trophy thanks to a trajectory bordering on perfection; namely 5 days 21 hours to devour the Indian Ocean and then 7 days 21 hours till they made Cape Horn… The second reason is that the men of Gitana Team are plunging down towards latitudes which are never a trivial matter.

 

It’s a fine first reference time since it’s the outright record over this course between Ushant and the tip of South Africa. Even though it’s a record that doesn’t really count for a lot, it’s important for us because it has enabled us to complete this passage with a lead of nearly 1 and a half days over the Jules Verne Trophy record held by Francis Joyon and that’s the objective we set ourselves. After that, Francis enjoyed a completely crazy Southern Ocean and we have very little chance of finding such conditions. Moreover, we won’t have such a quick Indian Ocean, so we’re delighted to have this cushion which, to my mind, is barely enough to stay ahead of him or level with him by the time we exit. As a result, our primary objective has been quite successful! On top of that, the boat is in tip-top condition and that’s the main thing!” concluded Charles Caudrelier.

 

By way of a tribute to Benjamin de Rothschild, our dear departed owner

Since last Friday, Gitana Team, the offshore racing stable he founded with his wife Ariane de Rothschild in 2000, has been mourning the loss of its owner. In our own way, from the sea he was so fond of, we wanted to pay him one last tribute. These new reference times, the best of all time over this section of the course, we dedicate to him and offer them to Ariane de Rothschild and her four daughters in his honour.

 

The wake of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will punctuate the history of flying boats and offshore racing. We could never thank Benjamin de Rothschild enough for having enabled us to embark on this incredible adventure and for having believed in this project and in our team to make it a reality. He managed to transform his heritage with boldness and passion. Every day we remember how lucky we are to be a part of this story and to have a chance to add new pages to this quite unique lineage”, stated Cyril Dardashti, director of Gitana.

Ushant Good Hope, a new reference time for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

After setting sail from Ushant on 10 January at 01h33’46’’, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope this 21 January at 11h27’46’’ UTC after 11 days 9 hours and 53 minutes at sea. In so doing, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier, David Boileau, Erwan Israël, Yann Riou and Morgan Lagravière have secured the new reference time for the descent of the Atlantic, improving on the crewed reference time set by Banque Populaire in 2012 in the Jules Verne with a time of 11 days 21 hours 48 minutes (some 11 hours and 55 minutes faster) as well as that of Francois Gabart in solo format. Until this lunchtime, the skipper of Macif held the outright record for this section of 11 days 20 hours and 10 minutes.

 

 

Another cape awaits the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, that of Agulhas, in a few miles’ time. However, this less well-known reference is just as important because it’s only on reaching this longitude that the Indian Ocean begins and with it the record approved by the WSSRC (World Sailing Speed Record Council).

First major cape today

Throughout the night, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has had to contend with shifty conditions to get the 32-metre giant making headway towards the gateway to the Indian Ocean. In short seas, where the boat accelerates and decelerates in every wave, piloting by night has not been the easiest of missions, especially in light of the fact that the dying breeze is still serving up a few suprise gusts to spice things up. As such, it was important to be on the sheets last night under the cuddy of the flying blue maxi-trimaran. Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew had to hunt down a pivot point to the north before gybing on the stroke of 04:00 hours and then diving back down towards the south and the fortieth parallel. Despite conceding some ground to their virtual adversary over recent hours, at the 07:00 UTC position report, the men of Gitana Team still boast an 821-mile lead over the record holder, giving them a good cushion for rounding the first major cap of this round the world under sail.

 

 

A first reference time at Agulhas? 

At the end of last week, the reference time to the equator slipped well out of reach after a very tough passage through the doldrums, which kept the latest Gitana in its clutches for over 24 hours. This Thursday, the Cammas-Caudrelier pairing and their crew could well secure a first reference time between Ushant and Cape Agulhas – a few miles further to the east of the Cape of Good Hope – even though the potential record would not be approved by the WSSRC (World Sailing Speed Record Council). Indeed, for now, in the battle to secure the Jules Verne Trophy, it’s the crew of Banque Populaire V, led by Loick Peyron, in 2012, who were the quickest over this section by covering the theoretical 6,160 miles in 11 d 23h 50 min. However, it’s a solo sailor, one François Gabart, during his Saint-Exupéry in 2017, who holds the outright record over this first section of the planetary circuit. Indeed, the skipper of Macif rounded the South African tip after 11 d 22 h 20 min. It’s worth recalling that the six sailors on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the start line of their Jules Verne Trophy attempt on 10 January at 01h33’46’’ UTC.

 

Currently 200 miles to the west of the longitude of Cape Agulhas, which stands at 20° east, powered up at over 35 knots at the last position report, Gitana 17 should make the switch into the Indian Ocean early this afternoon.

500 miles from the Indian Ocean

The men of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are preparing to leave the familiar waters of the Atlantic Ocean and devour those of the less hospitable Indian Ocean. Indeed, at midday tomorrow, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier, David Boileau, Erwan Israël, Morgan Lagravière and Yann Riou should pass the longitude of Cape Agulhas, which marks the entrance to the Southern Ocean. If the men of Gitana Team maintain the same pace they’ve been setting for the past three days or so, they should manage to post a fine time by way of a conclusion for  this section of the course, which measures nearly 6,200 miles (or around 10,000 km).

 

 

One should not always go by appearances… Despite an average speed of over 33 knots racked up by the flying maxi-trimaran over the past 24 hours, the six sailors who make up her crew are endeavouring to slow the giant down as best they can, but all she wants to do is accelerate. In a wind of between 30 and 35 knots, gusting to over 45 knots, which slaps into the sails, together with short, cross seas, now is not the time for excess speed. Rather it is all about striking a balance and preserving the gear. “We’ve been hunting for the brakes for the past few hours,” admitted Charles Caudrelier.

 

After ten and a half days at sea, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild were benefiting from a nice lead of more than 950 miles over its virtual adversary at 15:00 UTC. However, a closer look at the chart reveals that it is in the next few hours that Francis Joyon and his men, the current holders of the Jules Verne Trophy, began their incredible straight-line ride towards the Pacific, a clear and implacable trajectory, which enabled them to secure a top-flight record in the Indian Ocean. Suffice to say that the match has only just begun.

 

Maxi-soundbites from the Sea, a Gitana Team podcast   

Tuned into the noise, Yann Riou, trimmer and media crewman, aims the mike at the partners joining him in this extreme sailing synonymous with the Jules Verne Trophy. It’s a wonderful invitation to an audio journey sharing the extraordinary daily life of these six crewmen engaged in the quest for the speed record around the seas of the globe.

 

Season 1 of our podcast, devoted to the descent of the Atlantic, which makes up the first quarter of the planetary circuit in terms of time, rounds off with this 3rd episode. The men of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are at the gateway to the Deep South. Tomorrow, Thursday 21 January, with their passage across the longitude of Cape Agulhas at the tip of South Africa, the six sailors and their flying maxi-trimaran will switch over to the Indian Ocean.
Just a few hours before what is a grand debut for David Boileau, boat captain and crewman, the latter shares with us a snapshot of life in the roaring forties. In heavy seas, where the 32-metre giant surfs off waves or stumbles into those rising up ahead of her bows, the simple day-to-day actions require the utmost focus. Indeed, in a carbon machine constantly powered up at over 30 knots and primarily geared towards performance rather than comfort under sail, tumbling over, falling flat on your face or worse still injury, are never far away.

 

 

David Boileau, 20 January 2021, in the forties 
Right around us it’s magnificent! A blue sky, sunshine, reflections in the light blue sea… The seas are very heavy, with big breeze, and the boat is slipping along at 30-35 knots. It’s very pretty! Beyond the picture postcard though, it’s not always fantastically comfortable aboard. With the sea as it is, the boat has a tendency to come to an abrupt standstill in the waves. You have to hang on inside the Maxi, making sure you’re careful when you’re moving around the boat so as you don’t get caught out. This morning for example, I cut my finger near the galley, down in the central hull, just hanging on to make sure I didn’t fall. I got hooked up on a screw.  Moreover, when we cook, to avoid getting ejected, we have a strap that we wrap around our waist. However, this morning, during my incident, I wasn’t in the galley, rather I was just passing into that area on my way out of my resting watch aft in the bunk area, which is located under the cockpit. In terms of sound, yes, it’s always very noisy. You hear the water slipping along the hulls or slamming against them, as well as the whistling appendages. However, this noise is a good reference and enables us to anticipate the motion of the boat quite well. With the vibration of the hull, you feel the acceleration and you imagine the inevitable follow-up deceleration. At that point, everyone hangs onto whatever they have to hand to cushion the blow when the boat lands back down! The boat has also been under a lot of strain for the past three days. We’re being very attentive and doing what needs to be done in terms of speed to preserve the gear as much as possible.

Riding on the back of the depression

With short waves and a NW’ly wind of over 30 knots, there’s no doubt this morning, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is in the teeth of the forties. Despite the boisterous conditions, which are not facilitating the giant’s passage through the sea, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their crew have managed to maintain high speeds throughout the night. A sustained pace, albeit perfectly balanced to preserve the gear, has enabled them to significantly increase their lead over Idec Sport in the past 24 hours. At the 07:00 UTC position report, the latest of the Gitanas was darting along towards the Cape of Good Hope and the entrance to the Indian Ocean some 952.4 miles ahead of the bows of their virtual adversary.

 

 

For more than 48 hours now, and since the millimetre precision of her connection with the train of austral low-pressure systems, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has been able to lengthen her stride and show off some of the power of her capacity. The speeds are certainly exhilarating, but they in no way detract from the pragmatism and clear-headedness of the two skippers, with over 16,000 miles still to go: “We’re only at the start of this round the world. On the section between Rio and Good Hope, conditions were naturally favourable for a 24-hour speed record but it was important not to forget our objective. Sailing at high speed already places the gear and the systems under a lot of strain, but very high speed is an additional risk that simply isn’t worth taking at this stage in our Jules Verne Trophy”, explained Franck Cammas.

 

Yesterday, in the last messages of the evening exchanged between the boat and their router Marcel van Triest, it was time to sort out the night’s sail configurations and update the weather forecast: “Overnight and in the coming hours, the wind could pick up quite a lot, notably with some possible gusts in excess of 40-45 knots. It’s important to bear that in mind to remain with a careful configuration in terms of headsail.

 

With a passage of Cape Agulhas scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday 21 January, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is on the pace, proving that she is right on target with the tempo. In fact, according to the exact time they pass the tip of South Africa, the six sailors could well treat themselves to their first new reference time of their round the world record attempt. In the meantime, a new wet and lively day of sailing awaits them in the roaring forties.