© E.Stichelbaut / polaRYSE / Gitana S.A
Gitana: a tension-filled victory in Concarneau
On Friday 1 July, at 11:00 UTC, the Finistère Atlantique – Challenge Action Enfance fleet, made up of four Ultims, set sail from Concarneau in Brittany. Six days 5 hours 28 minutes and 38 seconds later, the men aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild were first across the finish line to take outright victory. This latest win had a rather special flavour with the sailors of Gitana Team embroiled in an incredibly intense duel with the crew of Banque Populaire XI led by Armel Le Cléac'h. This first place is the fourth consecutive win for this crew and the sixth for the Caudrelier – Cammas pairing.
38 seconds at the Canaries, 51 minutes at the Azores and 26 minutes in Concarneau!
Charles Caudrelier: "I'm relieved. It was a very intense and incredibly stressful race... We never knew who was going to get in front. We gained the upper hand at the crucial time, but right to the wire they were constantly trying different things and were very aggressive. They sailed well right to the last and there was precious little in it at the end. It's a great victory! It was a very fine course and an epic battle with Armel and Team Banque Populaire. It was really something and it certainly shook us into action. We've hardly left each other's sides since the beginning of the race. We got off to a good start with a slight edge, but they quickly made up the lost ground and after that it was open warfare for a week, but it was a thrilling ride. We've made a lot of progress and that's what is really interesting.
We really pushed the boat quite hard at certain points, because they were pushing us! We posted some significant peaks of speed. The speeds weren't very high, because we weren't sailing at the best angles, but they were not the kinds of speeds we're used to making with this boat, especially on the beat with Banque Populaire. Speed was a key factor in the end, together with the ability to get the boat making headway in variable conditions, on big seas and on pretty much every point of sail. We pulled off some great moves, we made a few blunders too, but we sailed well. The teamwork was great, the boat was in tip-top condition, she was really quick and we've managed to step up our game even more."
Franck Cammas: "We raced like it was a Figaro competition, playing around with little tactical moves, putting in a lot of tacks... Such tight regatta racing at 35 knots is quite something!
We flew well upwind. We already knew we could do that, but it's always about compromise. You don't know whether it's working or not, so you have to switch to that mode at the right time, not too early, not too late either and I felt that Banque Populaire was also very good at that. They certainly shouldn't have any hang-ups about speed, which means that they've made a lot of progress since last year with an identical boat, but I think they know how to trim her better and they've certainly erased any teething issues with the appendages. As a result, they're quick and so much the better! In this instance there were just two boats slugging it out, but I hope there will be more of us. The moment that most stands out for me in this race is passing Lanzarote, where we were in contact with one another. We were neck and neck at 45 knots in the middle of the night, amidst the rocks, where you could just see their shadows slip by a few hundred metres away to windward, with Banque Populaire hot on our heels! You had to really be on it for that and all of us were on deck!
The speed is always stressful at the start and then you get used to it. It's fair to say that at the finish we really had a good feel for the boat, we were really at ease and we could do what we wanted with and without stress. Obviously, the more you sail, the less stressed you feel. As such, it's really great to compete in races like this. It pushes us to fly for days on end..."
Morgan Lagravière: "The race was really full-on, more so than we've been used to during the clashes in previous events. Things went the way we're used to though. We're generally a calm bunch aboard, going through the motions in order. There were some moments that where more stressful than others, even in the decision-making now that Charles is taking on all the responsibility for choosing which options to take. It was fantastic. Inevitably we'll take some great memories away from this race, especially when it ends like this! The fact that we were in battle mode throughout makes victory all the sweeter. Sometimes things are almost a foregone conclusion, so there's less pleasure in that, but here it was excellent!
It's a crazy course! The only thing is that we passed the Azores and the Canaries under the cover of darkness, which is a bit of a shame. It has a certain charm about it, but it would have been quite nice if one of the two roundings was in daylight...
You couldn't wish for a better training ground for the Jules Verne. When you're up against another rival, you inevitably push a little further than usual. You try to outdo one another and that enables you to work fast and well. It was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
The mindset required in this event was slightly different to what we've experienced so far too, due to the pressure of this confrontation. Today I believe that we've come out of it a lot stronger and we've got our heads around a fair few things, whether it be in the way we work together as a crew or how the boat operates, and that's very constructive going forward."
Congratulations to this Finistère Atlantique. It was a great first edition and I hope there will be others. We've had a blast. It's the kind of format we love; 7 days, in all the places we love sailing, with plenty of action. In some ways, given that there's so much going on, I'm keen to say that it's the finest playing field in the world. The course is just perfect in any case!" concluded Charles Caudrelier.
The team behind the collective
Dockside with the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in Concarneau, Cyril Dardashti, director of the Gitana Team, spoke of his pride in a job well done: "This latest victory rewards the massive amount of teamwork required of this project. Since the launch of this incredible boat five years ago, we've had highs like the one today, but we've also suffered breakage and tough times. However, the owner of the boat, like us, has never had any doubts, given how much we all believe in the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. For the past three seasons, thanks to an extraordinary crew, this boat as fulfilled all our expectations and won all the races she's competed in. Every year you have to step up your game and progress ever further because we're up against some stiff competition, which makes it hard for us to keep ahead of the game, just as Banque Populaire did here by sailing a fantastic race. Congratulations to them. This evening, we're still the reference, which is something I feel I can say as it came from the mouth of our rival... I'm very grateful for and proud of this team, which has enabled us to be in this position today. Up next, I'm looking forward to seeing how Charles and Gitana 17 can express themselves in the Route du Rhum this November."