© M.Le Roux / polaRYSE / GITANA S.A
Spring break for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild
Mid-April is typically a period synonymous with the relaunching of offshore race boats after a lengthy winter refit tucked safely away in yards. This year though, due to a Jules Verne Trophy attempt, the upcoming programme for Gitana Team and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is not following the traditional route. Hauled out late last week, on Thursday 13 April, the flying maxi-trimaran is finally ready for her spring refit! For the next three months then, the recent winner of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe will be examined in great detail by the members of the five-arrow team. Amidst maintenance, development and making her reliable, the jobs list is both substantial and ambitious, and the same is true of Charles Caudrelier's sports programme for the second half of the season.
A winter without Jules Verne
Despite setting sail from Ushant on 12 February 2023, the one and only winter attempt was short-lived... Indeed, just hours after the stopwatch began counting down the time of their planetary challenge, the men of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had to turn back following generator damage; a minor issue, that was very quickly repaired back at base, but an essential part on the scale of a round the world record attempt. The frustration in the moment was promptly erased though as ultimately the weather window snapped up by the crew of Gitana Team didn't play out as expected in the following days.
Subsequently, there were no further weather windows to match the team's ambitions, despite Charles Caudrelier and his men giving themselves every possible opportunity by extending the period of stand-by until early April. However, the five-arrow team has certainly not wasted any time. Prior to a well-deserved refit, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild treated itself to a few days offshore in the North Atlantic for a series of test phases aimed at validating the optimisations envisaged over the coming months. As such, it was a happy Charles Caudrelier who returned to Lorient last week, just before the Easter weekend: "We sailed a 7-day looped circuit of the Atlantic to validate the test phases in some boisterous conditions over a variety of points of sail. I'm very pleased with these past few days of training in crewed format, which enabled us to validate the desired optimisations and identify other areas we need to work on with our developments. It was also an opportunity to sail with two new crewmen - Julien Villion and Benjamin Schwartz – who will notably be part of my routing cell in the Arkea Ultim Challenge. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is now in refit until the summer. I had a packed schedule last year, with my preparation and then the Route du Rhum and of course being on standby for the Jules Verne Trophy. I'm going to give myself a few days off now and I'm also going to sail on some other boats whilst I await her relaunch in July. The second half of the season is going to be busy and intense as I'll be linking together the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Arkea Ultim Challenge. I can't wait!"
Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre with Erwan Israël
The Ultims will be in Le Havre to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Coffee Route. From 20 October 2023, the opening date for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race village, the giants will dock into the Bassin de L'Eure, as they did two years ago. On 29 October, the duos on the flying maxi-trimarans will set sail for Fort-de-France on a course spanning around 7,000 nautical miles. In addition to the classic descent of the North Atlantic, the programme will include a return trip through the doldrums and across the equator, a passage in the vicinity of the island of San Pedro Paolo, a drop even further south to a mark located to the north of Ascension Island in the middle of the South Atlantic and then a sprint for Martinique.
Charles Caudrelier didn't have to think long and hard about who would accompany him in this 16th edition and help him defend the Ultim title he won in 2021. Crew aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild since 2019, but also someone who's been a key figure in a number of Gitana Team's major victories over recent years as onshore weather router, Erwan Israël was the obvious choice for the skipper of the five-arrow maxi-trimaran: "The Transat Jacques Vabre is one of my favourite races! This is the event that saw me cut my teeth in offshore racing, aboard a monohull initially and then a multihull, and in which I've enjoyed some of my finest victories. Both the course and the double-handed format make it possible for us to really get the most out of our machines, which always give rise to some top-flight battles out on the water. The confrontation and the sport are exactly what we're after in our discipline. Together with Gitana Team, we're thrilled to be able to defend our Ultim title in this wonderful event and to be a part of the 30th anniversary celebrations for this great race. I'll be on the start line in late October with Erwan Israël. We know each other very well. We've already sailed around the world together in the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011 - 2012 and he's been part of the crew on Gitana 17 since my arrival in the team as skipper. Erwan and I have a fairly similar way of sailing and we both enjoy trimming the boat, so sharing this double-handed transatlantic race with him was only natural!"
As discreet as he is talented, Erwan Israël is a very sought-after sailor, who is highly skilled at navigation, trimming and helming, as well as being an extraordinary weather router, who has managed to further hone his craft among the masters of the discipline. In fact, he will take up this key shore-based role for Charles Caudrelier in the Arkea Ultim Challenge, the first singlehanded round the world Ultim race in January 2024. In the meantime, the duo will get a chance to show what they're made of in double-handed format in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.
"When Charles offered me the chance to do the Jacques Vabre with him it was a big surprise but a fantastic one! I didn't hesitate for a second. It's an incredible opportunity and a very fine challenge. I have absolute confidence in Charles, who's proven that he knows how to helm the boat in singlehanded and double-handed format. This will be my first double-handed transatlantic on an Ultim... As such, I'll be a rookie, but I'll have the pressure of sailing on a boat expected to perform very well! The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is a fantastic boat and given the results posted by Charles and the team over the past four years, when you line up for the start of a race you know that it's with the label of the boat to be beat. Two years ago, I experienced the race through a computer screen as I was routing the Maxi on shore with Stan Honey. I'm really going to make the most of this fine opportunity," admitted Erwan.