North Sails NEWS

THE ULTIMES AT THE 2021 ROLEX FASTNET RACE: GITANA TEAM

Edmond de Rothschild Back to Defend Their Title

📸 Yann Riou / polaRYSE / Gitana Team

The winner of the previous Rolex Fastnet Race, the Maxi Edmond de Rothchild is back to defend her title. In 2019, the trimaran led by Gitana Team beat François Gabart’s Macif  by a mere 59 seconds. Since then, many improvements have been made to the boat’s appendages and systems; they’ve also added a brand new North Sails inventory. “The emphasis has been placed on aerodynamics,” says co-skipper Franck Cammas. “We’ve worked on many aspects in detail, but no revolutionary changes.” 

The team has noticed real performance gains with their Helix structured luff sails. “We had problems with heavy loads deforming the forestay,” explains co-skipper Charles Caudrelier. “With Helix, the loads are redistributed, which allows us to have a straighter, stiffer luff. In particular, the Helix J0 is a small revolution. We are still in a discovery phase, but the gains are clear.”

Thanks to these upgrades, Edmond de Rothschild has been logging 30-40 knots depending on wind conditions. At those speeds, the team could cross the finish line in Cherbourg in less than 24 hours. Caudrelier points out that the new course allows for a more open game, as they have the whole English Channel to cross. “It will be interesting for the Ultimes. There will be close racing with a more technical course off Cherbourg. And of course this French city provides a nice setting for an arrival celebration.”  

But first, the giant trimarans must maneuver their way through a start off Cowes, a tricky feat for the largest boats in the race. 

“The English coastline is a great playground and one of the most complicated in terms of sailing,” Caudrelier says. 

Cammas agrees. “Even if the course is short for Ultimes, this race remains a great pre-game for the Transat Jacques Vabre.”

In order to maximize options in all possible conditions, the team will also keep its standard set of sails onboard. “A gennaker covers a range of wind speeds from 10 to 40 knots,” Cammas explains. “This reduces the number of sail changes, very physical maneuvers that require the crew’s full attention.”

The entire team is fully committed to continued evolution, and the boat will be fitted with new foils after the Fastnet. Caudrelier says that they also want to keep refining the sail plan. “Do we want deeper sails, flatter or more twisted? We made some modifications in a direction that interested us. But it is difficult to evaluate the performance of a sail because the figures from one day to another are different. In the previous Fastnet, we were a bit faster downwind. But our preferred points of sail are upwind and reaching. That said, this edition is more competitive, and we expect to uncover feedback to help close these gaps.” 

“We don’t have the human and technical resources to change sails or appendages every year,” Caudrelier explains. “But we change what we think is most relevant.”

It is also difficult to make comparisons across the fleet, because each Ultime features very different design concepts and structure, which demand different sail combinations. 

“The two new boats [Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac’h) and SVR-Lazartigue (François Gabart)] will be absent from this edition,” Caudrelier says. “Some teams have added larger foils and larger wings on the daggerboard to improve their hydro. Obviously, the tweaks are not revolutionary, but it is the sum of the small things that make the difference. In the end, we all have weak and strong points. The Fastnet will be an opportunity for us to both gauge our performance and test some sails to design the set for next year.”

📸 Yann Riou / polaRSYE / Gitana S.A.

Aside from the high-caliber competition, what the Edmond de Rothchild crew fears most is hitting UFOs; submerged objects plagued the team throughout training and during last year’s Jules Verne Trophy attempt. “There is always a risk and an apprehension of hitting something,” says Caudrelier. “The impacts are often violent, and the damage is significant.” 

The crew includes Morgan Lagravière, David Boileau, Erwan Israel, and Yann Riou, and all are looking forward to their first competition since the Brest Atlantiques and to measuring themselves against their opponents. Will their continuous improvement be enough to defend their 2019 title against such tough competition? Stay tuned for an exciting finish in Cherbourg.

North Sails equips three Ultimes taking part in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race. We spoke to the crews about their project, the evolution of their boat and sails, as well as their Fastnet training program and their expectations for this edition. You can access our other stories via the links below.

Sodebo  Team Actual  Other Fastnet Stories

📸 Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRYSE / Gitana S.A.