Photo: Julien Girardot / Sea & Co / IMOCA Ocean Masters

Edmond de Rothschild blasts home

Seb Josse claims IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt honours

Wednesday December 16th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild arrived home first in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt this evening. The IMOCA 60 belonging to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's Gitana Team crossed the finish line off Port la Forêt at 20:18 UTC after 10 days 5 hours 18 minutes and 17 seconds at sea.

The victory comes as a reward following Edmond de Rothschild premature retirement from the Transat Jacques Vabre just a few weeks earlier and just four months after this VPLP-Verdier design, of the latest generation and fitted with foils that generate vertical lift, was launched.

Setting sail from Gustavia, St Barth on 6 December 2015, Edmond de Rothschild covered an actual distance of 3,773.79 miles at an average speed of 15.4 knots.

Perhaps it was skill, but certainly it was aided by the speed of his new craft, Josse perfectly negotiating the weather systems that he encountered on the way to stamp his mark on this second edition of the Vendée Globe qualifier to run between St Barths and Port-la-Forêt.

Edmond de Rothschild was the only ‘foiler’ competing in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt race, however the Gitana Team faced a race against the clock to get their skipper to the start in the best shape possible. At stake was Vendée Globe qualification, but mainly not competing would mean Josse and team losing this invaluable opportunity to rack up singlehanded miles racing in the North Atlantic. To pull this off, the Gitana team’s design office and composite specialists set to work the minute the boat returned to their base Lorient on 28 October to correct the teething issues observed in the Transat Jacques Vabre and reinforce her structure.

"2015 has been a very long and very packed year within Gitana Team," said Cyril Dardashti, General Manager of Gitana. "For it to finish in this manner is very satisfying and really rewarding. Following our retirement in the TJV, the team has not given up despite the disappointment of seeing the race come to an end after just 36 hours at sea. We adapted the programme and responded as quickly as possible so that Sébastien could participate in the Transat Saint-Barth - Port–la-Forêt, which wasn’t on our programme initially. However, it was well worth the effort… The delivery trip to St Barth was crewed and then obviously these 3,400 racing miles have been most valuable to us to calmly prepare for the 2016 season.

"We’ll now be able to go into refit to optimise and ensure the Edmond de Rothschild is reliable. We have one clear objective: To win the next Vendée Globe. To achieve that, Sébastien and all the Gitana team members are putting in 200% effort. This evening I feel very proud of this team, with a very special thought for the boat’s owners - Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild – who, day in day out support us and enable us to make our ambitions a reality."

Seb Josse, Q&A

Is this victory something you’d particularly set your heart on or were your sights more geared towards the qualification?

SJ: “Given the context in which I took the start – after retiring in the Jacques Vabre and with a break of just 48hrs in St Barths between two transatlantics – I must say that I was more geared up for qualifying and seeing how the boat would handle than an objective of pure performance. Right now, securing both is not unpleasant and I’m happy to take both.”

The race, the conditions and the key sections - can you give us a rundown of the race in terms of the weather and the sailing?

SJ: “It was a race for a metronome! You always had to be on the right timing so that you could link onto the different weather phenomena: and that’s how things panned out! In terms of the weather, the course was pretty much ideal. We managed to hook onto a low without too much downtime in the tradewinds rounding the zone of high pressure, which enabled us to traverse half the Atlantic as far as the Azores. Paul and I were the only ones to hook onto this low and be able to really make use of it. After that, I was the only one to have the right timing to be able to hook onto the second system, which was coming up via the south of the Azores. This second low was a ticket to Brittany, virtually on a single tack. The transition between the first and second low wasn’t easy but you needed a bit of luck on your side. To be at the leading edge of the front was a more comfortable position than that where SMA ended up, but the gap had already been created with the first low. The routing told me that Paul was over 200 miles astern of me at the finish in Port-la-Forêt. The maximum wind speed was 58 knots between Monday and Tuesday night and a minimum of 5-6 knots when we were circumnavigating the zone of high pressure setting out from St Barths.”

The first test in real conditions - what lessons will you take away from this transatlantic race, notably with regards how Edmond de Rothschild handled?

SJ: “In addition to being a fine transatlantic race, it was a great test for both the boat and me. It was exactly what I’d come here for. Since the launch, on 7 August 2015, it’s been a bit of a race against the clock. The Jacques Vabre didn’t smile on us and it was important to get going again very quickly in order to get some miles under my belt and amass some experience with the new boat. Heading back to the yard without having been able to validate the choices was unthinkable and not very gratifying for either the team or for me. Having done two transatlantics in less than a month and making the finish with a boat in perfect condition is a lot better with a view to the Christmas festivities and tackling 2016 with a greater degree of certainty.

"The winds were predominantly downwind and reaching, with just a few hours of upwind, but it was highly educational. The boat is made of stern stuff, very pleasant with this big cuddy under which you feel safe. She’s quick and on certain points of sail the addition of the foils is really impressive. However, to be making 30 knots in a monohull is not the same thing as on a multihull; it’s less stressful and you wonder how you’re going to land at the bottom of the wave, but not whether you’re going to be the right way up… One thing for sure, I’m a fan of the foils and I don’t need to think about it for even a second, I’m keeping them! The only slight regret comes from the line-up, which has suffered over recent days and I’d like to spare a thought for Paul, who really hung on and it was nice to be able to battle it out with him for the first few days.”

You hadn’t sailed an IMOCA 60 singlehanded since 2009 and this race was a journey of discovery aboard Edmond de Rothschild; did it take you a while to get your bearings?

SJ: “I hadn’t done any IMOCA solo sailing since 2009 and this race was a discovery trip on Edmond de Rothschild, but I soon found my bearings again. It was reassuring because prior to it becoming second nature, you always wonder “am I going to be in good shape?” You need to get your reflex actions back. However, this is just the start. I’m going to need to continue to sail the boat. Now I know what I’m about we call that experience and that’s not something you forget.”

The team has worked relentlessly, not only since the launch back in August, but also more recently following the retirement from the Transat Jacques Vabre, to enable you to take part in this race. Do you have anything to say to them?

SJ: “The timing was tight! Since our retirement in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the team has spared no effort and been able to make the crossing with the boat, arrive with a jobs list that wasn’t too long and be able to set sail again in a solo race: it was an almighty challenge! It’s a team victory! In truth, they worked flat out over the weekends and the weeks so the boat was ready and if they hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t be in Port-la-Forêt today. Thank you and hats off to the guys for having worked so hard!”

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