Thirty-three hours. Cowes, Fastnet, Cherbourg. Wow. But we really haven’t seen anything yet. The unbelievable Gitana Team of Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier have laid down a marker for the new Rolex Fastnet Race course and for now, we just stand back and admire their work. What a performance. What an incredible group of sailors. What an honour to witness them perform at this level and follow their travails. But it isn’t a record that will stand the test of time – not by a long shot. This is to be continued…
As Cammas said when he came ashore: “The team have done a fantastic job over the last year to develop the boat and we can’t stop that because new boats are coming.” And they are coming fast. By 2023’s race, Gitana will be positively agricultural. French boatsheds are humming to the sounds of wafer-thin carbon sheeting being cut precisely and curing ovens operating round the clock. You can’t get a build-slot for love nor money right now and the next generation of ocean-going foilers have Gitana firmly in their sights. They are the performance level to be shot at. VPP calculations know that the new Fastnet record on the new course can be close to a day in the right conditions.
But for now, Gitana is the best of the best sailed by legends at the very pique of their prowess and they are a mighty unit. Unfazed by 40 knot breezes and Solent washing-machine chop, they are chiselled from granite found in the great oceans far from rescue services or the lenses of the media. Fresh to frightening is where they operate and a short 695 miler out to the southern tip of Ireland is just over a day’s pay away. The crew will have to make up their time sheets with a win bonus and fight over the Rolex watch that is coming their way – whose turn is it this time to get the Yachtmaster?
The multihull scene has always been the one that makes the world stop. The inherent speed indicated by the outlandish designs and the otherworldly proportions make these boats attractive to the eye at dock and devastating on the water. How many of us have dreamt of doing a distance race at pace on one? Round the Island and back for bacon butties before IRC 3 has even got past Newtown – you bet. New York to Lizard Point in under five days – yes please. Rolex Fastnet Race in under two days – how cool would that be? We’ve all dreamt it as we drive our water-shifters through chop or down relentless two-sail reaches praying for the next headland to hove into view.
And what of the monohulls. Well Skorpios is still trundling past the Scilly Isles at 12-15 knots and impressive as it is, it’s barely noteworthy against the flying machines of the multihulls. It took two years to build just the central pod of Skorpios that houses the foils and the canting keel. Two years. And I hate to think at what cost, just to have the headlines stolen by the flying foiling machines out front.
Along with Rambler 88, the maxi monohulls still look like gorgeous, glamour boats but ranged against the sponsored ranks of the IMOCA classes they almost seem like a rich man’s folly. For that is what they are. The real racing in the monos is between the likes of Apivia, Charal, the beautiful new 11th Hour Racing, Arkea Paprec and Initiatives Coeur.
The Rolex Fastnet Race is a match race for these sailors, a chance to test the latest software and routing packages, perhaps trial a new sail or two or foil-check on the latest designs. The racing in that ocean-going fleet is electric – the line honours merchants are just a welcome distraction.
But the final word goes to Franck Cammas, currently the world’s greatest ocean multi sailor and it made me laugh for its sheer charm and seen-it-all-before nonchalance. Asked about his routing for the Rolex Fastnet Race and Gitana’s mad dash to the French shoreline after going through the Needles he chuckled with Gallic flair:
“Charles (Caudrelier) and Erwan (Israel) did a good job with the routing and we had one good shift by going further south that enabled us to put more than 20 miles on Sodebo and Actual. What was strange was that the French boats went on the south of the Channel and the English boats stayed in the north. Perhaps they are using different routing software!”
Congratulations Franck and the Gitana Team – what a pleasure to have you in the world’s biggest offshore race. The Rolex Fastnet Race is another on the CV and the sailing world just stoops in admiration for your efforts. Bravo!