Spanish Gypsy

For many, myself included, it’s the boat of the year. It’s the grand prix team of the year. Every time I look at or into the Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, I get goosebumps. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier are very much sailors at the top of their profession. It’s like having the privilege of watching great artists at work as they paint their canvas. Picasso or Rembrandt, Bacon or Warhol, they are delivering genius. It’s the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The Stones at Madison Square Garden. It’s Le Corbusier and Renzo Piano. It’s Giacometti, Henry Moore and Anish Kapoor. It’s greatness we are witnessing.

©Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

As the Gitana Team rolled into Martinique amidst the dry Caribbean thermals, ghosting effortlessly by Diamond Rock and crossing the line between the Trois Ilets and the Fort de France Marina (how apt), they stepped not just ashore but into the annals of history. This hasn’t been a victory, it’s been a demonstration. It’s how the very greatest operate at the pinnacle of ocean racing aboard a thoroughbred that is something from a child’s bedroom wall.

After 16 days of sheer pace, acing the pack since the Bay of Biscay where they were briefly headed, Cammas and Caudrelier, the Paul & John, the Mick & Keef, the Plant & Page of global yachting, stamped their undeniable authority as they set the bar so high for all-comers with a charm and elan that only the French can exude.

I simply can’t speak higher about the admiration I have for this Gitana Team. It’s so inspiring to watch their daily videos and the style they capture. Watching a team missive is like a glimpse into a fantasy world that you and I will simply never inhabit. The team is a machine. No stone has been left unturned and it’s the coming together of decades of experience, hard-won experience, disappointment, trials and tribulations into a crescendo of excellence.

©Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

And I love the story and utter romance of the name Gitana. Many of you will undoubtedly know the etymology but for those that don’t, it’s worth a recap. It all started with the French-Swiss branch of the Rothschild family back in 1876 and the Baroness Adolphe de Rothschild, known as ‘la Gitane,’ – the Gypsy. I don’t know what it is about the word ‘gypsy’ but it seems just so apt for offshore sailing boats – Gypsy Moth is possibly the greatest name ever for a vessel. Gitana, literally translated today as the Spanish Gypsy, takes on that nomenclature legacy beautifully.

The Baroness, as legend and history has it, beat all the speed records on Lake Geneva aboard her steamboat that she personally had built and I like the thought of a baroness planing down sandalwood, scrubbing the bottom, knee-deep in oil and engine grease – there’s something deeply gratifying about that. And ever since that halcyon time, nearly all the Rothschild boats have been called ‘Gitana.’ The Rothschilds dominated a golden age of yachting, a time when sailing was as much of a nautical challenge as it was a lifestyle. Fabulous.

©Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

And in the modern-day Gitana Team, expressed now as the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, they have again achieved the pinnacle of sporting excellence married with design. In French speaking Martinique, Cammas and Caudrelier were quick to dedicate this latest victory to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild who sadly suffered a heart attack at his home in Pregny-Chambesy earlier this year in January in Switzerland. He was just 57.

Baron Benjamin de Rothschild

But the legacy that the late Baron leaves is mighty and in sailing we lost a truly dedicated, passionate supporter of our sport. Remember the old Elf Aquitane, the 62-footer that started the Gitana programme back in 2000, followed by several Gitana multihulls that determined to fly, long before foiling became mainstream. These were the days of the genius that is Loick Peyron but the Gitana Team stayed the course and the latest, Transat Jacques Vabre winner, is the culmination of Rothschild’s vision. A shame he wasn’t alive to witness it but his family, wife Ariane Langer and four daughters, are no doubt rightly proud of the team’s efforts in their late father’s memory. It’s a classy move to dedicate the win to him. Classy.

©Jean-Louis Carli – Alea

And that’s very much the spirit and soul of Gitana today. It’s class. It’s style. It’s French brilliance in a discipline that is so enormous in its ambition to be unfathomable to the rest of us.

Watching the videos as they literally flew down the Atlantic making it look and feel like a reservoir in the Peak District or a Swiss lake is something memorable and utterly beautiful. This is master craftsmen at work and we are lucky to witness it. I hope they enjoy the plaudits coming their way and thank them for showing what a 360 programme looks and feels like. It’s a rare genius on display.

The Spanish Gypsy sleeps tonight amidst the trickling, twinkling, crystal Caribbean waters of Martinique dreaming of her next oceanic escapade to stretch the bounds of possibility. The fury of the Transat Jacques Vabre is done. The next adventure awaits. Can’t wait.

Congratulation to Franck and Charles and the whole Gitana programme. Mighty performance.


One thought on “Spanish Gypsy

  1. Congratulations to the Team Gitana crew! It certainly is a beautiful and impressive boat, but as with Comanche, a part of me wonders what actual Romani people think of the use of the name.

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