Ariane de Rothschild, president of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, and Cyril Dardashti, managing director of the Gitana Team, officially announced on Thursday in Paris the launch of a new Ultim, designed by Guillaume Verdier and built by CDK Group. Tip & Shaft was present and tells you more about this new project.
A year after first raising the possibility, Cyril Dardashti and Ariane de Rothschild have confirmed that Gitana 17 will have a successor in less than two years, Gitana 18, and that it will once again be an Ultim trimaran. The announcement was made official this Thursday in Paris, at the Edmond de Rothschild bank’s Paris premises. Was the choice obvious? “No,” replies Cyril Dardashti. “We had presented several projects to Ariane de Rothschild, including an Imoca, which we felt was a legitimate choice, insofar as there is one race that the team has never won: the Vendée Globe”.
What made the difference in the end for a new Ultim? “First of all there’s our history. We have a very strong preference for multihulls,” explains Ariane de Rothschild. “A monohull could have been a temporary solution to keep our project on track and avoid spending two years without sailing during the construction period, but we would have gone back to a multihull in any case. The debate was rather: were we sure we could make a significant difference with a new Ultim compared to Gitana 17, which has certainly reached maturity, but which we can still push further? You have the answer.”
Cyril Dardashti adds: “One of the reasons that pushed us towards this solution was the fact that T-rudders were not authorised on the Imoca boats, so we wanted to stick with the ‘real fly’, but also the work that we had been doing for several months with Guillaume Verdier’s teams and our design office, which told us that it was still possible to make significant gains with a new Ultim.”
Who is Gitana 17 for?
The choice was officially made “a fortnight ago”, assures the general manager of Gitana Team, who adds: “We had also worked with Guillaume on the plans for an Imoca, we have also talked about a trimaran outside the Ultim class, but it seemed quite legitimate to us to continue working with the class insofar as there are some great things to write with them”. Skipper of the current Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana 17), Charles Caudrelier adds, regarding the decision taken: “Among the conditions for a new boat, we had to be sure of being able to do better, and that’s something we’ve been thinking about for at least six months, but also to sell Gitana 17.“
Which is the case? Not officially, but Cyril Dardashti seems particularly confident, assuring us that the Verdier design will be sold “soon”, before adding: “Today, we’ve received around ten serious proposals [which he doesn’t wish to talk about, bound by confidentiality agreements, editor’s note], some of which we’ve selected, others not, I even had calls again not too long ago.”
For the managing director of Gitana Team, the criteria are “the price, the date, as we’d like to see our programme through to the end, including the Jules Verne Trophy during the winter of 2024-2025, and the fact that the buyer does the Ultim circuit, even if it’s not a priority.” The price: “There’s a €13 million version, with the boat handed over as she is today, and a €15 million version, with all the spare appendages and a transfer of knowledge and technology so that the buyer has all the keys in hand to use her quickly.” Does this mean that Gitana 18 will cost a minimum of 15 million euros? “Yes, it will be in those waters, but I won’t be able to tell you that until she’s launched.”
Secret-defence on the future boat
Cyril Dardashti is confident that Gitana 18 will be able to move up the range even further, and to do so he has once again chosen to rely on Guillaume Verdier and his team. “It’s a natural choice,” he says. “We’ve had a long and trusting relationship with him, and a real design team has developed between him and our design office. Present in Paris on Thursday, the architect adds: “In the end, it’s a continuous piece of work. Between Gitana 17 and Gitana 18, we never stopped working.”
The plans for the platform are now almost complete, with construction due to start “at the end of the month”, according to Cyril Dardashti. When asked about the areas in which it is possible to make significant gains, most of the people we spoke to were rather evasive. “On the hulls, we can still make it easier to pass through the sea and make the boats fly better,” says Guillaume Verdier. “There are still a huge number of knots to be gained in terms of aerodynamics, we have apparent winds close to 45-50 knots almost all the time, so we really need to look after this aspect. And as for the sails, between the rigid wing we saw on the America’s Cup in San Francisco (in 2010) and a flexible sail, there’s a huge in-between world to explore.”
Charles Caudrelier also clearly has the subject of sails on his mind, confiding: “I had a lot of ambition on the sail plan, we can’t make a rigid wing (forbidden by the rules), it’s a crazy project that I had in mind, but I think there are still ideas for improving the engine. I think we’re going to do something new, which is why we don’t want to show anything, we’re going to be very protective.”
Charles Caudrelier until 2026
The future Gitana 18 will be built in Lorientbyt CDK which has managed to convince the Gitana Team. “We interviewed Multiplast (who built the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) and other shipyards, but we chose CDK first and foremost for the proximity, as we wanted a shipyard close to our premises. They also showed us a cutting-edge industrial tool, and we were convinced by the technology deployed”, explains Cyril Dardashti.
CDK’s Deputy Managing Director, Yann Dollo, confides: “I think that what may have tipped the balance in our favour is that we have developed a great deal of expertise in the autoclave baking of very large parts, thanks in particular to the tool we invested in three years ago in Lorient, which is designed to be able to manufacture the arm of an Ultim in a single piece”. He estimates that Gitana 18 will require “100,000 hours of work, around 40% of activity over two years”, the launch is scheduled for September 2025.
With perhaps the Transat Jacques Vabre 2025 as her first race, time permitting, and a major objective a year later, the Route du Rhum 2026, which Charles Caudrelier is aiming for: “I’m happy to be able to defend my title, which wasn’t necessarily planned at the start,” he explains. “I’m looking forward to that, and then the idea is to support a young person to replace me, because I also want to pass on my experience.” Has casting already begun to take over in three years’ time? “We’re not there yet,” replies Cyril Dardashti, “but we’re looking at actors, young and old alike, because these are not machines you can just put into any hands.”
Photo: Yann Riou / polaRYSE /GITANA SA