The first harbour of every news

Home > Team > Gitana > 140 years of maritime history. Happy Birthday Gitana!

Featured tags:

140 years of maritime history. Happy Birthday Gitana!

 Print article
140 years of maritime history
140 years of maritime history

An intense week ends today for Gitana, as the legendary line celebrated its 140th birthday on Wednesday. On 21st September 1876, Gitana, a 24-metre steamship built in England and assembled in Switzerland, sailed for the first time on Lake Geneva. Fitted out by Baroness Julie de Rothschild, this first boat, designed to break speed records, was a reflection of her owner’s daring and modernity. In her wake, the Franco-Swiss branch of the Rothschild family was to pass down this passion for sailing and innovation through five generations. The subsequent book written on the Gitana fleet spans freshwater initially, before hitting the open ocean, a journey which always involved naval architects and sailors giving life to these exceptional boats. To date, twenty-seven boats have sported the striking blue and yellow of the Rothschild family coat of arms and its equally iconic five arrows.


Within the Gitana Team, the offshore racing stable that was created in 2000 by Baron and Baroness Benjamin de Rothschild, engineers, athletes and experts continue that tradition today. Whilst on 6 November, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild will take part on the start of the Vendée Globe, with Sébastien Josse at the helm, a new 33-metre maxi-trimaran remains in build out of the spotlight.

In order to share with the public this remarkable maritime heritage and the significant challenges to come, Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild were keen to mark this anniversary date with two major events. In this way, over recent months, it’s not just on the water and in the design offices that the Gitana Team has been working hard. Rekindling its links with the past, trawling the archives, devising and creating an educational, recreational, modern and elegant venue, have been the many missions successfully completed to get the show literally on the road. In this way, the “Gitana, entering into the legend” exhibition is opening its doors to a public audience of any age. Currently running in Geneva, where it all began, the 200m2 installation will then head to Les Sables d’Olonne and conclude in Paris. Finally, a book, the result of over a year of work, will also be released on 3 October by Editions La Martinière, with a preface by Jean de Loisy, Director of the Palais de Tokyo and a postface by Academician Erik Orsenna.

These one hundred and forty years coincide with the start of the Vendée Globe, which has prompted us to mark this anniversary date in style. The Vendée Globe is a legendary race par excellence to my mind and there is also an additional element this year thanks to the arrival of the latest generation of monohulls equipped with foils. It is evident then that offshore racing is undergoing a revolution and the Gitana Team is one of the protagonists in this transformation. The Gitana saga and the longevity of this maritime history testify to the continuity that our family defends, but it’s really interesting to note that this passion is not linear. Equally, each generation has been able to leave its own mark on it, according to their convictions and their aspirations, and each with an extremely precise goal. With Gitana Team, over the past four years or so, we’ve taken a resolutely technological stance with a clear desire to build tomorrow’s multihulls, those which will fly around the planet. Breaking the codes is highly motivating and guides a number of our actions because, to my mind, this is essential in order to move forward and take things to another level. In this way, innovation has a preponderant role, as does the taste for competition and performance, but the manner in which we achieve that is crucial. Sailing is a team sport where human qualities lie at the heart of the action.” Ariane de Rothschild, CEO of Edmond de Rothschild Group.

Daring, entrepreneurial spirit, transmission and vision
After Julie de Rothschild, Baron Edmond de Rothschild would lend credibility to the Gitanas from the sixties through to the nineties. Holder of the Fastnet Race record for some nineteen years, the boat owner and racer also launched the Maxi Class by building Gitana VIII (winner of the Nioulargue 1984) and secured a win in the World 8mJI Cup with Gitana Sixty. His son, Benjamin, shared this time sailing and racing with his father. The young crewmate grew up with these incredible family boats then, which were increasingly avant-gardist and ever faster. When he took over the Gitana lineage in early 2000, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild knew that sailing was taking on a more professional air. At that point, he put together a team that was modelled on the motor racing stables, where drivers, technicians and designers work together. In this way, Gitana Team came into being. At this time, the multihull was enjoying its golden age. The 60’ Orma trimarans were winning everything and Gitana 11 secured victory in the Route du Rhum 2006 with a race record of 7 days and 17 hours. Next up came the record-hunting era for the maxi-catamaran Gitana 13, an opening up to international competition through the Anglo-Saxon circuits, not to mention the MOD70 adventure, which would take the Team towards new horizons.  

Innovation, expertise and performance
From Olin Stephens to German Frers, Gilles Ollier, Bruce Farr and Guillaume Verdier, a plethora of iconic naval architects have penned the Gitana craft over the years, and always with the same desire to clear the way and break new ground. Marc Guillemot, Frédéric Le Peutrec, Lionel Lemonchois, Yann Guichard, Loïck Peyron and Sébastien Josse, Gitana skippers past and present, are all sailors with impressive track records, a love for the sea and a taste for speed as a philosophy. Spurred on by the boat owners, the Gitana Team has frequently demonstrated its prowess for innovation, a journey that has led them to the flying boats which now motivate designers right around the globe. Following on from the addition of the T-foil rudders on the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana XV) and a stunning podium place in the Ultime category of the Route du Rhum 2014, the team pushed back the limits even further. Foils (lifting surfaces, reminiscent of a submerged plane wing) were devised and built. In this way, on 31 March 2016, the trimaran became the first offshore racing multihull capable of flight. Gitana XV reached 43 knots in just twenty knots of breeze! At the same time, the Mono60 designed for the Vendée Globe, has also been equipped with foils as a mark of unquestionable daring when you’re setting sail on a solo round the world race. And tomorrow? A 33-metre maxi-trimaran designed by the Guillaume Verdier team in collaboration with the Gitana design office; an innovative machine, which will group together all the latest discoveries, it too with a view to setting sail around the planet. 

Look and aesthetics
Finally, it would be impossible to discuss the Gitana fleet without underlining their elegance. In early November, Sébastien Josse will head out into the channel at Les Sables d’Olonne aboard the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana 16), upon which the eagle and the lion of the Rothschild coat of arms will be emblazoned on her sides. Her smooth lines, the almost sparkling midnight blue and the famous compass with the five arrows at its heart, everything associated with the Gitana fleet pays homage to the family crest. Designed by Marc P.G. Berthier during the Edmond de Rothschild era, the boats fitted out since that time have often been the work of the sailor-designer Jean-Baptiste Epron. For this anniversary year, the Gitana mermaid, who has accompanied the sailors for over 15 years, has taken on an altogether different look. Discover all on the official poster for the exhibition, where the look is more goddess than gypsy, with a globe in one hand and her face turned towards the horizon, as created by American street artist, Cleon Peterson.

GENEVA, 14 to 24 September on the Port Noir esplanade 
SABLES D'OLONNE, 15 October to 6 November, Vendée Globe race village 
PARIS, 3 to 11 December, Nautic (International Paris Boat Show)
Free exhibition, open to all and bilingual (French – English)

In conjunction with the exhibition, the owners of Gitana Team were keen to mark this anniversary date by putting together a beautiful book to be published by Editions La Martinière, on 3 October 2016. After extensive research, the book, Gitana, 140 years in the Rothschild wake presents the personal archives of this pioneering family and a wealth of hitherto unpublished content, which shines a spotlight on the daring and avant-gardist spirit of this highly unique saga.

36.5cm x 28.5cm, 240 pages, release on 3 October 2016 / preface Jean de Loisy, postface Erik Orsenna.

23-25 September: Défi Azimut-Imoca 60, 24-hr race setting sail from Lorient, speed runs and race around Ile de Groix.
30 September-1 October: Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez with the flying GC32 catamaran Edmond de Rothschild
4-6 October: Imoca training session with the Pôle Finistère Course au Large.
14 October: presence of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild at Les Sables d’Olonne.
15 October: opening of the Gitana, entering into the legend exhibition, at the heart of the Vendée Globe race village in Les Sables d’Olonne.
5 November: skippers’ briefing
6 November: 12:02 UTC, start of the 8th Vendée Globe (solo, non-stop, unassisted round the world race). 


Latest news