Gitana 13 - Gybe towards the equator imminent

Gitana 13 - Tea Route - Tea Route Record 2008

After 26 days at sea, Gitana 13 has covered over 8,700 miles and still has 4,200 miles to cover this Tuesday morning to reach the Elizabeth II Bridge at the entrance to the River Thames and the end of its Tea Route voyage. Still making headway to the west in the tradewinds of the southern hemisphere, Lionel Lemonchois and his men will gybe towards the equator and the infamous Doldrums during the course of the day.

'We’ve had some wind again since yesterday afternoon. There is a steady tradewind kicking out 20 to 25 knots of breeze, which is enabling the helmsmen to benefit from some great sessions to slip along in. We are virtually in the middle of the Atlantic, a long way from everything…' confided Dominic Vittet, prior to drawing up Gitana 13’s ‘plan of attack’ for the next few days: 'Our northward gybe isn’t far off now. It’s an important moment in terms of strategy and that’s why we’re constantly refining our timing with Sylvain Mondon onshore and Lionel.'

Indeed, the crew of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, will benefit from a rather unusual situation in which to cross the equator and above all the Doldrums a little further north: 'By gybing (change of tack to a downwind point of sail) today, the objective is to climb due northwards, on starboard tack, and benefit as much as they can from the African monsoon (SW’ly winds) to cross the Doldrums to its east. This opportunity will enable them to ‘cut the corner’ and gain some precious miles along the course' enthused the onboard navigator.

Sylvain Mondon sheds some light on this rather atypical scenario, which looks to be a great opportunity for Lionel Lemonchois and his nine man crew: 'The Doldrums or the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is caused by the opposition of the tradewinds in the northern hemisphere (NE’ly sector) and those in the southern hemisphere (SE’ly sector). This zone is synonymous with shifty winds, with conditions alternating between calms and violent squalls. In a standard situation, the Doldrums stretch further eastwards and very often as a result it is very difficult to traverse the zone near the African coast. Sometimes though a monsoon airflow, which generates SW’ly winds, can form and upset the original scenario. You can observe this phenomenon when the African continent warms up sufficiently to create a thermal low that diverts the SE’ly tradewinds from the southern hemisphere. And this is exactly what is happening at the moment off the coast of Guinea, Sierra Leone and also the Ivory Coast.'

According to the latest forecasts there is still a chance for the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group to return to the northern hemisphere during the course of the day on Thursday 11th September.