It was at 0522’06’’ UT today when the maxi-catamaran, Gitana 13, in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group slipped past the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at the entrance to the River Thames.
Gitana sunset - Tea Route
Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew have thus erased the reference time, held by Philippe Monnet since 1990, to become the new holders of the Tea Route record with a time of 41 days 21 hours 26 minutes 34 seconds. Leaving Hong Kong on 14th August 2008, the sailors of Gitana Team covered the 15,312 miles at an average speed of 15.23 knots.
Their faces marked by the six weeks at sea, the ten sailors of Gitana Team couldn’t hide their delight on arriving in London in the early hours! The long climb to the infamous Tower Bridge was rightly appreciated by everyone concerned. The reasons for this were that not only was it the symbol of the completion of a long oceanic record but also the fact that Gitana 13’s arrival in the city of London marks the end of a very fine adventure, both in sporting and human terms, which began way back in January of this year.
Setting out to traverse the world’s seas for nine months, the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild covered nearly 40,000 miles without once letting down the numerous sailors who sailed aboard her throughout this long record campaign. Lionel Lemonchois and his men have made it back to the old continent enriched by stories and images, not to mention a host of great performances… Seven out of seven record attempts were transformed into outright records! Words cannot describe the significance of this prize haul, the only logical response being to simply congratulate the protagonists involved in these victories.
Lionel Lemonchois, shared his initial thoughts with us during his first few minutes ashore: 'This project was a real challenge for me! More familiar to racing single-handed, I was looking forward to driving a crew like that of Gitana 13. The seven records gleaned are clearly a great satisfaction but I am particularly proud of the human success story that has come about as a result of this long record campaign. We relished the idea of bringing some maritime routes, which have a real historic value, back into favour. I hope that the times set throughout the year will inspire others to revive these routes which are positively brimming with history.'
Gitana 13’s records
Route de l’Or (New York – San Francisco, via Cape Horn): in 43 days 3 minutes 18 seconds (February 2008)
North Pacific Crossing (San Francisco – Yokohama): in 11 days 12 minutes 55 seconds (April 2008)
Tea Route (Hong Kong – London): 41 days 21 hours 26 minutes 34 seconds (September 2008)
Yokohama – Dalian: 3 days 20 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds
Dalian – Qingdao: 23 hours 50 minutes and 20 seconds
Qingdao – Taiwan: 3 days 52 minutes and 15 seconds
Taipei – Hong-Kong: 1 day 58 minutes 27 seconds
Lionel Lemonchois heads towards new horizons
For Lionel Lemonchois, skipper of Gitana 11 and then Gitana 13, this seventh and final passage across the line had a very special flavour. Indeed, the Norman sailor will be leaving Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s ocean-racing stable at the end of 2008 for new sporting challenges more suited to his talent. It was a difficult decision for the owner of the Gitana fleet to take in, especially given his great friendship and respect for this exceptional sailor. Through his stunning victory in the Route du Rhum 2006, Lionel has definitively marked the history of the Rothschild family’s fleet of boats, but rest assured there are some fine pages yet to be written…