After 41 days at sea, the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is tackling the very last section of its epic voyage. Setting out from Hong Kong on 14th August 2008 in a bid to set a new reference time on the Tea Route, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew are continuing their climb up the English Channel and are now just 160 miles from the goal. Gitana 13’s arrival is scheduled between tonight and tomorrow morning, Thursday 25th September.
The last day at sea, especially when it’s been a long voyage such as the Tea Route, always has a very special taste… Still in record mode the ten men of Gitana Team are maintaining their watch rhythm and still making headway in rather unfavourable conditions for their race against the clock. Indeed, the steady NE’ly winds which continue to be served up are only rarely enabling Gitana 13 to exceed 15 knots. In the lee of the English coast since Tuesday evening in order to protect themselves from the lumpy seas and benefit from a small coastal influence orientating the wind more favourably, the maxi-catamaran was this morning just a few miles off the Isle of Wight, leaving the mouth of the Solent to port. More attentive than ever to Gitana 13’s progress, Sylvain Mondon commented on the current strategy aboard: 'These two combined elements have been enabling Gitana 13 to perform a long stretch on port tack from Eddystone Lighthouse (off Plymouth Sound).
This fairly favourable tack will take them as far as the approach to the Pas-de-Calais strait, where the conditions will give way to an upwind beat as far as Dover. The final hours in the North Sea and along the River Thames may well be carried out in downwind conditions, which will be less testing on the crew.' From the chart table of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, Dominic Vittet completed the scenario of these final hours at sea: 'In the afternoon, the NE’ly air flow will head progressively (become less favourable for the boat to make headway) as it shifts round to the east. This will force us to make a series of tacks again as we traverse the English Channel. After Eastbourne, we should thus be able to pick our way towards Le Touquet before climbing up to Dover. Our passage around the SE tip of the United Kingdom will finally bring an end to the interminable beat which has been par for the course since the equator!'
The end of Gitana 13’s voyage is approaching… Tonight or tomorrow morning, Lionel Lemonchois and his men will make their entrance into the River Thames, thus completing their rather atypical ‘circumnavigation of the globe’ which began last January. Doubtless emotions will be running high tomorrow at the foot of Tower Bridge.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’ (UT)
Wednesday 24th September at 0945UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 50°34.73N/01°06.23W