Under gennaker in a more organised swell, the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is continuing its east to west passage across the Indian Ocean. At an average of 27 knots for the past 24 hours, Gitana 13 is devouring the miles as it racks up over 650 mile days. It is an ideal scenario which nevertheless requires the utmost concentration at the helm.
Gitana 13 - Tea Route Record 2008
The seas which have been manhandling the crew of Gitana 13 since its entry into the Indian Ocean some 48 hours ago, have now become more ordered: 'It’s a lot less wet on deck! The wind backed (turned to a favourable direction for the boat to make headway) some time ago so we’ve been able to hoist the gennaker (large headsail) and we’re now accompanying the SE’ly swell. The seas are a lot better formed and more undulating than yesterday, which makes for more comfortable sailing'.
Aboard the 33 metre maxi-catamaran, the organisation is meticulously well oiled. The ten sailors are divided into three watches of three, who take it in turns on deck every three hours; a mix to which Dominic Vittet is added. The onboard navigator, in charge of the weather analysis and the smooth running of the boat, is effectively benefiting from a rather different status as he works outside the watch system. There is always one watch permanently on deck, the following watch are on standby ready to lend the crew up top a helping hand if need be, and the third watch are able to rest completely.
However, according to the conditions encountered by Lionel Lemonchois and his men, this organisation can be slightly modified to benefit performance or the recuperation of the crew. It is for this very reason that since Gitana 13’s entrance into the Indian Ocean, Dominic Vittet has been ensuring a certain rota system by integrating the standby watches: 'We worked like this during the Route de l’Or too: twice a day, I take the place of a standby watch member. That enables the boys to benefit from twice the amount of sleep; the normal 3 hours being transformed into a total break of 6 hours' explained Dominic.
For the past 48 hours manoeuvres on deck have been rare, with the exception of hoisting the gennaker last night. However, far from twiddling their thumbs, the ten crew members have been making the most of the current situation to devote their time to the everyday maintenance of the maxi-catamaran : 'We’re going right around the boat twice a day, most often at sunrise and at the end of the day. These regular checks allow us to survey the condition of the gear on a daily basis, which is essential in a record of this length' specified Olivier Wroczynski, before going on to say: 'For my part I take care of anything related to power, water, electricity and the engine mechanics aboard. The start of the record called for considerable input on my part as the heat and humidity we experienced as we left Hong Kong didn’t facilitate the smooth running of all our machines. However, since the temperatures have dropped, everything has got back in order again.'
This morning, the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was positioned 1 500 miles in longitude from Mauritius. For Lionel Lemonchois and his crew the goal remains unchanged: trying to benefit from the SE’ly tradewinds currently on zone, in order to continue making headway westwards and lining themselves up as best they can for rounding the Cape of Good Hope. From tomorrow though, three choices of route will be on offer to the crew of Gitana 13, so it will be high time to refine the strategy!