At sea now for 20 days and a few hours, Raphaëla Le Gouvello and her sailboard, seeking to cross the Indian Ocean on a surfboard, pushed by steady, strong trade winds, is averaging 62 nautical miles (about 71 statute, or land, miles) a day.
For the past three days, she has even averaged 75 nautical miles (over 86 land miles) a day! At this rate, the sailboarder from Brittany has already covered over a third of her route and should be able to cross the Indian Ocean in shorter time than planned. In fact, based on her Pacific Ocean experience, the average advance was calculated to be about 50 nautical miles a day, which meant crossing the Indian Ocean in 70 to 75 days. But stormy Indian Ocean weather conditions are very different and Raphaëla's average speed is markedly greater, whether while sailing at day or drifting at night.
Her weather plotter, Jean François Bonnin, now anticipates an arrival time frame between June 3 June 6, for landfall on the island of Réunion (the town of Le Port, Pointe des Galets, west of St. Denis). Nothing is certain, of course; let's wait for the second half of the crossing, which begins at the 85th meridian, a position she's expected to reach around May 6.
Sailing parallel to a tropical storm:
Two days ago, Raphaëla and her technical support team got the news from her weather plotter: a tropical storm is forming about 600 nautical miles (just under 700 land miles) to the north. This storm, which has the potential of becoming a cyclone, is traveling in the same direction as Raphaëla and slowly getting closer toher.
For the past 48 hours, our sailboarder weathered violent squalls and showers with winds above 35 knots an hours and troughs of about 13 feet.
These conditions make it hard for Raphaëla to sail correctly.
Yesterday, our sailboarder complained of only being under sail for and hour and a half in the morning and the same in the afternoon. In frustration, she reported, 'I'm not satisfied because I can't really sail and I'm forced to get below deck to wait it out. But otherwise it's exciting when I am up windsurfing again; I feel the board leaning ahead, bow in the water, and all of a sudden we're off. It's really exhilarating.'
Good news, Raphaëla informed us that during the night the wind and the swells had diminished considerably, conditions which the weather plotter confirmed. The storm finally peaked.
There remain some unstable weather to the north that needs to be watched; but Raphaëla is going to be able to pick up some days of real sailing.
'Thewinds are still blowing strong, but it's manageable. After I put everything away for the night, I pulled up the orange safety rope to remove sea creatures that have attached themselves there since the start of the crossing, including barnacles.'
French serial ocean-crosser Raphaela Le Gouvello set sail in her windsurfer on 9th April to cross the Indian Ocean. The 45-year-old veterinarian left from Exmouth, 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, the West Australian capital, on a 75-day journey that should take her the 6,300 kilometres to the French island of Reunion off the coast of Africa.
Six years ago Le Gouvello windsurfed the Atlantic, two years later it was the turn of the Mediterranean Sea, and in 2003 she conquered the Pacific Ocean, sailing from Peru to Polynesia.
Le Gouvello's craft is more boat than board: at 7.8 metres long, it has two cabins and weighs 250 kilograms.
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