The weather window selected by the crew of Gitana 13 to set out on the Tea Route record has proven to be the right one. Heading off from Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’(UTC), following on from the influence of the tropical storm 'Kammuri' and prior to the arrival of typhoon 'Nuri', the maxi-catamaran has racked up a great time to the Sunda Strait, despite conditions which did little to favour performance. Passing through the passage last night, less than a week after setting off, this strait marks the entry into the Indian Ocean.
The Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, is now in the wake of Gitana 13. Last night, shortly after 0100 hours (UTC), the 33 metre maxi-catamaran slipped into this narrow 12 mile wide passage.
'The first part of this course was very tricky but we’ve come out of it rather well. Prior to setting out from Hong Kong, the most optimistic forecasts gave us 8 days to reach the Sunda Strait. In the end we covered the 2,000 miles of this initial section in 6 days 16 hours. It’s very satisfying, particularly as the weather didn’t really favour us; dishing out what felt like some rather interminable days sailing close-hauled and a rather long passage across the equator' resumed Lionel Lemonchois this morning.
This entrance into the Indian Ocean marks a change of rhythm for the sailors of Gitana Team. After a week spent in the closed waters of the China Sea and Java Sea, tacking upwind, Gitana 13 is now slipping along downwind on the steeper waters of the Indian Ocean. Benefiting from some well-established SE’ly tradewinds, the ten sailors will finally be able to express the potential of the maxi-catamaran .
'The SE’ly tradewinds are well and truly here! We’ve got 22 to 25 knots of breeze, which is enabling us to drive Gitana 13 at speeds close to 25-30 knots. The seas are building gradually and the atmosphere is wetter on deck now. The sailors on watch have swapped their T-shirts for foulies, which are better suited to these new sailing conditions. Everything seems to be in place to enable us to pass the Reunion Islands at a steady pace, some big surf awaits!' said the cheerful skipper of Gitana 13.
Weather analysis for the second part of the course:
The Indian Ocean Sylvain Mondon, loyal onshore router for the Gitana Team, explains the setting for the next 4,500 miles: 'The SE’ly tradewinds are well established in the Indian Ocean. These highly favourable winds will enable Lionel Lemonchois and his crew to maintain an average speed of around 25 knots throughout the first half of this ocean crossing. This regular tradewind air flow is currently being produced by two vast zones of high pressure: the first close to Australia and the second close to Africa.
These two systems are shifting slightly eastwards as they fill in and the second zone of high pressure will settle between the Kerguelen and Reunion islands and stretch right across the breadth of the Indian Ocean on Saturday 23rd August. A fine and slightly favourable SSE’ly swell is accompanying the maxi-catamaran so Gitana 13 should make fairly rapid progress over the next four days. Following on from that, they’ll have to line themselves up nicely in order to negotiate several passages of fronts to the south of Madagascar, prior to reaching the Cape of Good Hope. The second half of the crossing won’t be as direct and close-hauled sailing will prevail once more in increasingly big seas as they approach the African continent'.
A little history about the Tea Route
Beyond its commercial appeal, the Tea Route stood out during the XIXth century as one of the great nautical races. In 1868, Bernard Weymouth built the Thermopylae in Aberdeen, Scotland. On its maiden voyage the Thermopylae made it to Melbourne, Australia in 63 days, an incredible performance for the time. In order to challenge this record, the most famous clipper of all time, the Cutty Sark, was built in 1869, in Dumbarton, Scotland.
Departure from Hong Kong: Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’ (UTC)
Thursday 21st August at 07h46’ (UTC)
Latitude: 07°11.75 S – Longitude: 103°28.65 E
Speed over 4 hrs: 26.3 knots – average speed since the start: 13.29 knots
Distance left to go: 11,000 miles