After setting out six weeks ago in the conquest of a record never before coveted by a maxi-multihull of Gitana 13’s dimensions, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew are experiencing their final hours at sea on this Route de l’Or.
However, the weather situation currently reigning off the American coast, is forcing the men of Gitana Team into a series of tacks, upwind, to reach their final destination. A configuration, which will require them to cover some extra miles.
In the guise of a final sprint, the crew of Gitana 13 are weaving their way towards San Francisco. “We are trying to gain the maximum of northing in order to make headway along the course, but the weather conditions are forcing us to tack” explained Dominic Vittet from the chart table of the 33 metre catamaran.
Trapped between two very different weather situations, Lionel Lemonchois and his men have had no option but to zigzag from one to the other: “To our West? There’s a zone of high pressure synonymous with light winds, whilst to our East a corridor of steadier winds has formed along the coast. The aim over these final 24 hours is going to be to successively play these two phenomena off against each other. The direct course is guiding us northwards, but as soon as the wind eases too much we put in a tack to regain more pressure. Then as soon as the wind fills in again, we make for the edge of the zone of high pressure again… and vice versa” resumed the onboard navigator.
These numerous manœuvres are not hampering the organisation of the watch system aboard Gitana 13 however, the latter a very well oiled machine after over 41 days at sea, as Dominic Vittet confirmed: “We're fully into the rhythm and we are still applying our system of three watches of three crew, which rotate on deck every three hours. Off watch, dedicated to the weather and the optimisation of Gitana 13’s trajectory, I nevertheless take part in the 0900 and 2100 hour watch in order to relieve the crew who are permanently on watch.”
The maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is still expected into San Francisco on Thursday morning, where it will cross the finish line situated just off the infamous prison of Alcatraz.
Last Friday, at the exit to the Doldrums, Lionel Lemonchois envisaged Gitana 13’s last few days at sea as a ‘punishment’; with long hours of upwind conditions, unfavourable to the performance of the 33 metre catamaran. However, despite having to try to make headway in headwinds, they are benefiting from a slightly more open angle – from the NE – as well as a less powerful air flow than that forecast. A combination, which is enabling them to rack up over 370 miles per day despite slightly bigger seas over the past few hours: “We have suffered the remains of a N'ly swell stemming from a large low, which crossed the latitude of San Francisco. However, the seas should gradually become more organised and enable us to slip along again. We are doing better than the routing but we’re sailing safe and as soon as the wind climbs beyond 25 knots we’ll ease off the pace. Gitana 13 really performs well close-hauled between 13 and 18 knots. This corresponds with the conditions we have benefited from in the main throughout the weekend and yesterday” specified Lionel Lemonchois.
At the start of the afternoon, the crew of the maxi-catamaran, equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, should change over onto a port tack towards San Francisco, in a NW’ly air flow. The miles covered now will count towards the number of miles made good along the course, that is unless Lionel Lemonchois and his men have to perform any further manoeuvres to adapt to the wind fluctuations.
In a good humoured atmosphere, the end of this course is being accompanied by some great moments aboard Gitana 13. In this way, the symbolic barrier of 1,000 miles left to go was crossed on Sunday night and was rightly celebrated: “Certain ‘small pleasures' were embarked to celebrate a few important passages such as crossing the equator on two occasions… We drank to our passage under the 1,000 miles to go with a small ginger rum and some squares of chocolate!' said the skipper of Gitana 13 gleefully. http://www.gitana-team.com/en/