Since leaving San Francisco last Saturday at 22h45’45’’ UT, Lionel Lemonchois and his crew have been racking up the miles at a steady pace – an average of over 21 knots – as they jump from one weather system to another. This strategy has paid off as, after just four days of racing, the 33 metres maxi-catamaran has a good lead over the reference time.
'Conditions are now ideal… We have been experiencing periods of sailing which have been considerably more pleasant over the past 24 hours. We have brilliant sunshine, increasingly calm seas and a twenty knot NE'ly breeze, which are currently enabling us to belt along at between 27 and 34 knots' confided Cyril Dardashti shortly after 2300 hours yesterday night.
In 2006, during its conclusive east to west crossing of the Pacific, Geronimo completed the course in three stages. In fact, weather conditions were such that Olivier de Kersauson and his crew were pushed onto a very S’ly course. This was so far south that the maxi-trimaran treated itself to two intermediary records (San Francisco / Honolulu then Honolulu / Yokohama) in addition to the North Pacific record crossing. For Lionel Lemonchois and his ten crew, the objective has always been to reduce the reference time for the whole course so the possibility of a passage between the Hawaiian Island was quickly moved to one side. The reasons for this are that the conditions Gitana 13 is currently benefiting from are enabling her to make headway towards the goal without having to round off her trajectory too much. 'If the wind had guided us close to Honolulu we’d certainly have attempted the intermediary records, but we're passing too far north of the archipelago to warrant adding additional miles. This is rather good news for the outright crossing record!' added Cyril. Positioned 320 miles north of the island of Maui yesterday night, the maxi-catamaran has since left the Hawaiian archipelago abeam of her, to port.
'This North Pacific crossing is a record you have to hunt down. As a result we haven’t eased off the pace since leaving San Francisco so we can get the very best out of Gitana 13!' Their efforts have been rewarded as, after just four days and a few hours on the counter, the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has held a comfortable lead over Geronimo: 379 miles at the 0830 position report.
Today this NE’ly wind is set to hold as it clocks round progressively to the E and then the SE tomorrow. This rotation will accompany Lionel Lemonchois’ men in what will be their only day in a tradewind air flow during this record. According to Sylvain Mondon’s forecast, this fifth day at sea also promises to be one of the most productive since the start. Indeed, the combination of strong, established winds and fairly flat seas should enable Gitana 13 to lengthen her stride – the 600 miles covered in 24 hours are likely to be exceeded in principle – and they will be able to open up their lead still further over their virtual rival. Onboard Comments - 02/04/2008 - 17:04 - Awaiting the waves
And the fourth night was the right night! The heaven was filled with stars and the men on watch on deck were finally able to chat amongst ourselves naturally, without having to bellow to make ourselves heard… The collars of our foulies are open now as we no longer have to do battle with the spray or the cold. The ambient temperature has utterly changed, as has the seawater, which is now 23°C, as opposed to 10 at the start. This changes the tone and this ‘truce’ comes as a welcome relief. Gitana 13 is dry again, the two hulls having been sponged down from top to bottom. The crew meantime has had a good rest for the first time, with the resulting deep sleep a real joy for the person in charge of waking everyone up. Each time the person being woken is a long, long way from this Pacific crossing record attempt and takes several seconds to climb aboard once more.
So here we are, under the stars on flat seas with all the sail aloft. We’re slipping along on calmer seas, still beam on to the breeze. The sheets are in our hands; there’s a reef to be taken in as the wind fills in, albeit it temporarily… quickly followed by shaking out the reef again. Cups of tea or coffee once more circulate about the deck, where paradise reigns, but it won't last. In the next few hours we're expecting the wind to fill in again. We're maintaining the same angle in relation to it so as to set off again with the best possible 'heading/speed' compromise, comfort having absolutely no part in the equation as you've doubtless grasped. However, Captain Lionel's smile has everyone taking their medicine when, beaming broadly, he announces that in two days time we are likely to have covered half the course. 'Five days to get halfway across the Pacific, not bad eh?' Go on then, I won’t mind getting dumped on by another wave after all!
Nicolas Raynaud http://www.gitana-team.com