Setting out from Hong Kong on 14th August 2008 in a bid to try and set a new reference time on the Tea Route (Hong Kong / London), the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group rounded the Cape of Good Hope this Thursday morning, shortly before 0600 hours UT.
An excellent way for Lionel Lemonchois and his men to celebrate their three weeks at sea. Forced to shelter in Algoa Bay (on the south-east coast of the tip of Africa) for over 36 hours, to let a vicious storm pass over, the ten sailors then had to deal with the raging elements in order to make the cape. Now positioned 6,000 miles from the goal, Gitana 13 has made its return to the Atlantic; an ocean which it left in its wake on 8th February 2008 as the crew rounded Cape Horn bound for San Francisco.
'We rounded the Cape of Good Hope at daybreak this Thursday morning, passing within three miles of the Cape Point lighthouse!' such were the initial words from Lionel Lemonchois. However, more than the rounding of this famous promontory, the skipper of Gitana 13 was particularly elated about getting away from the hostile conditions: 'We are now sailing under full mainsail and gennaker, and even though the wind isn’t very strong – around 10 knots –, it’s a real joy for the crew to find ourselves in conditions where we can slip along nicely again. Since passing the longitude of the Reunion Islands, the sailing conditions have been difficult. However, once again, the crew and the boat have been able to face up to it. All that’s behind us now! The skies are blue and the watches have launched into a thorough clean-up of the vessel.'
It is nevertheless worth remembering that the maxi-catamaran came off a little the worse for wear from its ‘duel’ with the Southern Seas. Indeed, late afternoon on Tuesday, as Gitana 13 was sailing right inside the front caused by a low to the south of the tip of Africa, Lionel Lemonchois alerted his shore crew to the damage aboard the 33 metre maxi-catamaran. In the impact from the waves, a crack has appeared along the forward section of the starboard beam.
'As we were heading towards the front, which we knew was set to be rather venomous, the wind was gradually picking up. The crew, who had fully anticipated this strengthening wind, had perfectly adapted the sail area so that Gitana 13 would suffer as little as possible. We had up to 55 knots at the strongest part of the system. However, it was the seas more than the strength of the wind which caused us problems. They continued to build until the waves reached 6 to 7 metres. As we were sailing against the current, the seas were abrupt and fairly breaking. One of the waves was stronger than the others and Gitana 13 dropped down heavily. It was one impact too much! It was a dark night, the seas were still very big and there was nothing more we could do. As a result we’d decided to heave to for the night, in order to be able to inspect the damage at daybreak. It consists of a crack spanning 80 cm on the forward section of the starboard beam. However, to the best of our knowledge it isn’t detrimental to the boat’s structure and we haven’t seen any increase in the size of the crack. We have the necessary material aboard to make repairs. We’ll just have to wait for conditions to become milder.'
For Gitana Team, the Cape of Good Hope sports its name well today. The upwind is over along with the slamming seas… a week of downwind sailing is taking shape ahead of the bows of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Hope reigns and Lionel Lemonchois’ crew are attacking this fourth week of sailing with their spirits high! Weather analysis by Sylvain Mondon (Météo France)
The Indian Ocean is now in Gitana 13’s wake and the southern Atlantic is opening up ahead of Lionel Lemonchois’ men. As with every week, Sylvain Mondon, Gitana Team’s router, decodes the future weather situation for us: 'After several lively days in winds in excess of 50 knots in the gusts and waves of 7 metres, Gitana 13 had a quiet night last night between the Agulhas Cape and the Cape of Good Hope. These are first effects of the Saint Helena High, which is stretching southwards via a ridge of high pressure as far as Cape Town.
This zone of light winds is now being swept by W to NW’ly winds on the forward section of a new cold front coming in from the W. The latter will reach the west coast of South Africa over the course of tonight. Lionel Lemonchois and his crew will have to try to make sufficient northing during today so as not to be subjected to the whims of this new cold front.
Once this obstacle is out of the way, they’ll have to force themselves into the downwind conditions rapidly where there is 20/25 knots of breeze on the eastern edge of the Saint Helena high. These are the first signs of the SE’ly tradewinds which will accompany Gitana 13 throughout their entire climb up the southern Atlantic over the coming days.'
The Cape of Good Hope was discovered in January 1488, during an exploration led by the Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias. In order to discover the route leading to the Indies, two caravels set off along the coast of Africa.
Around the southern section of the African continent, the caravels were caught in a storm which took them to the coast, level with Saint-Blaise Bay (today known as Mossel Bay), 370 km to the east of the tip of South Africa. They made a stopover here on 3rd February 1488, and observed that they had made it into the Indian Ocean and, without seeing it, had rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Bartolomeu Dias wanted to continue the exploration, but his crew, exhausted, rebelled. Turning back, he recognised the headland and named it the Cape of Storms due to the winds served up there. Following on from that, the king rechristened it the Cape of Good Hope, as he saw in as the proof that this maritime route would lead Portuguese explorers to the Indies.
This discovery was paramount for the next voyages made by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers. It provided the proof that the African continent did indeed have an end, but above all, for the first time, the cartographers designed the oceans as linked spaces. The world’s horizon broadened. Today’s figures
Departure from Hong Kong: Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’ (UT)
Thursday 4th September at 1215 (UT)
Latitude: 33°26.93 S – Longitude: 17°39.53 E
Speed over 4hrs: 10.8 knots – average speed since the start: 15.06 knots
Distance left to go: 6,017 miles Http://www.gitana-team.com