The maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group made its entrance into the Bay of Biscay on Sunday afternoon and is this Monday sailing at the latitude of Bordeaux.
They are making headway in rather uncomfortable conditions, close-hauled in steady NE’ly winds, combined with short, big seas. However, aboard Gitana 13, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew had prepared themselves for these last chaotic miles. At 1315 UT they were 550 miles from their goal.
The passage of Cape Finisterre, at the NW tip of Spain, wasn’t a trifling matter for the ten sailors of Gitana Team: 'We had to make a series of tacks all the way along the tip of Galicia: in total close to twenty-three tack changes! It was a really intense rhythm which took a lot out of the crew.' From his offices in Toulouse, Sylvain Mondon, who only very rarely disconnects from his computer, explains this series of manœuvres: 'Gitana 13 sailed along the coast of Galicia to shelter from the swell and the more unfavourable wind offshore.
Indeed, onshore, there was between 25 and 30 knots of NE’ly breeze (compared with 35 to 40 knot gusts offshore) which enabled them to make sufficient easting before beginning their climb up the Bay of Biscay. This position shift required a great number of manœuvres level with the rocks throughout the whole of Sunday afternoon and a large part of the night.
However, the reward for the crew of Gitana 13 is the opportunity to sail close-hauled on starboard tack in ENE’ly winds of between 20 and 25 knots, through 2 to 3 metre high waves. These conditions mean that they’re making laborious headway but they are still a lot less tortuous than if they were further over to the west, where the wind is stronger and there is more of a tendency for them to be headed.'
Despite all this, life aboard the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild remains complicated: 'The seas aren’t very big, but they are rather short and Gitana 13 very often buries her bows in the waves. We’re brought to a stand-still every three minutes, which can lead to a few stylish moves amongst the crew. In these conditions, sleeping is a real mission!' The background noise in the short conversation with Léopold Lucet largely confirms this.
This brisk NE’ly breeze which Lionel Lemonchois and his crew have been exploiting to best effect for the past 24 hours, will accompany the 33 metre maxi-catamaran for their entire passage across the Bay of Biscay as well as for the climb up the English Channel. Their return to steady downwind conditions which are more favourable to Gitana 13, will have to wait until the final hours of the course, between Pas-de-Calais and their arrival in the Thames. The ETA is still scheduled between late evening on 24th September and the morning of 25th September. A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14 August at 07h 55 ’32’’ (UT)
Monday 22 September at 07:45UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 44°15.97 N /07°10.80 W http://www.gitana-team.com/