Setting out from Hong Kong on 14th August 2008 in a bid to establish a new reference time for the Tea Route, the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is a few hundred miles from its goal, 385 miles away late this morning to be precise.
However, despite the short distance Lionel Lemonchois and his crew have left to cover, Gitana 13 is not expected in London before the morning of Thursday 25th September… The reason for this is a nasty NE’ly wind and heavy seas complicating the task for the ten sailors in Gitana Team.
This Tuesday morning at 0900 hrs UT, whilst Lionel Lemonchois and his men were beginning their 40th day at sea, the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was passing 20 miles offshore of the Chaussée de Sein, heading due north towards the western tip of Brittany. In this way, Gitana 13 is set to cross the latitude of the island of Ushant early this afternoon: 'It’s quite funny to be back in a much more familiar zone. We passed offshore of our home port of La Trinité-sur-Mer this morning, not without a little emotion for the five of us who have sailed throughout the whole campaign. Gitana 13 cast off from there last November, nearly ten months ago!' confided the onboard navigator.
Last night, the crew of Gitana 13 suffered a hefty gale, as Dominic Vittet describes: 'the sea slowed our progress throughout the night as it was incredibly short and the anemometer climbed to 33-34 knots on deck! Since then, the wind has eased a little but it’s still just as badly orientated (NE’ly wind compelling Gitana 13 to climb upwind). Added to that, the seas aren’t helping either. The boat is slamming a great deal and she really doesn’t like that! The same is true for us.' Indeed, between the intensive manœuvres on deck and the chaos of the waves, which exclude any sleep in the bunks, the men of Gitana 13 have had very little sleep since their passage off Cape Finisterre on Sunday afternoon. However, despite the fatigue and taking into account the large amount of shipping in the area the crew are currently traversing, vigilance remains paramount.
With weather being a favourite subject aboard Gitana 13, the crew are already working out some calculations and statistics about their record attempt and the days spent tacking against the winds and currents in particular: 'We’ve been amusing ourselves with a little calculation. Today it is 40 days since we left Hong Kong and from that point we’ve had nearly 20 days sailing close-hauled, which amounts to half our voyage… Save for the Indian Ocean which gave us some memorable downwind rides and the climb up the southern Atlantic, between the Cape of Good Hope and the equator, I think it is safe to say that we haven’t had the mildest of weather! This is heightened by our fine steed’s aversion to these headwind conditions.'
For the ‘giant’ in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group, the planned course over the coming hours has been established. Indeed it is scheduled that Gitana 13 will continue her climb due north, as far as the English coast, in order to shelter from the big seas currently being dished up in the English Channel. After that the crew will begin the long beat as far as the River Thames; an arrival early morning on Thursday 25th September still on the cards. A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’ (UT)
Tuesday 23rd September at 0945UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 48°03.78 N /05°23.28 W http://www.gitana-team.com/