This world tour will stretch from January to October 2008 and involve six challenges, namely:
- The Route de l'Or (The Gold Race) (New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn)
- The North Pacific (San-Francisco to Yokohama)
- Yokohama – Dalian
- Dalian – Taipei
- Taipei – Hong-Kong
- The Route du Thé (the Tea Race) (Hong-Kong to London)
The first challenge: New-York to San-Francisco via Cape Horn
The Gold Rush clippers and Captain Josiah P. Creesy's well-known Flying Cloud blazed the trail that Lionel Lemonchois and the Gitana 13 crew have chosen to open their 2008 new-record-setting campaign. The maxi-catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will be the first G-class multihull to take on this 14,000-mile-long trail.
The goal: Set a time benchmark for a maxi multihull on the New York to San Francisco route, and improve Yves Parlier's record (Route de l'Or 1998, on 60-foot Aquitaine Innovation multihull).
The 14,000 miles from New York to San Francisco conceal a complex plethora of weather conditions and strategic challenges. Besides negotiating Cape Horn against the current (east to west) – which is already a feat because of the westerly winds – the Gitana 13 men will have to navigate Doldrums (death-calm zone) and Equator twice (in the Atlantic and the Pacific) – meaning they will have to deal with the intertropical convergence zones and no fewer than four anticyclones. Plus the long South Pacific days skirting Latin America's coast, a lesser-known part of the world but one that seafarers in the know agree is tough.
No fewer than twelve yachts set out on this trail from 1854 to 1994, but only six of them ever reached San Francisco after it. The record dates back to 1998, when Yves Parlier and his crew finished the Route de l'Or in 57 days, 3 hours and 21 minutes.
Sylvain Mondon, a sea weather forecaster at Météo France – and the Gitana team's loyal guide, told us what the weather has in store for Lionel Lemonchois and his men: “When they leave, Gitana 13 will be able to ride a NNW flow at 15 to 20 knots. Those manageable conditions will allow them to move away from the coast quite fast. The New York coast is busy, so they will have to watch out on the deck during the first few hours. The first big hurdle, however, will be steering clear of the Bermuda Anticyclone on the Caribbean Arc's latitude. That will mean they will have to head east. The last forecasts say they are theoretically six days away from the Equator.”
Ten men, one challenge
Lionel Lemonchois will stand at the Gitana 13's helm for this bold campaign around the world's seas. He crewed skipper Isabelle Autissier's Ecureuil Poitou-Charentes 60-foot monohull in 1994, and PRB in 1998. So is back on a trail he knows well.
He enjoys a challenge. He finished the Route du Rhum 2006 on Gitana 11 in a staggering 7 days, 17 hours, 19 minutes and 6 seconds. His tight nine-strong crew will include quite a few of the Gitana Team mainstays (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, Olivier Wroczynski, Léopold Lucet and Dominic Vittet, for example).
The Gitana 13 crew - New York to San Francisco
Lionel Lemonchois (Skipper / helmsman / officer of the watch)
Dominic Vittet (navigator)
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (helmsman / officer of the watch)
Ludovic Aglaor (helmsman / officer of the watch)
Olivier Wroczynski (adjuster / IT officer)
Fred Le Maistre (adjuster)
Nicolas Raynaud (adjuster / video officer)
David Boileau (N°2 / adjuster / fittings)
Léopold Lucet (N°1 / administration)
Florent Chastel (N°1 / adjuster)