“Intense race start onboard Gitana 13. A mix of caution and speed, the first 530 miles in 24 hours is no mean feat. The ocean was difficult: bumpy, steep drops, sharp rises, a real hodgepodge.."
The wind, generally from the north quadrant, also made life difficult, varying within a range of 30 degrees and blowing between 22 and 32 knots. The Gitana 13, a real animal, was not easy to handle, yet the message from skipper Lionel Lemonchois is unambiguous: “Fast but safe...San Francisco is far away, and the only way to get there is by going forward.” The crew understands this and, given the wind and weather, was kept busy on deck. With one reef in the mainsail, we hoisted the gennaker which, after having been stowed for a good part of Thursday, pulled us along at an average speed of over 25 knots. The watch system is punctuated by the easing and trimming of sails—a slightly chilling noise—and the helmsman must focus on the difficult task of staying on course.
In this tense but not quite feverish atmosphere, each of us is settling in. The old routine has recommenced: throwing on an oilskin, opening freeze-dried food and, most importantly, waking up every three hours for six-hour shifts on deck...fortunately the weather has been getting warmer. Back into the duffel go the gloves, fleece caps and other body warmers. We'll pull them back out as we near Cape Horn. But we're not there yet...we have a ways to go.