Since crossing the equator last Wednesday, Lemonchois and his nine-man crew have shown ample proof of determination and sang-froid. The past week offered a real mix of conditions: calm zones followed by squalls, stormy low-pressure systems trying to block the way, and the effects of the Saint Helena high-pressure system. That just about sums up the past few days of sailing along the coast of Brazil.
Gitana 13 is again taking advantage of sustained high-pressure system winds on its descent toward Cape Horn. They have another 800 miles to go along the coast of Argentina. Lemonchois explains the situation: “A high-pressure system positioned on the coast to the south of us is going to force us to do some coastal sailing in order to reach the tip of Latin America. We should pass the Falklands off our port side before reaching the Le Maire channel.” We will know the accuracy of Lemonchois's calculations in the next few days, as the maxi-catamaran still expects to round the famous promontory on Saturday, 2 February.
Caution makes for longevity
“Sail cautiously but fast." These are Lemonchois's watchwords as he leads Gitana 13's attempt at breaking the record between New York and San Francisco. A shrewd sailor, the maxi-catamaran's skipper understands how important a perfectly operating boat is to their success: “We are keeping the boat in top shape by performing regular inspections of the sails, winches and even the structure of the platform. On a long voyage like this—nearly 14,000 miles—being at the helm of a flawless boat is already a major advantage,” said Lemonchois. Like their skipper, the nine-man crew conducts daily maintenance and inspections.
Florent Chastel, an old hand on these big multihulls who has twice won the Jules Verne Trophy with Bruno Peyron (2002 and 2005), is one of three bowmen (or “No. 1”) on the maxi-catamaran. After two weeks at sea, here are his impressions of a boat that he knows well (Ed.: Gitana 13 used to be Orange I): “Onboard, everything is in great shape. The boat underwent a lot of improvements, and all the changes made by Team Gitana really add to the boat's balance and performance. This includes the new sails, which are perfect.”
A bit of history
The massive flow of people triggered by the discovery of gold in 1848 changed San Francisco from a village to an overcrowded city in a short space of time. The price of goods skyrocketed in response to this “demographic wave,” and the city became an extremely profitable destination for shipowners delivering merchandise there. As a result, in 1849, sailboats normally used for transporting tea from the Orient were requisitioned for this new route. These jewels of the fleet, although fast, spent more than 150 days sailing from New York to San Francisco. To maximize profits, this time needed to be reduced. And so shipyards on the US east coast went to work. This led to the development of clippers, the fastest boats of their time.