Though their passage of the ITCZ on the Atlantic coast took place without the slightest difficulty – it only lasted a few hours – the second Doldrums along the La Route de l'Or course have proven to be more complicated. “Our second Doldrums were fairly spread out but not at all violent. We had some very shifty winds and some big clouds, which generated a lot of rain. However, contrary to what you can sometimes encounter when traversing this zone, the jumps in wind were never overly brutal. Nevertheless, we had to work with light winds for over two days in order to pick our way through to the exit" stated Lionel Lemonchois.
This exit was located by the crew of Gitana 13 last night at around 7° latitude North. Since then, Lionel Lemonchois and his men have set off on a NW'ly heading on a reach (beam wind). However, in the next few hours the ten sailors will encounter moderate N'ly winds. This air flow will impose an upwind point of sail which, as we are regularly reminded, doesn't sit too well with the 33 metre catamaran: “Our last few miles upwind will be very uncomfortable both for the boat and for the men. And the perspective of over 1,500 miles in a headwind is slightly clouding the joy of the imminent finish" announced the skipper of Gitana 13 before concluding: “On this record, we really haven't had much of an opportunity to slip along, apart from on the first quarter of the course as far as the equator. We've either had the wind three quarters aft, forced to make some tack changes, or we've been upwind, which is a long way off Gitana 13's preferred point of sail!”
In this way, the final sprint for Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew may well take on the form of a ‘Way of the Cross' since it will take several days of headwinds before they can inscribe the word ‘end' on their first record of 2008. According to the latest estimates the maxi-catamaran, in the colours of LCF Rothschild Group, may well make its entrance into San Francisco Bay and slip under the Golden Gate Bridge in a week's time, with their arrival planned for Thursday 28th February.
A brief history
In the 80's, racers – whether in crewed or solo configuration - re-established the prestigious “New York – San Francisco” route as the fashion of the time and measured themselves against the time set in 1854 by the clipper Flying Cloud. The time of 89 days 8 hours, which was to remain the reference time for over 135 years! The reasoning behind this is that the 14,000 miles course between the East coast and the West coast of America, is far from simple. Evidence of this came from 1983 to 1994, with nine yachts setting off on this historic route, and only five of then managing to make San Francisco, three of them with a new record under their belt. Dismastings, shipwrecks and capsizes were to mark the history of the Route de l'Or.
1989 was to be the year with the greatest number of attempts, a total of five yachts taking the start. Four of them made San Francisco but only two managed to get the record. Warren Luhrs and his two crew, aboard the monohull Thursday's Child, were the first to dethrone Captain Josiah Perkins Cressy and improve on the time of the Flying Cloud by over 8 days. Some months later, the trimaran Great American tried its hand and wiped the slate clean by establishing a new reference time of 76 days 23 hours and 20 minutes. In 1994, the sailor Isabelle Autissier, who had a certain Lionel Lemonchois among her crew, then went on to snatch the record with a time of 62 days 5 hours and 55 minutes.
It is within this context that the idea of a race with 60 foot monohulls between New York and San Francisco saw the light of day … it was quite naturally christened La Route de l'Or and set off from New York in January 1998! The technological progress and the appeal of a close contact race drove Yves Parlier and his crew to cross the finish line, in the form of the Golden Gate Bridge, after 57 days 3 hours and 21 minutes.
Figures of the record
The time to beat: 57 days 3 hours 21 minutes 45 seconds, record set by Yves Parlier and his crew in 1998.
Start from New York: Wednesday 16th January, at 1629 (UT)
Passage of the equator (Atlantic Coast) : Wednesday 23rd January at 0724 (UT),
Passage time - 6 days 14 hours 52 minutes
Passage of Cape Horn: Friday 7th February at 2354 (UT),
Passage time - 22 days 7 hours 25 minutes
Passage at the equator (Pacific coast) : Tuesday 19th February at 1256 (UT),
Passage time - 26 days 17 hours 32 minutes