Dominic Vittet, the quickest to pick up the iridium handset this morning, discussed the reduced pace endured by the maxi-catamaran yesterday: “We are happy to have found some wind again after this long spell of calm which was totally unexpected and irritating. These shifty, erratic winds can be par for the course in the squalls of the tradewind, even though we naturally hope never to come across them”.
At sea it is essential that you adapt your strategy to the evolutions in the weather conditions. That's why Lionel Lemonchois and his crew have changed their shoulder rifle, instead favouring a slightly more N'ly route than planned in order to make the African coast: “Initially we were hoping to adopt a direct course towards the south and the Cape of Good Hope but the latest wind forecasts show W to SW'ly winds to the south of the great circle route (direct route) and calms along the course. Given these observations, a northward passage appears to us to be more beneficial so as to keep hold of the favourable winds” explained the onboard navigator.
However, an even more important point about this approach towards the African coast, which concerns the onboard tacticians today, is the Cape of Good Hope. Indeed, the southern tip of Africa doesn't seem to want to play ball: “To round the Cape of Good Hope from east to west is one of the most difficult stages in our course and long before the departure, we knew this may be a difficult moment to deal with. For the past 48 hours, the weather has proven us right since the situation is deteriorating. A big low is forming between 31st August and 1st September and for the time being, it's preventing us from rounding!”
To find solutions to this situation, there have been frequent exchanges between Sylvain Mondon, the onshore weather router for Gitana Team, and Dominic Vittet: analysis of the wind and wave charts, updating and adjustment of the strategy… The two men are joining forces to determine the best point to make their entrance into the southern Atlantic. In the meantime the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group is having to continue westwards. Positioned 1,200 miles from the coast of South Africa this morning, Lionel Lemonchois and his men are still aiming for Port Elizabeth, on the SE tip: “The problem we have to deal with today is to try to make as much southing as possible, without dropping down too far in relation to the storm which is forecast. For the time being we have opted to aim for Port Elizabeth, which we should reach on Saturday 30th August” added Dominic Vittet.
On this 13th day at sea, Gitana 13 has got back into the familiar routine of racking up an average of over 20 knots of boat speed. The maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothcshild should be able to keep up this pace until tonight because the wind is set to begin to ease as it heads, as they pass over 250 miles from the southern tip of Madagascar.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
On Wednesday 27th August at 07h45 (UT), Gitana 13 was sailing at 27°44.33 S / 53°17.40
Watch No1: Lionel Lemonchois (Skipper / watch leader / helmsman) / Olivier Wroczynski (trimmer /head of computers and power) / David Boileau (Bowman / head of deck fittings)
Watch No.2: Ludovic Aglaor (watch leader / helmsman) / Laurent Mermod (trimmer) / Ronan Le Goff (Bowman)
Watch No.3: Pascal Blouin (Watch leader / helmsman) / Ronan Guérin (trimmer) / Léopold Lucet (No.1, head of supplies and doctor)
Outside the watch system: Dominic Vittet (navigator)