“We've had some wind again since yesterday afternoon. There is a steady tradewind kicking out 20 to 25 knots of breeze, which is enabling the helmsmen to benefit from some great sessions to slip along in. We are virtually in the middle of the Atlantic, a long way from everything…” confided Dominic Vittet, prior to drawing up Gitana 13's ‘plan of attack' for the next few days: “Our northward gybe isn't far off now. It's an important moment in terms of strategy and that's why we're constantly refining our timing with Sylvain Mondon onshore and Lionel.”
Indeed, the crew of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, will benefit from a rather unusual situation in which to cross the equator and above all the Doldrums a little further north: “By gybing (change of tack to a downwind point of sail) today, the objective is to climb due northwards, on starboard tack, and benefit as much as they can from the African monsoon (SW'ly winds) to cross the Doldrums to its east. This opportunity will enable them to ‘cut the corner' and gain some precious miles along the course” enthused the onboard navigator.
Sylvain Mondon sheds some light on this rather atypical scenario, which looks to be a great opportunity for Lionel Lemonchois and his nine man crew: “The Doldrums or the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is caused by the opposition of the tradewinds in the northern hemisphere (NE'ly sector) and those in the southern hemisphere (SE'ly sector). This zone is synonymous with shifty winds, with conditions alternating between calms and violent squalls. In a standard situation, the Doldrums stretch further eastwards and very often as a result it is very difficult to traverse the zone near the African coast. Sometimes though a monsoon airflow, which generates SW'ly winds, can form and upset the original scenario. You can observe this phenomenon when the African continent warms up sufficiently to create a thermal low that diverts the SE'ly tradewinds from the southern hemisphere. And this is exactly what is happening at the moment off the coast of Guinea, Sierra Leone and also the Ivory Coast.”
According to the latest forecasts there is still a chance for the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group to return to the northern hemisphere during the course of the day on Thursday 11th September.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
Tuesday 9th September at 0745 UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 14°06.67 S / 00°27.42 E
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)