It's already been eleven days since the sailors of Gitana Team cast off from Hong Kong in their bid to break one of the oldest records: the Tea Route. With over 4,600 miles covered at an average speed of 17.94 knots, the skipper of Gitana 13 and his men have been maintaining a good pace.
However, after four days' respite in terms of the weather analysis, Gitana Team's router is back in action, with a change in speed on the programme: “Gitana 13 is continuing to sail along the edge of a powerful zone of high pressure situated over the Kerguelen Islands, producing some E to SE'ly tradewinds fluctuating between 15 and 25 knots. It is to the south of the Reunion Islands that Lionel Lemonchois and his crew are preparing to progressively leave these highly favourable sailing conditions behind them. Indeed, by making headway towards the south-west the wind will ease to 10-15 knots and return to the NE'ly sector, which will no longer enable direct and rapid progress towards Africa. Several gybes are likely to be needed over the next couple of days in order to escape this zone as best they can. However, prior to hitting the disturbed airflow of the temperate latitudes, the crew will still have to cross a zone of transition to the south of Madagascar in the middle of the week. This difficulty will prove difficult to handle, since it concerns a barometric col (light winds), the position of which still remains extremely uncertain” explained Sylvain Mondon.
We can fully understand that the weather situation currently taking shape ahead of the 33 metre maxi-catamaran is a far cry from the downwind points of sail and the high speeds to which the men of Gitana 13 have been accustomed over the past few days.
Aboard ship life goes on and the ten sailors are preparing themselves for this zone which they knew would be tricky. Indeed, a few days ago, Lionel Lemonchois dared to make a comparison between the passage of the Cape of Good Hope and that of Cape Horn, performed last January: “Good Hope is rather like the Horn of our Tea Route. I'm hoping it won't be as difficult but the approach and the rounding of the southern tip of Africa itself could slow us down and make us lose some precious miles.”
At the 0900 hour position report this morning, Gitana 13 was sailing along the longitude of Rodrigues and was positioned 450 miles from the longitude of the Reunion Islands. Already Lionel Lemonchois' crew were feeling the early signs of a more unsettled breeze.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
On Monday 25th August at 07h15 (UT), Gitana 13 was sailing at 23°33.97 S / 63°37.43 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)