After spending four days on the same tack, racking up the miles at an average of over 26 knots, the pace has become more disjointed for Lionel Lemonchois and his nine man crew, forced to handle the meteorological instability: “Since yesterday afternoon, it's been possible to observe a change in conditions. The wind has become more capricious both in terms of strength and direction. We've had squalls for most of the night and for the past two hours we've been battling to escape a large zone of calms, which has formed to the north-east of us” indicated Dominic Vittet shortly before 0600 UT.
For the crew of Gitana 13, the results of this new deal have been immediate. There has been a renewed flurry of activity on the deck of the vessel and it's action all stations: “We've manoeuvred a lot more over the past 24 hours than we have in the past four days. The instability of the weather situation is forcing us to regularly modify the sail configuration: rolling in the small gennaker, taking a reef, dumping it, hoisting the large gennaker, rolling it in, hoisting the Solent… This morning, we've already made two gybes so it's a bit of a scramble! On the other hand though, the manœuvres are often inversely proportional to the speed. We currently have 5 knots of breeze and Gitana 13 is making headway at more or less the same speed.”
The men of Gitana 13 know only to well that the route which is taking them as far as the Cape of Good Hope is dotted with hazards and the conditions enabling them to slip along at pace are but a distant memory. In addition, the latest forecasts for rounding the cape are not optimistic: “Today the grib files are indicating that when we get to Port Elizabeth on 30th August (the south-east tip of Africa), we won't get round!” said the onboard navigator, before concluding: “Here though, the distribution of the unexpected is a permanent phenomenon. Things can evolve very quickly and between now and our arrival along the African coast, the door may well open”.
Aboard the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, wisdom, patience and opportunism will be the three key words over the coming days.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
On Tuesday 26th August at 07h45 (UT), Gitana 13 was sailing at 27°40.32 S / 58°37.68 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)