After setting out six weeks ago in the conquest of a record never before coveted by a maxi-multihull of Gitana 13s dimensions, Lionel LEMONCHOIS and his nine crew are experiencing their final hours at sea on this Route de l'Or.
However, the weather situation currently reigning off the American coast, is forcing the men of Gitana Team into a series of tacks, upwind, to reach their final destination; forcing them to cover some extra miles.
In the guise of a final sprint, the crew of Gitana 13 are weaving their way towards San Francisco. "We are trying to gain the maximum of northing in order to make headway along the course, but the weather conditions are forcing us to tack" explained Dominic VITTET from the chart table of the 33-metre catamaran.
Trapped between two very different weather situations, Lionel LEMONCHOIS (FRA) and his men have had no option but to zigzag from one to the other: "To our west? There's a zone of high pressure synonymous with light winds, whilst to our east a corridor of steadier winds has formed along the coast. The aim over these final 24 hours is going to be to successively play these two phenomena off against each other. The direct course is guiding us northwards, but as soon as the wind eases too much we put in a tack to regain more pressure. Then as soon as the wind fills in again, we make for the edge of the zone of high pressure again… and vice versa" explained the onboard navigator.
These numerous manures are not hampering the organization of the watch system aboard Gitana 13 however, the latter a very well oiled machine after over 41 days at sea, as VITTET confirmed: "We're fully into the rhythm and we are still applying our system of three watches of three crew, which rotate on deck every three hours. Off watch, dedicated to the weather and the optimisation of Gitana 13's trajectory, I nevertheless take part in the 09:00 and 21:00 hour watch in order to relieve the crew who are permanently on watch."
The maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is still expected into San Francisco on Thursday morning, where it will cross the finish line situated just off the infamous prison of Alcatraz.
The Record To Beat
Record: New York - San Francisco (via Cape Horn, Gold Race)
Yacht: Aquitaine Innovations
Skipper: Yves PARLIER (FRA)
Dates: January-March 1998
Elapsed time: : 57 days, 3 hours, 21 minutes and 45 seconds
Distance: 13,208 nm
Average Speed: 9.63 knots
Gitana Team - www.gitana-team.com
World Sailing Speed Record Council - www.sailspeedrecords.com