It was amid very poor visibility and in full sails that, just before sunset, Gitana 13 drew alongside the shores of Gran Canaria, to the starboard side.
After a few gybes between the islands and a proper cold sweat when the crew almost got bogged down in the windless zone created by the island, life regained its usual rhythm on board for the 12-man team. A regular westerly flow of 10 knots on a fine sea offered Gitana 13 her first real moment's respite since her departure from Trinité sur Mer last Thursday!
At 11:30 UT today, she was sailing with the mainsail and small gennaker. The expected northerly flow was settling in and over the following fifty miles or so, the boat should have finally escaped the influence of the Canaries.
Coming out of this difficult night, the team are slightly off the pace in relation to Steve Fossett's record, but the conditions to come seem to offer some cause for optimism, judging by the good mood of Lionel Lemonchois on the phone this morning: “We had a bit of a rough night due to a difficult passage of the Canaries that resulted in us losing a bit of ground. But in the hours to come, the situation should settle down and allow us to get back up to normal speeds for the boat. It's still doable… We've not had any technical problems to speak of since the start, everything's been going well. The boat may be 8 years old, but the technical improvements we made over the winter have all borne fruit and the boat is a lot better. On board, we are organised into 3 watches of 4 crewmen, which revolve every three hours: 1 on the deck, 1 team on standby, and the other sleeping. In this way, all eight of us can be on deck if need be. Over the coming days, Dominic Vittet, the navigator on board, and Sylvain Mondon (Meteo France), are promising us a nice anticyclone with wind, so morale is good and the record is still within our grasp!”
On Christopher Columbus: In an era when technology constitutes a precious aid for sport, one that is essential when it comes to setting and breaking a record, it's worth recalling the subterfuge to which Christopher Columbus had to resort. To prevent his companions being alarmed by the distance already travelled, the navigator took care, when keeping his log, “to mark less than the real distance so that, if the voyage was long, my people would not become terror-stricken.”
The three watches on Gitana 13:
Lionel Lemonchois (Watch leader) – Nicolas Raynaud – Jean-Baptiste Epron – François Denis
Loïck Peyron (Watch leader) – Dominic Vittet – Leopold Lucet – Antoine Mermod
Loïk Gallon (Watch leader) – Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant – David Boileau – Cyril Dardashti
Record to be beaten: Steve Fossett on Playstation in 2003 in 9 days 13 hours 30mn 18s (source WSSRC)
Number of miles to be covered: 3,901 miles
Gitana 13's start: Sunday 18 March 2007 at 9h 7mn 08s UT
Update at 14:20 UT:
Latitude: 26°07,92 N
Longitude: 18°33,74 W
Instantaneous speed: 14.3 knots
Distance covered since start: 867 miles
Distance to finish: 3034 miles
Average speed since start: 16.29 knots