The seas were rough during this first stretch, which meant non-stop work for the crew—who rose to the challenge. The pace on deck was relentless, but when I look at how fast we reached the equator, I know that it was all worth it. We had projected 6 to 7 days, and we were right on. Our goal was to sail cautiously—but fast. Our strategy has paid off so far, because the boat's in mint condition, sailing at 100% of its potential. Léo took advantage of the calm seas yesterday afternoon to check the mast, which is in good shape.”
In addition to successfully managing boat and rig, Lemonchois is satisfied with Gitana 13's trajectory since New York: “We exceeded the orthodromy (Ed.: the direct route) by only 50 miles. The wind was on our side, and although we had a lot of sail changes, we've been on the same tack for more than six days.”
Leaving the equator in its wake
Faithful to its reputation, the Intertropical Convergence Zone produced some surprises. A few hours before Gitana 13 reached the Doldrums, weather forecasts called for a high level of activity, including violent squalls. But in the end, Lemonchois and his team encountered the Doldrums' alter ego: flat calms. “This crossing reminded me of our experience on Orange II during the 2005 Jules Verne Trophy. A light breeze, no squalls to speak of and not a cloud on the horizon...you would have said a beautiful tradewind sky!” So these were the conditions in which the maxi-catamaran's crew crossed the equator on Wednesday at 8:24am (French time), only 6 days, 14 hours and 52 minutes after passing Ambrose Lighthouse.
This foray into the southern hemisphere marks the first equator crossing for four of the ten crewmembers: Olivier Wroczynski, Léopold Lucet, Fred Le Maîstre and David Boileau.
Now that it's completely clear of the Doldrums, Gitana 13 should soon reach the southeasterly trade winds and pick up speed. Sylvain Mondon offered this projection: “As soon as they reach the trades, Lionel Lemonchois and his crew will have a freeing wind for a few days. Then, south of Brazil, a transition zone lasting around 24 hours is expected, with very weak winds to negotiate.”
A bit of history
On 24 January 1848, 160 years ago nearly to the day, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold on the banks of the American River. News of this discovery spread around the world in just a few months, causing a mass exodus to California: the Gold Rush was on. For those traveling from the East Coast, there was a continent to cross, and, at the time, the overland trip was long and dangerous. This led many people to opt for the sea route to the West Coast, via Cape Horn. Thus was born a new maritime route: New York to San Francisco.
Gitana 13's crew of ten
The maxi-catamaran's crew is divided into three watches, each comprising three men: one watch works on deck, one waits on stand-by ready to lend a hand, and the third rests. They are using a three-hour watch system. The boat's navigator is off-watch because he has to focus on analyzing the weather and optimizing the boat's trajectory—but sometimes he's called on to help on the platform.
Watch 1: Lionel Lemonchois (skipper) / Olivier Wroczynski / Florent Chastel
Watch 2: Ludovic Aglaor (watch leader) / Fred Le Maistre / David Boileau
Watch 3: Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (watch leader) / Nicolas Raynaud / Léopold Lucet
Off-watch: Dominic Vittet