Generally, sailing in the trade winds is a beautiful thing. Here, colors are uncommonly intense—one look at Gitana 13's blue hull gleaming in the sun and gliding over the deep blue sea elicits pure rapture.
Also, thanks to the mild weather, we don't have to change out of our t-shirts and shorts even if they repeatedly get wet from the spray. And then there are those exceptional moments, like when the wind comes to life for no apparent reason. This happened on Thursday, just before the sun reached its zenith. From a solid 20 knots, the wind rose to 22, 23, 24 knots. We were flying the solent, with one reef in the main. This simple acceleration transformed the boat from a state of gravity to one of weightlessness. Such a wondrous impression of lightness, of seemingly unstoppable power, is born when the speedometer rises above 25 knots.
It's felt by everyone onboard immediately. We became more attentive to the sail trim—and to the helmsman's face—in a mix of smiles and concentration. With the wind coming from 90°, the experience is intoxicating, as the windward hull skims the waves on the way to rising high in the air. Thanks to its weight-to-power-to-width ratio, Gitana 13 is able to take off on a single bound. Playing the sheets and the tiller to stay up on one hull is an exercise in pure yet forbidden pleasure if we want to make it to San Francisco. Therein lies the difference between a one-day joyride and a long-distance race like ours. You have to treat the equipment differently.
The solent is wisely replaced by the staysail, but not for long. This wind gust dissipated almost as quickly as it formed. After that we flew the solent and full mainsail in trade winds of only 12-16 knots—not strong enough for our taste. The result: 480 miles over the past 24 hours, with the hope of doing at least as much today. But we'll have to go a little faster. In front of us, along a latitude just north of Rio de Janeiro, a storm front is building right in our path. We're now in a race against the clock. Regardless of who wins—us or the clock—the amount of time gained or lost will be significant. Record attempts are a constant struggle with the elements. And we love it.