Gitana 13 back in the north
Lionel Lemonchois and his nine-man crew are again plying northern-hemisphere waters. They crossed the equator today, Tuesday 19 February, at 1:56'39' (French time), at a longitude of 97°W. Team Gitana thus spent 26 days 17 hours and 32 minutes covering the 7,500 miles between equator crossings in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

On 23 January at 8:24am, the maxi-catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild entered the South Atlantic after crossing the line separating the northern and southern hemispheres. Now, 26 days later, Lemonchois and his crew have left the southern latitudes and returned to the north. With less than 2,600 miles to go before Gitana 13's hulls reach the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, the team's ten sailors are ready for the home stretch of their attempt at breaking the record between New York and San Francisco.

“We're in the thick of the doldrums, with big dark clouds loaded with squalls, and with winds fluctuating from 6 to 22 knots. But nothing too nasty for the time being. After the equator, there's a big windless area up ahead. Our forecast is proving accurate, and we're going to have to skirt around the east side of this low-wind barrier. We're girding for 3 or 4 difficult days in the Intertropical Convergence Zone,” said Lemonchois in his daily message to his on-land team. In the days to come, Gitana 13 will again stray from the “orthodrome” (Ed.: the direct route), and its trajectory will curve eastward so the team can find the best route to the California coast.

Onboard, the team has begun to ration its stores. The maxi-catamaran's crew planned for around 40 days of fresh food and freeze-dried alternatives—always less appetizing.  After 33 days at sea and five days on forced stand-by near Cape Horn, the team is forced to adjust its eating habits: butter, cereal bars and the little things that make the day-to-day a little easier are running out. As a result, during their final days at sea—around ten, if the projections can be believed—Gitana 13's skipper and crew will have freeze-dried dishes for most of their meals. Bad news for the taste buds, but just fine in terms of nutritional balance for the ten sailors.

Some words of encouragement

To quote Nicolas Raynaud in yesterday's “Comment onboard,” Gitana 13's crew is in shock. After hearing that Groupama 3 capsized off the coast of New Zealand during its run at the Jules Verne Trophy record, Gitana's crew wished to send their heartfelt encouragement to Franck Cammas, his nine crewmembers and the rest of the team: “We are very sorry for what happened to them. Now, with the ten men having emerged unscathed from this sea adventure, we hope that they will be able to get their boat back into shape quickly and embark on new record attempts.

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