The inappropriately named ‘Pacific'
Sylvain Mondon, Gitana 13's router, announced it even before the maxi-catamaran had even slid its bows under the Golden Gate Bridge: “This Ocean is anything but Pacific!” Lionel Lemonchois and his men were able to verify that the Pacific Ocean was far from peaceful as their router had indicated. By choosing to adopt a central route, in order not to extend the course, the sailors of Gitana Team knew that the weather conditions wouldn't be at all relaxing. However, such was the cost of swiping this record from the maxi-trimaran Geronimo. Between passages of fronts, rounding the high pressure zones – three in total-, managing the transitions and the negotiating of a storm, the crew of Gitana 13 knew how to pull out all the stops and track a route towards Yokohama. A tricky exercise, in which they counted on Sylvain Mondon (Météo France), a real twelfth man from his offices in Toulouse.
The record figures
Gitana 13 covered the 4,482 theoretical miles of this crossing at an average speed of 16.96 knots. However, in practice, the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group, had to cover over 5,616 miles, at an average speed of 21.26 knots, to make Japan. Explanation: on this record the direct route would force the sailors attacking the record to adopt a very northerly trajectory to make Yokohama. In reality, the weather conditions dictate a much more southerly course then the ideal track.
With a peak speed of 39.7 knots, performed by the skipper of Gitana 13, it's a new personal record for the crew on this crossing. The best day recorded by Gitana 13 in terms of distance covered over the water in 24 hours is that of 3rd April with over 612 miles on the counter. Finally, in terms of a lead, Gitana 13 racked up a 612 mile credit over Olivier de Kersauson and his men.
Interview with Lionel Lemonchois, skipper of Gitana 13
11 days 12 minutes 55 seconds, what do you think of your new time?
“It's a great time and we're really happy. Given the weather conditions before we set out, I told myself that if we did it in 12 days it would be a good performance already. And, to look at our average speed over the actual distance covered is very honourable.”
This crossing wasn't at all restful, could you outline the conditions you've been encountering during these 11 days at sea?
“We're certainly very tired at the end, as the past eleven days at sea have been intense. The Pacific offers some rapid and numerous weather sequences. In total we encountered two lows, including a very strong one at the approach to the Japanese coast, then three high pressure zones to round and as many transition zones to negotiate. Prior to our departure, the second part of our course was still very uncertain but everything fell nicely into place in the end. The storm over the past few days gave us a good boost on our journey to Japan. This period, though stressful, will remain a highlight of our time at sea. We had strong winds gusting to over 60 knots but it was the waves above all else which were impressive, rising to over 10 metres in cross seas. It was quite a spectacle!”
How did Gitana 13 handle in these feisty sea and wind conditions?
“Gitana 13 is a very sound boat. It only buried its bows once or twice in the storm, other than that it was never lacking. The modifications made by Gitana Team when she was taken over in 2006, particularly the raising of the forward beam, clearly improve the boat's behaviour and the safety of the crew. Despite the sea state we encountered – and yesterday morning's conditions weren't insignificant – the boat's perfect. We didn't break a thing."
You worked with Sylvain Mondon on shore for the weather part of this record attempt, the pair of you still appear to work as well together as ever?
“Sylvain was perfect as usual! He is always there, full of finesse in his analysis and concise… it suits me down to the ground. We don't necessarily have a great deal of vocal exchanges, other than in the storm over the past few days, but he always sends us very precise information. You can tell that he loves what he does and it's always a pleasure to work with him.”
What is your programme and that of the maxi-catamaran over the coming weeks?
“Gitana 13 will remain in Yokohama until early May, since we're continuing our series of records in the China Sea. The next destination for the crew is Dalian, in China, after a 1,500 mile record crossing attempt between the two towns. We will then follow that by trying to set new record times between Qingdao, Taipei, Hong Kong and Macao, prior to returning to Hong Kong to set off on the Tea Route.”
*UT: Universal time corresponds with GMT.
The crew on Gitana 13
Lionel Lemonchois (Skipper / helmsman / watch leader)
Jacques Vincent (helmsman / watch leader)
Ludovic Aglaor (helmsman/ watch leader)
Cyril Dardashti (trimmer)
Olivier Wroczynski (trimmer /computing manager)
Jean-Baptiste Epron (trimmer / Photographer)
Nicolas Raynaud (trimmer / video manager)
Stefan Fodor t(trimmer)
Kojiro Shiraishi (trimmer)
David Boileau (No.2 / trimmer/ deck hardware manager)
Léopold Lucet (No.1 /supplies and medical manager)
Gitana 13's records
North Pacific Crossing (San Francisco – Yokohama):
Record broken: 11 days 12 minutes 55 seconds
Time to beat – 14 days 22 hours 40 minutes 41 seconds
Departed San Francisco – Saturday 29th March at 22h45'45'' UT
Finished in Yokohama – Wednesday 9th April at 22h58'40'' UT
Route de l'Or (New York – San Francisco, via Cape Horn):
Record broken: 43 days 3 minutes 18 seconds (time approved by the WSSRC), improving on the reference time set by Yves Parlier by over 14 days.
Lionel Lemonchois and the crew of Gitana 13 have held the record since 28th February 2008.