Awaiting a favourable weather window for several days, the crew of the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group are aiming for a course time of less than a day and a half. This time should be possible thanks to the current downwind conditions on zone, comprising a steady NE'ly for the majority of the route.
Of note is that the current Taipei / Hong Kong record has been held by the 47 footer Johan II with a time of 2 days 15 hours 40 minutes and 42 seconds since December 2006. The crew led by Philippe Grelon and comprising French and Kiwi sailors, improved on the time set by Ellen MacArthur by over an hour. This time is recognised by the WSSRC (World Sailing Speed Record Council).
A few hours before the start, Sylvain Mondon – weather router for Gitana 13 and forecaster of sea safety with Météo France, presented the weather situation to us: "Gitana will benefit from a change in the weather pattern as it leaves the island of Taiwan bound for Hong Kong this Friday 30th May. Indeed, the SW'ly wind reigning for the past four days between the Asian continent and the island of Taiwan didn't favour an optimal start to beat the course record. A further obstacle was created by an acceleration in the wind in the Taiwan Strait. The mountain chain on the island of Taiwan culminates at 3,997 metres on the east coast of the strait, whilst the vast plateau of Southern China, to the north of Hong Kong, culminates at 1,922 metres. As a result it is with the arrival of a 15-20 knot NE'ly breeze this Friday, building to 20-25 knots in the strait, that Lionel Lemonchois and his crew will attempt to make Hong Kong as quickly as possible in the downwind conditions. Though the start appears simple, despite the multiple gybes, the end will be a lot trickier as the NE'ly air flow is set to ‘abandon' Gitana 13 for the last 75 miles. The wind will then back to the SW, and the final miles of the course through the South China Sea will be sailed close-hauled in less established winds."
Onboard commentary from Nicolas Raynaud
A fine run in view
It has to be said that the Taiwanese gave us a very warm welcome during our stay, and were always the height of kindness and efficiency. It has to be admitted that it was also great to cast off this afternoon for our crossing to Hong Kong, which promises to be lively. For over three days, we've been patiently waiting for this weather window, which should enable us to cover the 465 miles of the course in less than thirty hours, all being well.
On the programme is a fine descent under gennaker, with a NE'ly wind which could reach 40 knots from tonight onwards. Between the compulsory gybes (since it will be impossible to follow a direct course) and what will doubtless be big seas in the Taiwan Strait as a result of the strong current on the nose (up to 2 knots), the run promises to be full-on and wet.
In a tropical heat, the thermometer displaying 37°C in the middle of the day, with a humidity rate bordering 80%, we prepared Gitana 13 accordingly. All the moveable ‘gear' (warps, etc…) has found a niche to the extreme aft, at the foot of the rudder stocks, so as to delay the risk of burying the bows as best we can. As we have ‘just' one big day at sea ahead of us, we're not going to be forming watches so it'll be a case of everyone on deck for this trip. This time around, our crew is completed by two French sailors, Pierre and Raphaël, who have both lived in Hong Kong for over 10 years. With a number of years experience sailing on maxis, this reinforcement comes just at the right time as performing gybes at sea and in the breeze remains the most perilous manoeuvre aboard. In order to perform this move in the right conditions, it'll take at least eight of us aboard.
See you soon