Awaiting the storm
With the week drawing to a close, the crew of Gitana 13 is preparing to tackle the storm which is set to sweep across the tip of South Africa this weekend. There is a mix of apprehension and impatience aboard the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group. With the primary focus being the safety of his men, Lionel Lemonchois has opted to take a slightly more N'ly course than planned in order to attempt to minimise the effects and consequences of this strong gale.

Slipping along beneath Madagascar, bound for the east coast of Africa, the sailors that form Gitana Team have experienced a stormy night, influenced by squalls. In order to adapt to the shifty wind, Lionel Lemonchois' men had their entire sail wardrobe out last night: from the large to the small gennaker, via the solent and trinquette, then the ORC, which is now in position whilst the mainsail has been reefed… nothing has been forgotten! These incessant changes are synonymous with repeated manœuvres for the crew: “The stand-by watch have been called upon a lot and it hasn't been uncommon for the whole crew to be on deck. It's been the most hectic night in terms of manœuvres since we left Hong Kong” confided Dominic Vittet, this morning.

The background noise was audible during our daytime telephone conversation and still bore witness to the harshness of the elements: “There is about 38 knots of wind and we're beginning to feel the effects of the SW'ly swell. The forecast descent from the north is very active and we are likely to conserve these conditions until the middle of the afternoon. We're reaching (wind on the beam), which will enable us to make headway at a fairly correct speed, but the sea isn't making it easy to slip along. It's already a little ‘boat-breaking' added the onboard navigator.

“It's quite hard to get a clear idea about what lies in store for us…” said the skipper of Gitana 13 yesterday, confirming the concerns about the weather over recent days. A very big low is taking shape this weekend at the gateway to the Indian Ocean. Indeed the ten sailors aboard the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild have been forced to give up their plans to take shelter: “All of a sudden we won't make it to Port Elizabeth before the strong SW'ly wind kicks back in so we've decided to climb a bit further north, to within around 150 miles of Port Elizabeth between the Morgan headland and St John's point. This zone should be more sheltered.”

It is plain to see that aboard Gitana 13 today a lot of questions still have to be answered and the team are continuing to rack their brains: “Will the seas enable us to remain hove to? If this isn't possible, how far will we have to climb to preserve the gear?” Lionel Lemonchois and his nine man crew know that the coming days won't be particularly pleasurable, but they can nevertheless count on the reliability of their steed, which has been put to the test on a number of occasions this year, whether it be during the Route de l'Or, the North Pacific crossing or even the maxi-catamaran's tour of Asia.

A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
On Friday 29th August at 07h45 (UT), Gitana 13 was sailing at 31°13.80 S / 38°03.07 E

Watch No1: Lionel Lemonchois (Skipper / watch leader / helmsman) / Olivier Wroczynski (trimmer /head of computers and power)  / David Boileau (Bowman /  head of deck fittings)

Watch No.2: Ludovic Aglaor (watch leader / helmsman) / Laurent Mermod (trimmer) / Ronan Le Goff (Bowman)

Watch No.3: Pascal Blouin (Watch leader / helmsman) / Ronan Guérin (trimmer) / Léopold Lucet (No.1, head of supplies and doctor)

Outside the watch system: Dominic Vittet (navigator)

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