The storm diminishes for Gitana 13
The storm which passed over the tip of South Africa this weekend fully lived up to expectations! Though gusts onshore did not exceed 55 knots, at sea the wind was more violent. Indeed, to the immediate south of Port Elizabeth the average wind reached 55 knots with gusts approaching 80 knots. Fortunately the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group was able to reach Algoa Bay off Port Elizabeth on Saturday evening, less than an hour before the arrival of the cold front, so they were a little less exposed to these extreme conditions.

Dominic Vittet describes the living conditions and navigation from their shelter: “Since Saturday evening we've been going back and forth barepoled, remaining as close as we can to the coast. During the course of yesterday the onboard anemometer recorded a gust of 67 knots, but Port Elizabeth really was the right choice as we're very well protected here. The swell put in an appearance yesterday evening at the bottom of the bay, but nothing dramatic. On the other hand, just one or two miles downwind of us, there are big seas and you can make out the crests of the breaking waves.”

This pause is not dissimilar to the five day wait the crew of Gitana 13 were forced to endure at Cape Horn last January during the Route de l'Or. However there is one very big difference: “We are sheltered and the boat isn't suffering so the crew is managing to relax. It's nothing like the atmosphere during the standby at Tierra del Fuego either. In January, the days where we were stopped were also synonymous with total isolation, whilst here we're really just a stone's throw from the town and numerous oil tankers, cargo ships and commercial vessels are taking refuge like us. The situation is fairly unique!”

The crew of the maxi-catamaran are benefiting from this ‘downtime' to rest. Indeed with Gitana 13 currently sailing barepoled, the tack changing manœuvres amount to rotating the mast and moving the mainsail traveller; a task which is easily achievable for the three men on watch: “The boat is highly fluid when barepoled and the crew on watch is largely sufficient on deck. As a result we've got rid of the standby watches whilst we're stopped so that the boys can benefit from 6 hours in a row of sleep” explained the skipper of Gitana 13.

The reasons for this are that they're going to need their strength in order to tackle the rounding of the tip of South Africa, as the skipper of Gitana 13 confided: “Over 300 miles separate our place of shelter and the Cape of Good Hope. We're going to have to make a series of tacks upwind in what will still be a steady breeze and big seas. We're going to have to endure a bit of pain in order to make the Atlantic.”

The crew of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will have to find the right weather window to head back onto the racetrack, a time slot on which Sylvain Mondon is working: “This Monday, the wind is a lot less strong. The last squalls have passed and the gusts have died down overnight. However, it will be best to be patient before rounding the Agulhas Cape and the Cape of Good Hope, as there are still very big seas this morning with waves continuing to reach 7 to 8 metres in the 5 mile coastal strip and in excess of 10 metres 30 miles offshore. This big, powerful swell becomes more abrupt when it encounters the Agulhas current along the SE coast of South Africa and it's worth taking note that this region is notorious for its ‘heinous waves'. Prudence will remain paramount for Lionel Lemonchois and his crew, who won't be able to leave the bay of Port Elizabeth until there is a significant calm in the swell along the coast.” At present, this lull is expected this evening.

A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
On Monday 1st September at 07h45 (UT), Gitana 13 was sailing at 33°54.07 S / 25°39.00 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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