Back in the northern hemisphere for the past 24 hours, the sailors of Gitana Team have quickly got into the thick of the action. The zone of instability in the Doldrums is well and truly in evidence, with its lines of squalls and its evanescent winds setting the sailors' nerves on edge: “Last night, we found a giant cumulonimbus across our course! This encounter led to a night of intense activity aboard Gitana 13… The winds have been constantly changing and they did a ‘tour of the parish' on several occasions. The immediate result of this was lots of manoeuvres on deck and the standby watch were permanently being called upon by those already on deck. The hours of sleep have been virtually non-existent!” explained a slightly fatigued Dominic Vittet. Indeed, fuelled with extremely precise satellite images by Sylvain Mondon throughout the night, the onboard navigator was also far from sparing of his efforts at the chart table, as he tried to find a way through these stormy conditions.
The massive black cloud mass, of which Lionel Lemonchois and his men have seen a succession pass over their heads, have been laden with rain: “The squalls have delivered torrential rain with an abundance of fresh water. This was a very good thing because our vessel really needed some; the salt was beginning to ooze out of the winches” added our discussion partner for the day.
Over the coming hours, Dominic Vittet was really hoping to be able to take advantage of the cumulonimbus at the root of their lively night: “It would seem that our big cloud is being transformed into a tropical low. If this is confirmed, we're hoping that it will generate some wind, thus enabling us to cover the miles still separating us from the exit to the Doldrums. However, it won't be simple as the cloud mass is unstable and it's hard to predict anything.” The men of Gitana 13 are being vigilant: they know that at any point, the capricious wind can deal them a cruel blow and vanish without warning.
Positioned making 4 and then 1.4 knots at the start of the morning, the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has since picked up the pace again. But for how long? Gitana 13 still has 300 miles to go before she's free of this zone and can feel the effects of the NE'ly tradewinds. At that point the crew will begin sailing close-hauled, full and by, towards the Azores.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
Friday 12th September at 0745 UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 06°31.57 N / 17°08.58 W
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)