All things come to those who wait. This proverb, which originates in the work of French poet Clément Marot, fits the sailors of Team Gitana like a glove. After five days on forced stand-by along the Tierra del Fuego coast, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine-man crew took advantage of a lull in the weather to resume their trek to San Francisco.
But the hundred or so miles separating Gitana 13 from Cape Horn yesterday was no pleasure cruise, as the skipper informed his on-land team: “We were ready and waiting at the mouth of Lemaire Channel since Wednesday evening, but we again had to be patient: 40 knots of wind along with seas that were still rough aren't the best conditions for sailing through that channel. Finally, at 10:30 Thursday morning we made our move into the narrow strait, where swells of 5 to 6 meters prevented us from going faster than 8-9 knots. It was way too rough. Then, we hugged the rocks to avoid being slowed too much by the ocean and we reached the tip of South America close-hauled.”
With Cape Horn in its wake, Gitana 13's bows are now aimed at the Pacific Ocean: “When we rounded the Horn we tacked toward the south-southwest to get away from the particularly bad coasts in the area and to go after better winds. Our goal over the next few days is simple: to get as far northwest as possible so we can avoid a ridge in a low-pressure system currently forming more northward. We'll have to pick our way through low-pressure areas along the way. The going will be uncomfortable for a few hours, but when we get to these areas we should be far from the coast, and that's already a relief," said Lemonchois.
Onboard the 33-meter catamaran, the team used these few days of “suspended time” to rest and get ready for the climb up the west coast of Latin America. Gitana 13, like the crew, is sailing at 100% potential with another 6,200 miles to cover.
Far from being discouraged by losing five days to the whims of Zephyr, Lemonchois and his nine teammates are as motivated as ever as they resume their quest: attempting to beat the Route de l'Or record.
A bit of history
Cape Horn is the most legendary and southernmost of the capes, standing at 55°59 S and 67°16 W. 425 meters high, it's located in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Chile on Horn Island (Hermit Islands).
Discovered in 1616 by merchant Jacob Le Maire and sailor Wilhem Schouten, the famous promontory owes its name to the Dutch port city of Hoorne, which backed the two men in their expedition. At the time, Le Maire and Schouten were seeking a new sailing route to the Pacific Ocean and the Molucca Islands, in order to get around the commercial restrictions imposed by the Dutch East India Company. So with a regiment of sailors they took to the seas on two ships—the Eendracht and the Hoorne—in order to explore Francis Drake's theory formulated several years earlier.
In 1578, the English pirate Drake, on an expedition to pillage Spanish colonies in South America, sailed through the Strait of Magellan to get to the Pacific Ocean. When his ship made it out of the Strait, it got caught up in a series of storms that blew it to 70°S and far enough east that he thought he was back in the Atlantic Ocean. This is why the passage between the southern tip of the American continent and Antarctic is called Drake Passage.
A look at the numbers
The time to beat: 57 days 3 hours 21 minutes 45 seconds, record set by Yves Parlier and his team in 1998
Departure from New York: Wednesday 16 January, 5:29pm (French time)
Crossed the equator: Wednesday 23 January, 8:24am (French time)
Time spent - 6 days 14 hours 52 minutes
Rounded Cape Horn: Friday 8 February, 12:54am (French time),
Time spent - 22 days 7 hours 25 minutes