Setting out from New York on 16th January 2008 the men aboard the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild are preparing to head back towards the ‘Old Continent'. As was the case with their first record between New York and San Francisco, the Route de l'Or, the men from Gitana Team will set out in the next few days in the traces of the XIXth century clippers, the most famous of these being the Cutty Sark.
It is a legendary 15,000 nautical mile course, comprising a host of climatic conditions and no less than two changes of hemisphere. As soon as they cast off from Hong Kong, Lionel Lemonchois' men will begin their crossing of the South China Sea and then the Java Sea. From that point, Gitana 13 will make its entrance into the Indian Ocean where it will make for the Cape of Good Hope, the promontory situated on the SW tip of Africa. Once this cape is in their wake, the ten sailors will begin their climb up the Atlantic Ocean, prior to entering the English Channel and the River Thames. What a programme!
Though the reference time on which the men of Gitana 13 will base their own performance is that of Philippe Monnet, set in 1990 – 67 days 10 hours 26 minutes -, Lionel Lemonchois has fixed himself a course time of around forty days. It should be noted however that the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group will be the first G Class yacht to tackle this historic record.
For this seventh and final record of the 2008 campaign, the skipper of Gitana 13 is welcoming four newcomers aboard. Laurent Mermod, Ronan Guérin and Pascal Blouin will thus be sailing alongside Lionel Lemonchois for the first time. For the fourth crew member, Ronan Le Goff, it's a rather different scenario. A loyal crew to Gitana Team, Ronan was unable to make himself available prior to the Tea Route but it is with pleasure that he rediscovers a familiar yacht and crew in Hong Kong.
To these four sailors will be added the very core of the team - Léopold Lucet, David Boileau, Ludovic Aglaor, Olivier Wroczynski and Dominic Vittet - who will bring the numbers in the Gitana 13 crew to ten on this new record attempt.
A general overhaul
Gitana 13's summer break has enabled the crew to complete a general overhaul of the maxi-catamaran. The most significant operation during the refit will have been changing the running rigging; which was done as a precautionary measure in light of the number of miles covered and those miles which lay ahead. The leading and trailing edges of the rudders and the centreboard, damaged in the China Sea amidst the excessive amount of encounters with drifting fishing nets, are now as good as new. Finally a complete check of the winches, blocks and deck hardware has been performed. All this has taken place in the hot and humid atmosphere of Hong Kong, where the temperature has reached 38°C in the shade.
The crew of Gitana 13 will be complete from 9th August. From that point, it will be the whims of the weather which will dictate the departure of the 33 metres maxi-catamaran.
From his Météo France offices in Toulouse in SW France, Sylvain Mondon will play his familiar role of 11th man in this record attempt. He comments on the various departure scenarios currently envisaged: “We're currently working on two cases for the departure. The first possibility would involve Lionel Lemonchois and his crew attempting to set off outside the tropical storm season – it is worth noting that at this time of year, these storms follow one after the other in this sector and amount to at least one a week. This initial configuration would force the maxi-catamaran to set off upwind in a SW'ly breeze. The second hypothesis would be to benefit from the passage of a tropical storm to hook onto a NE'ly wind enabling them to pick their way along downwind in some rather brisk conditions. In order for this scenario to come off, this storm would have to come from the Philippines and work its way up towards Taiwan.”
Crew aboard Gitana 13 for the Tea Route
Lionel Lemonchois (Skipper)
Dominic Vittet (navigator)
Ronan Le Goff
Gitana 13's records
Route de l'Or (New York – San Francisco, via Cape Horn): in 43 days 3 minutes 18 seconds (February 2008)
North Pacific Crossing (San Francisco – Yokohama): in 11 days 12 minutes 55 seconds (April 2008)
Yokohama – Dalian: 3 days 20 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds
Dalian – Qingdao: 23 hours 50 minutes and 20 seconds
Qingdao – Taiwan: 3 days 52 minutes and 15 seconds
Taipei – Hong-Kong: 1 day 58 minutes 27 seconds