We generally talk about the calm before the storm but the opposite is true for Gitana 13! The raging elements at the tip of South Africa have given way to evanescent winds and a calmed sea, as the 33 metre maxi-catamaran sails along the African coast bound for the equator. The situation is the result of the remains of the ridge of high pressure from the Saint Helena High: “we were caught by a zone of calms at around 0200 hours this morning. It wasn't really part of our programme but we're making do with the situation. Outside there are smooth seas despite some residual swell, and the anemometer is rarely exceeding 5 knots! We didn't really make much headway last night, encircled by the tentacles of this calm spell (zone of very light winds)” conceded the onboard navigator this morning.
However, this calm weather is in no way synonymous with a drop in pace aboard Gitana 13. Indeed, these light airs have called for permanent attention on the part of the ten sailors. Trimming the boat as best they can in order to exploit the slightest gusts and thus stand a chance of getting free and finding the way out, such has been the motivation of Lionel Lemonchois' men: “On deck, activity has been fairly intense throughout the night. You might think that no wind relates to no effort… but it's quite the opposite. The little amount of wind certainly enables a relaxed atmosphere but requires an enormous amount of physical effort: shifting sails to balance out the weight, fine trimming, manœuvres (gennaker hoisting); those on watch are frequently accompanied by the standby watch on deck” explains Dominique ‘Mino' Vittet.
For the time being the skipper of Gitana 13 hasn't been able to begin repairs to the area of the boat which was damaged last Tuesday: an 80 cm crack on the starboard beam: “Despite the calms, Lionel hasn't yet begun repairs as our ship's wound requires tranquillity, as well as a few extra degrees. Heat is essential for the resin to set. As we wait to make sufficient northing and ensure that we have all the right conditions, Lionel is drawing up plans and preparing all the details of the intervention” the onboard navigator tells us.
The first signs of an ESE'ly air flow are this morning beginning to fill the sails of the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, and the way out can't be far now. From then on, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew will endeavour to make as much northing as possible in order to find the established SE'ly tradewinds, synonymous with the expressway to the equator.
A few figures
Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55'32'' (UT)
Friday 5th September at 0845 hours UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 29°30.30 S / 15°27.42 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)