Route du The: Lionel Lemonchois and Gitana 13 gain several hours

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

After setting out from Hong Kong last Thursday to tackle the seventh and final record of its 2008 campaign, The Tea Route, the maxi-catamaran in the colours of the LCF Rothschild Group passed offshore of the island of Borneo in south-east Asia this Tuesday 19th August. Yesterday, Lionel Lemonchois and his men were preparing to cross a zone of light winds, but the mysteries of the weather had an entirely different scenario in store for them. According to the latest forecasts, Gitana 13 will be sailing in the southern hemisphere from tomorrow.

Continuing its descent towards the Java Sea and the Sunda Strait, Gitana 13 last night passed just off the island of Natuna, the main island in the Indonesian archipelago of the same name. It was a strategic passage which required a route to be selected aboard the maxi-catamaran: “After a great deal of hesitation, we opted to round to the east of the island of Natuna. This decision enabled us to bear away (distancing oneself from the set of the wind) a little and sail a little more openly. For the first time since leaving Hong Kong, we were no longer  upwind, which was greatly appreciated by the whole crew. It was a fabulous night: flat seas, full moon and a boat which finally had a bit more pace” explained Dominic Vittet.

The first sight of land since Hong Kong, Natuna proved to be a fine spectacle for the ten sailors aboard: “We passed within 7 miles of the island and were able to admire the landscape as a result. Of particular interest was a volcano situated along the eastern seaboard, which we gradually discovered through the clouds.”

However, in addition to the beauty of the area, Natuna had another nice surprise for the men aboard the maxi-catamaran equipped by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Indeed, the air flow from the monsoon (SW’ly wind) was diverted by the landfall, which brought about a steady NW’ly breeze for nearly 6 hours. It was an unexpected change in direction, but one which the crew of Gitana 13 was able to fully reap the benefits off in order to gain some precious miles in the record attempt. 

For Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew, the objective of the day is to gain the maximum of southing in order to hit the SE’ly tradewinds situated around the equator. The sailors of Gitana Team are likely to make the zero degrees of latitude over the course of tonight. From then on, the 33 metre maxi-catamaran will be able to lengthen its stride in its bid to make the Indian Ocean.

The archipelago of Natuna
The Indonesian archipelago of Natuna is made up of 272 islands situated in the South China Sea, between the Malaysian peninsula and the island of Borneo. The archipelago is one of the most northerly parts of Indonesia.

Spanning 736,000 km², Borneo is the largest island of SE Asia. It is divided into four zones: the Sabah and the Sarawak, which are dependant on eastern Malaysia, the small independent state of the sultanate of Brunei to the north and the Kalimantan which belongs to southern Indonesia and covers the majority of the island.

Some figures

Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55’32’’ (UT)
OnTuesday 19th August at 0715 UT, Gitana 13 was sailing at 02°13.80 N/108°23.63 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)

Comments onboard

No, decidedly Gitana 13 doesn’t like it! She detests these long days beating against 20 - 27 knot winds and in particular this short, little chop, which the two floats never quite manage to position themselves on at the same time. Unrestrainedly twisting the platform, the waves restrict the carbon. The fibre rebels as it seldom enjoys these ‘elastic games’, and responds by springing back violently, which makes life on board pretty unbearable: sleeping becomes an impossibility and consists of hanging onto the bunk with both hands. Eating is an extremely perilous exercise too and despite the numerous precautions, only part of the water from the kettle ends up in each cup. Each crew member on watch is given a real dowsing and the hood becomes a highly sought after refuge.

At the keyboard, it’s like being a child of two who is learning to eat… In short these headwinds are transforming our descent towards the equator into a long, laborious exercise and it has already added a few extra days to our record. We knew this would be the case when we set off, but we’re just hoping that this will be the difficult part of the course and that the Indian and Atlantic Oceans will dish up their customary big surfs.

As regards food, the crew has got back into their ‘good’ habits. No fried food: it’ll be Chinese noodles and freeze-dried food all the way to the finish now. Fortunately, together with Ronan Le Goff, we got a good supply of fruit prior to our departure: bananas, apples, watermelons, mangos, oranges, lemons and grapefruit will be our only fresh food during this long spell of ‘stomach punishment’. We’ll have to make sure that everything’s consumed in a certain order and at a certain time...

Tomorrow we’re going to reach the waters of the island of Natuna, midway between Borneo and Singapore.

Dominic Vittet

See Gitana images:

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 August 2008 )