The latest report from the 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13 found them gliding along in light air just north of the Equator, hoping for a breath of wind while at the same time holding their breath that they keep what wind they have. Such is the frustration of every sailor who has ever transited the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an often windless area on either side of the Equator better known as the doldrums. As you know by now, Gitana 13 and her 10-man crew are attempting to break the sailing record from New York to San Francisco, a 14,000-mile jaunt around Cape Horn that they call the Route de L’Or — the route of gold — in honor of the ships that used to carry 49ers to the gold fields in the mid-1800s. Those ships were sometimes becalmed for days in the doldrums in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Thanks to her weather routers, Gitana 13 "found a mousehole" through the Atlantic doldrums and never stopped moving. Once through, she slingshotted down the east coast of South America, arriving at Cape Horn only 18 days out of New York. (By contrast, the boat that holds the 57-day record, Yves Parlier’s Open 60 Aquitaine Innovations, took a month to get that far.)
However, starting with a five-day delay to wait out bad weather before rounding Cape Horn, followed by two weeks of battling a series of contrary highs and lows off South America just to get back to the Equator, the Pacific has yet to smile on skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his crew — especially when early estimates had them arriving under the Golden Gate today! But as of this morning, she was still 2,200 miles away from the Bay — about the same distance as a TransPac — struggling to keep and chase every scrap of breeze while avoiding squalls. G-13 has about 300 more miles to go before popping out the northern side of the ITCZ, and are crossing their fingers that lots of wind will be there to greet them. For more on this exciting record attempt, log onto www.gitana-team.com/en.