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Gitana 13 to Arrive on Thursday

To Bay Area residents, 40 days and 40 nights might invoke the biblical weather we’ve been having the last few months. But to the 10 sailors aboard the 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13, it is a measure of pride and progress. Today marks the 40th day since the big cat left New York on a quest to set a new sailing record to San Francisco. Currently off Mexico, the most current estimates have her sailing under the Golden Gate on Thursday, probably in the afternoon. If that comes to pass, skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his crew will break the old 57-day record by almost two full weeks.

The Gitana boys are expecting to sail under the Gate Thursday afternoon.

© Gitana S.A./Yvan Zedda

They will have earned it. After reaching Cape Horn, the halfway point of the 14,000-mile Route De L’Or, in only 17 days, it took the next 17 (including a five-day wait at the Horn) just to get back to the Equator on the Pacific side. They had to deal with one contrary weather system after another — and then the doldrums. They finally broke out of the northern boundary (12º N) of that largely windless band of latitudes on Friday and, writes crewman Nichlas Reynaud, sailed from almost no wind to 18-22 knots of northeasterly “within the space of one watch.”  This morning was more call for celebration as they crossed the symbolic barrier of only 1,000 miles to go.

Rather than the 500-600 mile off-the-wind days they experienced ripping south down the Atlantic, the final sprint to San Francisco will be upwind. Days runs of 350 miles — a 15-knot average — are still spectacular by most sailing standards, but must seem painfully slow to the Gitana guys who have seen twice that.

It should only take Gitana 13, currently just off Turtle Bay, about four days to do the Baja Bash.

Gitana 13
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

At this writing, the boat is climbing north on a ridge of high pressure, footing easily along at about 60° to the wind in 15 knots of northeasterly breeze. They are trying to hold onto their northwesterly heading until probably Wednesday, when they will do their final tack and find the northwesterlies for their approach into the Bay.

We don’t know how this event is going to be treated by the local media but, to sailors, this is a big deal, and we hope you will be able to make it out on a boat to escort them in. (But don’t get in their way — per protocol, their official time will be taken not at the Golden Gate, but as they sail past Alcatraz.) Please check ‘Lectronic Latitude regularly. As they get closer, we will be posting special updates on their anticipated arrival times. Until then, log on to www.gitana-team.com/en/ for the latest news.

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