Maxi-cat seeks shelter in Tea Route attempt

The 33m maxi-catamaran Gitana 13 was forced to seek shelter in Algoa Bay, South Africa, over the weekend as winds reached nearly 70 knots. She is part-way through an attempt on the Tea Route record, from Hong Kong to London.

Navigator Dominic Vittet describes the scene: “Since Saturday evening we’ve been going back and forth barepoled, remaining as close as we can to the coast. Yesterday the onboard anemometer recorded a gust of 67 knots, but Port Elizabeth really was the right choice as we’re very well protected here. The swell put in an appearance yesterday evening at the bottom of the bay, but nothing dramatic. On the other hand, just one or two miles downwind of us, there are big seas and you can make out the crests of the breaking waves.”

The off-watch crew are taking advantage of the delay to relax and catch up on sleep before they tackle the Cape of Good Hope. Skipper Lionel Lemonchois explains. “Over 300 miles separate our place of shelter and the Cape of Good Hope. We’re going to have to make a series of tacks upwind in what will still be a steady breeze and big seas. We’re going to have to endure a bit of pain in order to make the Atlantic.”

This pause is not dissimilar to the five day wait the crew of Gitana 13 were forced to endure at Cape Horn last January during their attempt on the Route de l’Or, from New York to San Francisco.

The crew will have to find the right weather window to head back onto the racetrack. “The last squalls have passed and the gusts have died down overnight. However, it will be best to be patient before rounding the Agulhas Cape and the Cape of Good Hope, as there are still very big seas this morning with waves continuing to reach 7 to 8 metres in the 5 mile coastal strip and in excess of 10 metres 30 miles offshore. This big, powerful swell becomes more abrupt when it encounters the Agulhas current along the SE coast of South Africa and it’s worth taking note that this region is notorious for its ‘heinous waves’. Prudence will remain paramount for Lionel Lemonchois and his crew, who won’t be able to leave the bay of Port Elizabeth until there is a significant calm in the swell along the coast.” At present, this lull is expected this evening.

Gitana 13 left Hong Kong on Thursday 14th August at 07h55.

Keep up with her progress on the team’s website.