Lionel Lemonchois on Gitana 11 breaks Route du Rhum speed record this morning 6/11/06

At 0621 this morning Lionel Lemonchois crossed the finish line in Guadeloupe breaking the previous Route du Rhum speed record by over four days.

Lemonchois sailing the 18 m Van Peteghem/Loriot-Prévost-designed trimaran Gitana 11 took 7 days, 17 hours, 19 minutes and 6 seconds to sail 3,542 miles across the Atlantic from St Malo to Guadeloupe at an average speed of 19.11 kts beating the previous 12-day record of Laurent Bourgnon on Primagaz.

Here’s what Lemonchois had to say about the race:

“Because of the weather conditions we had, we sailed really close to the direct route, that might explain why we cut the record of Laurent Bourgnon by that many days (minus 4 days, 15 hours, 22 minutes).

“Strategically, as soon as we touched the first low pressure system, we’ve been reaching, under the route of the rest of the fleet. When you are reaching if you are under, you are in the front. In addition to that, Gitana XI was perfectly responding to what I was asking her to do.

“I never felt stress on Gitana XI. Even my 5 days of qualification were pure happiness and I was sailing on a boat I did not know. The only scary moment during the race was when I was taken by surprise by a wind swing. The boat went up really high, but that was my fault. I released evertything at once and waited. Even under 35 knots in a bit of sea I never had the feeling to be in danger. I took the second reef in the mainsail one time, and I immediately felt it was not necessary.

“Each time I slept, I had the feeling that I was conscious, which was a weird feeling. When you sail single-handedly, you must manage your sleeping time very well, and that’s one of the most important things. I never had the feeling I was over my limits or exhausted, and the fact I was leading might have helped also.”

Competing skippers yet to finish the race congratulated Lemonchois.
Roland Jourdain / Sill et Veolia said: “He is the perfect representative of what a sailor is, and is somehow atypical in the way he behaves. He is free as a person and in the way he thinks.”

Pascal Bidégorry / Banque Populaire added: “He was certainly the most determined of all of us. He must have had the conviction since the start that he could not be beaten. He says what he thinks. He is a sailor, so no compromise. He is the kind of person who enjoys being on boats, he feels well on them, whatever the conditions. I do not feel any bitterness. It is good that he is the person who cut the line.

Thomas Coville / Sodeb’O concluded: “The skippers will be unanimously happy that he wins. That’s the victory of those who believe in beautiful human stories. He represents freedom and he was the strongest. I have a lot of respect for him and I do not feel any bitterness.”