Maxi-catamaran crosses the start line of the Tea Route to start their seventh final record campaign

Whilst the Summer Olympics are in full swing in China, Lionel Lemonchois and his nine crew have bid farewell to Asia. The maxi-catamaran crossed the start line of the Tea Route – Hong Kong to London – today (14 August) at 0755’32” UT. On this course spanning over 14,000 miles the sailors of Gitana Team are targeting a time of around forty days to make Europe and the city of London.

Ahead of the 33 metre catamaran lies a seventh and final reference time to beat in order to conclude a record campaign.

Following on from the Route de l’Or, for which they’ve held the new record of 43 days 3 minutes 18 seconds since last February, the sailors from Gitana Team are tackling another legendary course: the Tea Route. This prestigious commercial route has seen some of the largest clippers of the XIXth century start with a close-hauled navigation across the China Sea, then the Java Sea, prior to entering the Indian Ocean.

The crew will leave this turbulent ocean immediately after leaving the Cape of Good Hope (SE tip of Africa). From there they will begin the long climb up the Atlantic Ocean. During their target forty days at sea, the crew will have adopted a route fairly unfamiliar to contemporary sailors. To date, no maxi from the G Class has ventured into these regions; the current record being held by French sailor Philippe Monnet since 1990.

According to the weather forecasts, over the first days of the course Gitana 13 is set to face a medium SW’ly wind which will veer round to the W. Some close-hauled sailing is on the menu for the start of the course, which will take the men of Gitana Team fairly near the Vietnamese coast prior to closing on the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia.

“The first part of the course as far as the Indian Ocean won’t necessarily be very quick. Until we get to the south of Vietnam, the anemometer will rarely exceed 10-15 knots, but as the wind gradually backs we’ll be able to pick up the pace as we approach the Java Sea. There aren’t likely to be any big surprises as far as the weather is concerned over the initial miles but the crew will have to be on their guard. We noticed during our previous records that our passage across the China Sea is likely to involve a number of encounters (fishing boats and drifting nets dotted about everywhere). In addition, throughout our descent of the Indian Ocean, we’re going to pass strings of islands? land will never be that far away” explained Lionel Lemonchois this morning.

Brief history of the Tea Route
Until 1849, the East India Company had the monopoly on the maritime transport of tea. Following this time however, the abrogation of the Navigation laws came about, which protected the trade and opened it up to the American clippers, normally dedicated to cotton. These faster vessels were to impose double tariffs and in order to remain in the race British shippers had to launch themselves into the construction of new yachts: the clippers. Around the middle of the XIXth century, the annual race of the “Tea-Clippers” from China was a real obsession for sailors. The first vessel to reach London with its precious cargo pocketed colossal sums and not inconsiderable prestige. Setting out from London in the winter, the clippers began their outbound voyages carrying various loads towards whatever destination they fancied in the Orient or even Australia. Next, at the height of the summer, the vessels sailed for China where they headed towards the main tea ports, prepared to embark the very first new tea.

For more information on the team, visit .