Dream come true


 
We speak to Lionel Lemonchois and look at his career, his boat and his outstanding achievement
The early hours of Monday morning saw a new name enter sailing's history books when Lionel Lemonchois fulfilled every French schoolboys' fantasy (including his own), steering his 60ft trimaran Gitana 11 to line honours in the Route du Rhum. But his mere win in France's most historic singlehanded transat was only half the story. The 46 year old Frenchman demolished the record, setting an impossibly fast time time that is certain stand for at least a decade. The blue and white form of Gitana 11, cruised across the Pointe a Pitre finish line in the dark on Monday at 0521 GMT (0121 local time in Guadeloupe), taking 4 days 15 hours off Laurent Bourgnon's 1998 record, establishing a new time of 7 days 17 hours, 19 minutes and 6 second. To put this into perspective Lemonchois took just 62% of the time to get Guadeloupe than the fastest ever previously. Remembering how light the start was in St Malo a week and a half ago, followed by the initial upwind section, Gitana 11's average speed was still 19.11 knots down the direct course. The weather for this year's race has not been typical, to put it mildly. The great circle course for the Route du Rhum is to the north of the Azores but usually there is a giant high pressure system, the Azores high parked over the middle of the course. Hence the typical route to the Caribbean at this time of year is to dive a long way south skirting the south side of the high, eventually picking up the favourable trade winds propelling you towards the Caribbean. For the Route du Rhum, the boats started in light headwinds as they left the English Channel and then as they were south of Ireland keyed into the south side

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