Since lunchtime yesterday, the crew of Orange II has started tackling the final race against the clock to grab the Jules Verne Trophy and the outright round the world record.
Thirty or forty miles off Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, the giant catamaran has picked up some wind and is starting out on her final challenge in the Atlantic to reach Ushant as quickly as possible.
This fortieth day of racing around the world began at 17 knots, after they spent a day stuck in a transition zone, covering only 179 miles…. 'This tricky transition zone was forecast for that area,'
Bruno PRYRON reminds us. 'We mustn't grumble about the weather, as we had really taken advantage of it over the previous 38 days. We can look at it quite philosophically, and as we have a lead of nine and a half days, there's no need to panic!'
This pit stop allowed them to carry out a complete inspection of the boat, as well as allowing the crew to rest and get ready for the final stretch of this round the world voyage. This calm zone off Salvador de Bahia can be explained by the transition between the north easterly trades and the St. Helena high. There was no way Orange II could avoid it. 'We didn't take a detour, as we had to cross through this calm zone'
Peyron confirmed. 'The passage through the South Atlantic is very difficult from a weather perspective. A year ago, Steve FOSSETT managed to do it on a straight line in a record ten days, which was quite exceptional. We were lucky enough to fall into this area at a spot that more or less suited us. We really paid the price yesterday, and now things are starting to pick up again. We're making 18 knots!'
Still on track for a new intermediary record from Cape Horn - Equator
This speed means moreover that the skipper of Orange II
can still hope to set a new intermediary record between Cape Horn and th e entry into the North Atlantic. 'Our first goal is the record for Cape Horn - The Equator. If we manage to set a new record, that will be very encouraging! For the moment, we're still ahead of this record, and if we don't break anything, we're in with a chance of smashing it. In the longer term, our goals remain the two great round the world records'
Peyron, who was more than ten days ahead of the time taken by the American Steve Fossett admits that he places the success of his project before that of setting an exceptional time. 'I would prefer to finish one second before the time is up to beat the outright record in a boat in perfect condition, rather than three or five days ahead in a damaged boat. We're not taking any unnecessary risks. We are still nine and a half days ahead. If we set out yesterday with the same weather as Cheyenne we could complete the circumnavigation in 47 days, but that's only on paper and mathematically. We were nevertheless lucky to be able to take advantage of a series of weather patterns since the start. If we have to suffer on the final leg and lose a day, or two or three, we'll still be smiling!'
The journey up the North Atlantic to reach Ushant and then Brest looks more complicated. Orange II
will have to go right around via the north west before heading back down towards the tip of Brittany. 'The weather pattern is such that there is a solid barrier in the middle of the North Atlantic. If we head off to the right to try to get around it on the edge of the high, we will have to sail at slow speed in heavy, dangerous seas. If we head off to the left, it will be kinder on the boat and we'll be getting better angles to the wind, and it should allow us to pick up the first flow between Bermuda and the Azores.'