Day 55 of their Round The World Sailing record attempt showed Steve FOSSETT and crew on Cheyenne benefiting from steady SE winds and logging 489 miles on course - at an average 24 hour speed of 20.4 kts.
They are now only 1563 miles from the official WSSRC RTW finish line at Ouessant in France, which they hope to cross on Monday 5 April.
Cheyenne's lead over the existing RTW record is now 4-1/2 days - determined by comparing Cheyenne's present position (end Day 55) and the course of double RTW record-setter (1993, 2002) Bruno Peyron on Orange I in 2002, when they did not reach latitude 31 N until Day 59-1/2.
ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year nominee in 1998, 2002 and 2003, and Cheyenne's navigator Adrienne CAHALAN (AUS) had this to say on the current thinking last night.
"Now, we have yet to get to the line or even near it as this baby seems to just hang on by a thread. However, regardless of whether we make it or not, the weather gods have done their best to help us out. For all those climatology buffs out there, this is one time when I think we have had our a"%$# kissed by a fairy. Last week when we were in the South Atlantic Commanders, our forecasters, were predicting gloom and doom in the North Atlantic in the form of a high pressure system blocking our path to the English Channel. Imagine our horror when we were informed of this - the prospect of beating for days upwind into the finish line. The trampoline across the hulls would certainly have been declared a 'hard hat' area to protect us from all the fittings flying off the mast as we pounded into the seaway.
Well, good overcame evil and the forecast changed gradually in our favour. If it all comes together we will have been able to sail through the North Atlantic transiting only 2 weather systems. To transit from the trade winds into a mid latitude system at 25N without stopping is really something. Normally the subtropical ridge can stop you for days (as it did for us in the South Atlantic). Overnight we have seen the wind change from a signature trade wind ENE to a lifting ESE which enables us to turn the corner NE and point at the finish. We are lined up now between a low pressure system to our west at 28N 45W and a high pressure located to the our east near 27N 30W.
Our intention once we are into SE winds at the leading edge of the front (which is happening right now) is to turn NE and head toward the finish line, being careful not to 'cut the corner' and by doing so end up in the lighter airs to our east associated with the high pressure system. On the flip side, leaving our turn too late sees us too close to the low pressure system to our west and in an uncomfortable sea state and squall activity. For the last few days we have been heading NNW and then N to sail around the high pressure to our east and set ourselves up north enough to catch the low coming in from the west.
As the low deepens over the weekend we will be sailing a NE course in stronger southerly winds of 25-30kts and may have to put in a few gybes toward the finish line at the English Channel. The timing of the cold front that will pass over us on Sunday Monday will also affect how we approach the finish line. So our main strategy is to hook up with the south winds today and stay in these winds as long as we can. Sounds simple hey?
Finally... by the way, thank you to everyone who sent emails to the boat - replying to them may get lost in cyber space so this is a general 'thank you', they were much appreciated and always gave us a smile because believe me there has been some rather tense moments.