The end of Day 54 saw Cheyenne cross the Tropic of Cancer northbound and shift their N/NW course back towards N as the wind clocks to the SE - after a strong 483 nm (a 20 kt average) in steady East tradewinds throughout Wednesday.
Their position at 0510 GMT on 1 April 2004 was 1100 nm W/SW of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Islas Canarias (ESP). Now with just over 2000 nm remaining minimum course distance back to the official start-finish line at Ouessant, Cheyenne holds a lead of 4-1/2 days over the RTW record-setting course of Orange I from 2002.
Wednesday's on-board highlights included boat-builder-in-residence Mike Beasley's beautifully engineered repair to the pin for the starboard bushing on the forward beam.
The weather outlook for the next 4 days is good - and Fossett and crew are hoping to cross the finish line at Ouessant on Monday afternoon - before proceeding to their UK base at Plymouth, Devon.
Dave Scully's 31 March report
"The wind filled, and the skies cleared, and the last squall drew it's curtain of rain from the horizon, and we were at last bucking and slamming upwind in the Northeast Trades. Stars glittered overhead, and the waypoint at Ouessant was a mere 3000 miles away. Still, it all could have ended there, but for Jacques' bowels. Sitting on the head in the middle of the night, he heard an unfamiliar noise, and upon going to investigate, discovered that the huge pin which holds the front beam to the port hull had started to back out of it's hole. The carbon fiber pin had actually ripped in half, and had it been allowed to part company with the boat, it would have been followed shortly by the front beam itself, the forestay, the rig, sails, and possibly the bows as well.
In a bit of panic engineering, we bashed it back in as far as it would go, about 35 mm short of it's designed location, and secured it against further egress with some hastily tapped bolts. Now, the question was, how far could we push the partial repair?
Just to complicate things further, in the course of the excitement, I managed to rub a solution of carbon dust and grease into my eye, and am now sporting a duct tape eye patch of which a James Bond villain would be proud.
We concluded that we could sail the boat in this configuration, but that the consequences of getting it wrong were unthinkable. We needed a safety factor. Mike BEASLEY retired into the bow with some cut lengths of spare batten and began work on the Mighty Pinnamoose.
He spent the next day squatting like a samurai over his cloth and glue pots, in an atmosphere that would make a dry cleaner retch, but when he emerged, he bore the most confidence inspiring piece of onboard composite engineering I have ever seen, the Mighty Pin of Moose.
A bundle of solid pultruded glass battens had been bound together with carbon fiber bands, sized to slot exactly into the holes in the existing pin. We attempted a dry fit last night, and after a little precision dusting from his grinder, rammed it home this morning. We are very fortunate to have such a group of talented and determined people on our crew.
Blasting north again under full sail, we expect to rendezvous with a low pressure system at sometime tomorrow. This could be the last ticket we have to buy to get us home. Talk turns those ashore, to hotel reservations, and what happens next. I am sure that the remaining 2500 miles could still produce an adventure or two."
Steve Fossett writes (1 April) on the precise routing plan for the finish: