Having covered another 130+ miles of westing over the past 12 hours - tactically working her way to reach projected increasing N/NE winds later on Wednesday, the 125' foot catamaran Cheyenne has finished her fourth day on the RTW sailing record course.
This morning she was just over a day behind the virtual 2002 position of Orange, the current record holder, But real-life competition lurks in the shadows as well.
Former record-holder Olivier de KERSAUSON and Geronimo are a day behind on the course - breaking fast out of this year's gate. Presumably aiming to catch the same large pattern South, they are also expected to have to thread their way past light air for some hours before continuing a fast run to the equator.
And of course two-time RTW record-holder Bruno PEYRON christens his new Orange 120' maxi cat later today in L'Orient - and soon joins 2004 RTW fray.
Fossett and Cheyenne lost 1/2 a day - plus the knock-on effect of missing a weather gate - stuck too far east in High pressure on Sunday (Day 2) and continue to pay - analysis of Geronimo's first 36 hours on course (from their Sunday pm start) shows the 110' French tri to have already reduced the gap by 198 nm on this early segment.
But Cheyenne's strong run South Tuesday, coupled with stronger N/NE breezes expected tonight keep Fossett's weather team 'pretty confident' of a targeted 8 day trip to the equator - an acceptable run given the distinctly non-traditional start pattern taken by both boats so far on the course.
Here is the latest from Brian THOMPSON on the boat
It's been a busy time in the Cheyenne sail loft, set up amongst the storage boxes in the long, narrow forepeak of the port hull. Each of the standby watches have had a rotating team of 2 working full time stitching up the 14 webbing strips holding the head of the blast reacher to the rest of the sail.
I calculated that there were 900 holes made through the thick fabric and with 2 passes of the spectra thread that is 1800 passes of the needle with the palm pushing through on one side and the pliers pulling out the needle on the other. The whole job took 20 hours. Next we need to re-hoist the sail to get the luff tension correct and then furl it properly as much of it is unfurled and crushed into the forepeak at present.
Out here we are having more smooth sailing, a little light of wind tonight as we are having to go through another ridge of high pressure, but we expect increasing winds today. It is going to be one long downwind leg from here to the equator, with a few big gybes to get us down past the doldrums. The big gennaker is up and unless it gets too breezy we should be flying this sail for the next 4 days.
The night has been spectacular, the stars were incredibly bright, not a cloud in the sky, the Milky Way stretching across the heavens and the tiny Plaeides constellation right above us. One of the brightest meteors I have ever seen, like a flare going off in the distance, streaked down from the north just to add to the show.
In the end I did not get to see the Madeira islands yesterday as it was just a little too hazy. We have kept well away from the notorious wind shadows of the Canaries, so those islands will have to pass unseen as well.
As we are passing close to the Canaries it is getting much warmer, light thermals are all we need on deck at night and as the sun comes up we will be getting out the shorts and sunshirts for the first time. Time for our first change of base layer.. its been brilliant how dry we have remained even in the rough conditions of the start and first day, our smock tops with latex dry suit seals have really worked perfectly, normally I might have had to change base layers because they have got damp through the neck and sleeves, but nothing has got past the seals yet thanks to Musto!
Onwards into the NE Tradewinds....
The latest position report from Cheyenne is available on the Fossett Challenges Website at the address below.