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8 February 2005, 09:49 am
Approaching the High
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Oryx Quest 2005

The giant French trimaran Geronimo, skippered by Olivier de KERSAUSON, has taken the lead in the Oryx Quest 2005, albeit a slim one. At daybreak this morning the crew on Doha 2006 had the boat squarely in their sights as both boats sailed south in light winds.
To add to the mix, Cheyenne has come barreling up from behind, and on a distance to go basis, is actually in second place with Tony BULLIMORE on Daedalus hanging tough with the bigger boats. The British skipper should be smiling his big English grin at how well his boat has performed against the bigger multihulls since leaving Qatar.

It's early days yet, but the catamaran/trimaran debate is in full rage. Multihull aficionados around the world are lining up behind their own preconceived ideas of which configuration is right for a long race around the world. Only time will tell which design is best suited for long offshore ocean racing, but for now the scale is tipped slightly in favour of the trimaran. There are some definite reasons for the better performance of Geronimo, especially in the light conditions, as Paul LARSEN on board Doha 2006 speculated.

'A pleasant surprise has come with dawns early light. Geronimo is sitting just a couple of miles off our port side,' he wrote. 'Surely this should be the conditions where the big trimaran should benefit. Light upwind conditions have always favoured comparable trimarans over catamarans. Every boat is a compromise designed to give the best overall average in a hugely varied range of conditions. Light and upwind is one of those conditions that should be to Geronimo's liking. The main reason for this is that they have less boat in the water in these conditions as the majority of their weight is sitting on the central hull whilst the catamarans are sitting squarely on two hulls.'

Until the wind picks up to the point where the catamarans are able to fly a windward hull, they suffer from drag. Two large hulls present more wetted surface than a center hull and leeward pod, and the difference in speed is very noticeable. Before the start Olivier de KERSAUSON speculated that they would have an advantage in the light conditions. 'We know Geronimo is strong in light winds and I think we will have an edge,' he said. 'Once the wind is blowing strong on the beam the catamarans will do better, but when it comes to downwind sailing in heavy conditions, I think we have the advantage again.' For now de Kersauson must be smiling to himself, his prediction playing out just as he anticipated.

Vincent Lauriot PREVOST, one half of the extremely talented design team of Van Peteghem Lauriot Prevost Yacht Design, the designers of Geronimo, was on hand in Qatar to watch the start. It was the first time his creation had squared up against a large catamaran in head-to-head competition, and he was pleased with what he saw. 'When the two boats rounded the first turning mark and had to sail close to the! wind, I could see that Geronimo was able to sail closer to the wind,' he said. 'And keep the same speed as Doha 2006.' Indeed, as every racing sailor knows, it's an advantage to sail higher and faster than your competition, and this small degree of difference might make a big difference over the length of a 26,000 mile racecourse.

The forecasted southwesterly kicked in during the afternoon on Monday and all the boats sailed upwind on starboard tack. The instant speed data showed Cheyenne with an edge. The biggest boat in the race was clearly liking the breeze and after a few tactical errors in the Gulf of Oman, Dave SCULLY and his team found themselves back in the hunt for the top spot. On board Doha 2006 the crew spent the day throwing in reefs only to have to remove them as they approached the high pressure system located directly in their path. As the barometer slowly rose the reefs were shaken and the boat speed slowed. By daylight Tuesday the leaders were drifting. All the boats are aiming to skirt the western edge of the High keeping an eagle eye on the barometer. If it starts to rise they will turn away from the system; if it starts to drop they will attempt to sail closer to the center to cut the corner. It's razor edge sailing that requires a strong stomach and a strong will otherwise you spend the time second-guessing your tactics. Fortunately all the skippers and navigators are very experienced and they know the game well. With Geronimo sailing to the east of Doha 2006, Paul LARSEN is speculating that their time may come for another break. 'We had set ourselves up to skirt around the outside of the High and thought that we might make gains as they would be closer to the weak winds near the centre,' he wrote. The separation may be minimal, but it may be all they need to do an end run around the French trimaran. However it plays out it's going to be a tedious day on the water.

Please note that these reports are generated around 07:00 GMT daily. The conditions may change as the day progresses and what you see on the leader board may be different from this report. The instrument data is updated continually, all except Geronimo who appear to have an unsolvable technical problem with their transmission. The position maps are accurate and updated continually.
Brian Hancock
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