As expected since Sunday evening, the maxi-catamaran Orange is heading NE, progressively distancing herself from the South American coast.
The Marseilles Giant has decided to favour and invest in a route not often attempted in previous circumnavigations in order to avoid tackling head on a low with winds estimated at 60 knots. Bruno Peyron talks of a "mouse hole" and a "race against the clock" whilst Gilles Chiorri emphasises "that it is important right now to dose any progress to the east". A complex met' system that merits some explanation...
"It's hardly an option because in fact we don't have any alternatives!" stated Gilles Chiorri. Indeed, the maxi-catamaran Orange was faced with three possibilities yesterday. Firstly, to follow a northerly heading with in front of them a low-pressure system with sustained winds of around 60 knots. Secondly, sail up the South American seaboard with weird weather patterns and mini highs close to the coast. Thirdly, follow a NE heading to avoid the low and skirt a high round its eastern edge. So it was the latter option they chose, and it's quite a gymkhana in perspective!
Because if we look at the various weather charts and models, what do we see? The maxi-catamaran Orange should be able to benefit today and tomorrow from a good 30 knot leading SW wind generated south-west of her. But on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th, the Marseilles Giant will have to leave this system to branch off to the north and borrow the eastern edge of a low located to her north-west. A nice giant slalom in perspective for which they must respect the timing perfectly. Which explains Gilles' remark about dosing progress to the east in order to be neither too early nor too late in comparison with the evolution of the weather models. The only snag: "We're working with two weather models, one American and one European. What's interesting is that they both agree about the next 36 hours but after that they don't. The American model does not quite agree with the one from Météo-Consult. The least optimistic one would have us parked in a high..." "The situation is definitely not simple" continued Bruno Peyron, "and we're going to have to aim for a mouse hole. It's a race against the clock and that's why we're driving quite hard at the moment!"
Indeed, the maxi-catamaran Orange was credited with an average speed of 23.05 knots at 1000 GMT and 536 miles on the log. The wind is currently blowing 30/35 knots with a beam sea and the boat is sailing under full main and reacher... In short, the bows are smoking!
Quote / unquote...
"We've slightly changed the watch system by going from three watches of four to four watches of three. The four hour watches have gone to two hours. This enables us to be more responsive for sail changes and so to attack a little harder!"
"The references we have are those of Club Med and Olivier de Kersauson. The former had a 35-knot headwind for two days in this place and the latter was credited with a tiny 8.9 knots average speed. Neither of which are really examples to follow..."