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8 April 2002, 04:06 pm
Orange Going Strong After 37 Days At Sea
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Jules Verne Trophy

A Sunday south of south. A big catamaran hurtling through the greatest ocean on the planet. And the 13 men, as applied today as they were on the first of their voyage.
The weather has been giving the Orange giant the best of its precious fuel; wind, air, so temperamental since leaving Ushant astern. That precious resource that they must seek, hunt and sometimes avoid. The Pacific is a vast mixing tank for masses of air. Bruno Peyron is rushing into it with a slightly strange and personal joy, with an impatient urge to see the "marvels" again, the rare moments of a high-speed voyage into the unknown.

It was a great day in perspective. The ridge of high pressure crossed in the night barely slowed Orange down. "Only a little windward work in the night" admitted Peyron. The wind shift to the north happened as forecast and the Marseilles giant greedily took advantage, accelerating on a SSE heading, on port tack and all sail set.

Of course with the expected strengthening, they eventually had to reduce sail somewhat, and within a few hours, the whole range of sails had been brought out and aired and brought back in again by a crew as lively as ever; full main and gennaker became single reefed main and solent, then 2, then 3 reefs and staysail. Reduced sail area and perfectly controlled speed. "After a few surfs at 32 knots we're maintaining a steady speed of between 22 and 24 knots along the route" described the skipper from Marseilles. "The boat is now lightened by about a ton and a half of food and fuel consumed. She is more manoeuvrable and easier to position on the waves."

The weather is damp and the warm front brought along its batch of clouds and some precipitation. Orange is once again heading back down towards the deep south. They must seek a passage between the highs that are lazily camping between 50 and 60 degrees south. To their north, winds will be on the nose. They must slip through underneath pushed by strong westerlies, recording respectable speeds encouraged by a finally well organised long swell.

Peyron and his men have a new navigational equation to solve, and new anxieties, because down around 60 degrees south extends the realm of icebergs and growlers. With the moonless nights they're experiencing at the moment, they won't be hanging around down there longer than necessary, before climbing back up to the north-east as quickly as possible, towards Cape Horn, that mythical escape hatch from the Southern Ocean that Peyron expects to round next Sunday.

Quote / unquote...

Bruno Peyron:"The sea state has been really pleasant since we entered the Pacific. The swell is nice and regular, with crests of about 3 metres. We picked up some wind again last night and the acceleration was brutal. Even though it's very late in the year, temperatures are still quite mild. We're keeping an eye on the temperature of the sea and being very vigilant about ice. We know the risky zones, and we won't be venturing into any minefields."



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