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30 January 2003, 10:14 am
The Calm Before the Storm
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Jules Verne Trophy
Round the World

Jammed between two weather systems, Geronimo has made slower progress over the last 24 hours as a result of slack winds of variable direction.

Having covered 366 nautical miles point-to-point on her 18th day of racing, the trimaran is now experiencing the calm before the storm. According to Pierre Lasnier, Olivier de Kersauson and his 10-man crew may well be facing a personal Trafalgar by early evening tomorrow. "Over 40 knots of wind between midnight and 09:00 GMT", says the meteorologist. "It'll then move round to the south-west. Geronimo will then try to pick up speed again following the direct route of the depression and exploiting the calm wake it leaves behind at around 43° South".

Another really big blow is scheduled for the start of next week. To avoid the worst of it, Geronimo will return to 41° South before the weather system deepens. As soon as the front has passed through, the south-westerly airstream should allow the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Schneider Electric crew to set a course due East in the wake of the depression.

The strategy adopted by Olivier de Kersauson is to stay to the North. It's a longer route, but it should enable them to cope better with the next set of weather systems that will be following close behind. The tactic will be to track north before the depression arrives and then try to follow behind it for as long as possible. Geronimo should then be to make the most of the broken seas that follow the passage of these very high winds.

The Indian Ocean will be hard, but it will be too risky to go further south into the colder, more stable air because the depressions are too far north, which has two consequences:

The winds become north-easterly below 50° South, which would mean Geronimo having to sail close-hauled against very strong winds, which in turn would mean slower progress and a greater risk of damage to the boat.

- When these depressions meet the warmer air, the mixture of warm and cold air can trigger mini-tornados of the same kind that caused such havoc on last year's Route du Rhum. This situation is to be avoided at all costs in this part of the world, where survival itself would be at stake.

As Bruno Peyron and Orange found last year, the Indian Ocean will therefore be no picnic. Olivier de Kersauson has no great love for this ocean, which took Dominique Guillet on one of the Whitbreads and has massacred many boats, including those in a previous Vendée Globe Challenge. But as the skipper said during his bulletin yesterday, "It is hard to sail around the world without passing through it, but I'd rather avoid it... I just hope that the Indian Ocean will allow a boat called Geronimo to pass through unharmed!"

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