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11 February 2003, 10:08 am
Geronimo Hits Halfway Point
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Jules Verne Trophy
Round the World

Yesterday, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran left behind the troubled and difficult Indian Ocean, for which Olivier de Kersauson has little time or liking.
Suffice it to say that the crew is now very happy to be making headway in the Pacific. "It's a real relief. We've had some really disgusting weather conditions and I can see that the awful systems that stopped us going south are still there now. I'm very happy to be out of that ocean and into the Pacific. We're finally able to move south along an opening that will take us to Campbell Island, which is as near as we'll get to New Zealand. Then, if the winds allow, we'll be trying to get a little further south still. The swell and the sea have really changed a lot in the last 30 hours".

The Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew took only 72 hours to cover the distance between Cape Leeuwin and the southern point of Tasmania, but it's not been an easy trip: "A nightmare! And that's no exaggeration. The sea was so big; it was hard to know what to do - a huge swell, with a short sea running in every direction and squalls coming through one after the other. It was a really terrible passage. Today though, everyone's happy that we're back to proper sailing. For the past few days, it's been pure survival, which is never very pleasant".

Early this morning, just before beginning her 30th day at sea, Geronimo reached longitude 155° East, which is the halfway point of her course. "It's not bad, but we still have to get through the Pacific, round the Horn and back up through the Atlantic and cope with the Equator, the Doldrums and the Azores high… All we can say is that Geronimo has done well in the first half of the course, but we've had plenty of unforeseen problems and there are sure to be many more. The Pacific is a formidable challenge. In the Indian Ocean, we were prevented from going south and we had to put up with what the ocean threw at us. From now on, we should be able to enjoy the light and extraordinary beauty of the Southern Ocean. I do hope though that we can finally get as far South as we need to be".

Stress levels on board have certainly fallen in the last few hours. Nevertheless, the crew did have to cope with the relatively minor incident of a batten breaking last night. "We managed to get the mainsail down, cut the new batten, fit it and re-hoist the sail in 37 minutes flat! It's not a very long time, considering the amount of work involved. It also goes to show that we really were properly prepared. Even if we'd broken the first, the second, the third or any other, we'd have been able to cut a new one immediately".

Geronimo is now making 25 knots under medium gennaker and full mainsail in wind speeds of between 26 and 30 knots. "The air is cold, because it's coming from the south, but the scenery is superb: with a half moon and a few stars… a fabulous night!" News Editor
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