Having crossed the start line at 03:00:09 GMT on 11 January, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran set a new record for the passage from Ushant to Cape Leeuwin this morning, after 26 days, 4 hours, 53 minutes and 13 seconds at sea.
Geronimo passed the second cape of the course - the south-east tip of Australia - 3 days, 2 hours and 29 minutes ahead of the time set by Bruno Peyron and his crew last year.
This means another new record for the trimaran on this Jules Verne Trophy attempt. She has completed each of the three major sections of the route so far by extending her lead over the record time set by Orange.
-Ushant to The Equator:
6 days, 11 hours, 26 minutes, i.e. 1 day, 10 hours, 34 minutes ahead of Bruno Peyron.
-Ushant to the Cape of Good Hope:
16 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes, i.e. 2 days, 4 hours, 5 minutes ahead of Orange.
-Ushant to Cape Leeuwin:
26 days, 4 hours, 53 minutes, i.e. 3 days, 2 hours, 29 minutes ahead of the maxi-catamaran.
Nevertheless, Olivier de Kersauson and his 10-man crew continue to struggle against extremely difficult conditions. Forced to return a long way north to avoid the "worst of it", Geronimo continues to make headway in "an enormous and terrible beam sea. Added to that, we've got Tropical fronts sweeping through the area we're sailing in. The result is an appalling Indian Ocean with no chance of the boat gliding as she should. Even as far north as 45 degrees, there are still 7- or 8-metre waves. If you're happy to make 10 knots, that's okay, but going any faster under these conditions is almost impossible",
explained Olivier de Kersauson.
In this "boat breaking" sea, the crew is monitoring the trimaran's condition very closely. "We're very strict about that. We make a complete check of the boat every 6 hours, including an inspection of the mast: we pay close attention to everything. We know that on this voyage, we're only as good as our equipment. We have to try and slow down very quickly if a problem occurs anywhere on the boat. On every watch, one of the boys has the job of checking the boat, inspecting the bows to make sure we're not shipping water and to make sure that we have no hitches or snags. This boat is so big that it could take three days for us to find out we have a problem. So we keep very a very close watch on it. We've suffered a few knocks, but we're still in good shape.
Once again, the skipper was at pains to praise his crew, saying that everyone on board Geronimo is still as enthusiastic as they were when they rounded the Cape of Good Hope. "Everything's going better and better. It's fantastic. Naturally, we're a bit tired, due to the bad weather and the continual manoeuvres. There are times like yesterday evening, for example, when I ease the pressure. It gave us time to recover and feel a bit better. The wind is blowing 35 to 42 knots and steady, rising to between 55 and 60 when the squalls come through. It all requires a lot of attention. It never stops. I'm so happy with this crew and so proud of them. We're having a great time. We're hanging in there. We're on the attack all the time, which is great. They've been on board with us for 4 months now. Some have sailed with us since September; others since July. We know them well, but it's not enough just to bring people together. You have to create a proper team spirit: an atmosphere in which everyone wants to work together and attack the record; and you have to synchronise properly for manoeuvres. That's the way it is with this crew. There's no need for words and no need for people to be told what to do. Everything's going like clockwork. There are some great moments. The boat is so capable at sea that it's extremely enjoyable. She's as light on the helm as a much smaller boat, like the 25-metre Jules Verne. It's fabulous when she's surfing. This boat has real talent".
Now off South Australia, the crew is already considering how to position Geronimo so that she is ready to attack the Pacific under the best possible conditions. "It's getting on my nerves a bit, because we've still got three days to go in these latitudes if we want to get back to gliding the boat as we should. I'm going to find myself grazing the south of Tasmania. From the tourist point of view it might be quite interesting, but it's a bit of a drama from the sailing point of view. We should have gone further south a long time ago to shorten the route. As things stand, there's no chance of getting very far south in the next 72 hours".