The Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran is still making good headway north, despite having to contend with lazy trade winds blowing at around 12 knots.
Making an average speed of over 15 knots, Geronimo passed 15° North at the end of last night and should reach 20° North some time tonight. This faster progress puts her back ahead of Orange, her rival of last year. But the crew continues to take a realistic view, since Bruno Peyron and his crew had excellent conditions on days 58, 59 and 60 (covering 411, 518 and 496 nautical miles respectively), which will not be the case this year on this part of course.
The weather outlook for Geronimo remains very confused. After the windless high pressure area covering the ocean between 20° and 25° North, there are now three distinct weather systems in the North Atlantic, with two fairly inactive depressions enclosing an anticyclone. The result is very spasmodic wind, highly variable in direction, backing from due north to due south and predicted to be a strong easterly by the time Geronimo is likely to be approaching Brittany. In short, the worst conditions possible. Earlier this morning, Olivier de Kersauson analysed the situation this way: "If things continue like this, we'll be within half an hour of the target time. We haven't had a single day of proper "gliding" since we rounded Cape Horn. We've been close on the wind all the time and we still are. It's unbelievable. It's very hard on the nerves when there's no improvement forecast".
In this type of weather situation, the only hope is that the complexity involved makes forecasting difficult, since dramatic changes can occur in either direction. But whatever happens, the return leg through the North Atlantic looks like being a real labour of love for the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew, because it now looks as if they will have to tack all the way. There are two key reasons why Geronimo can remain in contention. The first is her general condition. After 57 days at sea, the boat is still able to race faster than the wind, even though some issues require close supervision. The fact that she remains in such good condition is thanks to careful way the crew managed equipment wear and failure risks in the Southern Ocean. The second reason is that the trimaran's design allows her to sail very close to the wind, making the most of even the slightest breath of air. As her skipper says: "If Geronimo were a catamaran, and with the wind conditions we've had since Cape Horn, we wouldn't be passed the Equator yet!"