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6 March 2003, 10:07 am
Day 54 - The Final Sprint Home
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Jules Verne Trophy
Round the World

Geronimo is currently sailing in the Doldrums, facing 2 to 6 knots winds. On its 54th day at sea the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Schneider Electric team covered 235,48 miles averaging 9.81 knots.

At 12.37.48 GMT yesterday the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran crossed the Equator. After 22,000 sea miles and 53 days, 9 hours, 37 minutes and 39 seconds of racing against the clock, Geronimo crossed the 0° parallel for the second time just 4 hours and 48 minutes behind the record set by Orange last year.

"This makes 2,500 miles in which the wind has been less than 8 knots for 90% of the time with squalls all the way. We´ve never had a settled wind over 10 knots in all that time. We´re not tacking, but we´re close on the wind in the wake of a squall and have been for the last 72 hours. Luckily Geronimo goes really well in light breezes and we also have sails suitable for conditions like these. But it doesn´t mean that the boat and crew are having an easy time of it. Everyone has to pay close attention almost all the time. For the last 8 days, we´ve had to claw our way along every metre and every second of the course. 4 hours behind Orange is not so bad. We could have lost two days if we hadn´t fought like lions", said the skipper.

The current record stands at 64 days, 8 hours, 37 minutes and 27 seconds. So to break it, Geronimo will have to cross the finish line in less than 10 days´ and 23 hours´ time. "The Doldrums are developing ahead of us. The weather system that we´re now in continues up to 3° or 4° North. There´s no wind in the North Atlantic because the trade winds are not established. The Doldrums cover an enormous area, at least 1400 kilometres across. No information we have at the moment gives any reason to think that we´ll be able to go quickly in the days ahead. Although the atmosphere is quite good and active at the moment, it´s always worrying when you can´t see any improvement. For days and days, we´ve been waiting for the wind to arrive, but now, we know that we´re going to have to wait for another 300 or 400 kilometres for that to happen. The Jules Verne Trophy will be hard earned if we make it. If we do succeed, it won´t be with a day or even half a day to spare, but by just a few hours or even a few minutes. We could just as easily miss the record by 30 minutes. That´s the way it looks right now. Orange might well have been stuck in the east, but we have been stuck in the south and we´ve only been able to make slow progress northwards. Orange managed a very honourable end to her record run and we´re going to have to go very quickly to beat her. In the meantime, every hour that ticks by puts us further behind", concluded Olivier de Kersauson.

Geronimo crossed the start line at 03:00:09 on 11 January. On 17 January, after a brilliant first leg through the North Atlantic, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew set a new record time for the passage from Ushant to the Equator of 6 days, 11 hours, 26 minutes and 21 seconds. On 27 January, Geronimo rounded the Cape of Good Hope after 16 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes and 26 seconds at sea. Despite difficult conditions in the Indian Ocean, the crew arrived off Cape Leeuwin on 6 February to set a new record time of 26 days, 4 hours, 53 minutes and 13 seconds. Despite very difficult sailing conditions in the Southern Ocean as the result of icebergs and low pressure areas settled more northerly than is usual, Geronimo rounded Cape Horn on 20 February after 40 days, 16 hours, 16 minutes and 4 seconds, thus improving on the time set by Bruno Peyron. After passing the famous rock, Geronimo ran into the worst conditions yet, with weak, unstable winds and a South Atlantic that offered no opportunity for a fast run to the Equator. All that remained was a direct route sailing closed hauled against the current. Geronimo´s abilities in slack winds have therefore been exploited to the maximum in order to preserve her hard-won lead for as long as possible.

Position at 03:00 GMT

01º40N 31º55W Secretariat
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