Geronimo continues her laborious progress north through the South Atlantic, hugging its western edge. The last 24 hours have been extremely trying, with very little wind and stifling heat.
Even the storms have brought nothing more than occasional breezes of around 8 to 12 knots. In these very calm conditions, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran has once again proved her exceptional talent for consistently sailing faster than the wind. But this laborious progress, which involves shortcuts that bring Geronimo very close to the Brazilian coast, is exhausting both physically and mentally. All day yesterday was spent close-hauled against the current in a sea that was hardly breaking at all.
This option has certainly enabled the crew to retain a healthy lead over the current record time: they were still over 400 nautical miles this morning. However, days 51 and 52 saw Orange making very fast progress last year, covering over 500 sea miles a day in 25 knots of wind. The trade winds forecast for Geronimo are showing a maximum speed of between 10 and 15 knots for tomorrow and the day after. It is therefore clear that the lead she has held ever since the start and has guarded jealously all the way is now threatened by this absence of sustained trade winds.
There's no doubt though that this course was the only possible choice, since the eastern side of the Atlantic was completely closed to Geronimo and would have involved a much longer route. That's what makes the Jules Verne Trophy such a gripping sports event. You have to be able to go quickly in all weathers and be able to choose an alternative course when the weather turns against you: it's never over until you reach the finishing line, as Olivier de Kersauson has stressed so often. Look after the crew, look after the boat and only then look after the record. This final objective, which remains the third on the list, is still within Geronimo's grasp, despite the fact that her advantage over the current record holder is reducing as the hours tick by.