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15 March 2003, 01:34 pm
Is it All Over For Geronimo?
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Jules Verne Trophy
Round the World

A gigantic anticyclone (1044 millibars) now extends all the way from Iceland to Siberia and as far south as Italy. This is an unusual occurrence in March and, with just two days to go, forms an unbreachable wall across the Atlantic.
The next depression is still as far west as Newfoundland, and even this will be unable to penetrate the wall and will be deflected northwards. The result of this situation is that all Geronimo can expect for the next 500 nautical miles are maximum forecast wind speeds of between 2 and 5 knots. This dire meteorological scenario is now becoming become a reality for the powerless members of the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew. At around midday today, with just 3 knots of wind, they were still managing to keep 20 tonnes of trimaran moving at over 6 knots... but Geronimo is, after all, a sailing vessel and at this rate, it would take her five days to reach Brittany.

When her 62nd day at sea ended at 03:00 this morning, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran was still two hours ahead of Bruno Peyron's record, making it all the more difficult to accept the analysis of the night's weather forecasts. Even after 20 days of battling her way north through the Atlantic, Geronimo cannot find the 12 knots of wind that is all she would need to cross the finish line in time. It seems little enough to ask when we remember that on her southward leg through the Atlantic, Geronimo averaged over 19 knots, and that her average speed from the time she left Brest until this morning was 17 knots.

What the skipper had to say about the situation: "Weather problems are rare in the Atlantic at this time of year, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's now impossible for us to cross the finish line off Ushant before midday on Sunday. There's not the slightest breath of air in the Atlantic and I can't put it clearer than that. There's nothing at all. The anemometer has been showing 3 knots for 20 hours now, and nothing is going to change either tomorrow or the day after. What this means is that it's going to take us 4 or 5 days to cover the last 850 miles to the finish line. It's a real meteorological catastrophe and something that no one could have predicted. At this time of year, you'd expect to have wind in the Atlantic and none of us have ever seen anything as bad as this. Geronimo is still making headway with virtually nothing to go on. We've succeeded in fighting our way north magnificently through very slack winds, because this boat is very fast, but with 3 knots of wind - which is about the same speed as the breeze you feel on your face as you walk - its impossible for us to make the 40 kph we would need to reach Brest in time". News Editor
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