'While I'm talking to you, we have three reefs and trinquette [number three headsail] and sail at 27, now 29, no 31 knots, too fast....okay it is better now at 25 knots. We must be conservative because the wind reaches 60 knots in the squalls sometimes and the crew has begun to be little tired,' commented skipper, Olivier DE KERSAUSON (FRA) yesterday morning as the maxi multihull headed across the Great Australian Bight towards Tasmania. 'Only the most experienced take the helm as the speed in the waves need huge concentration and big experience. We are so far from Queensland, and I dream about the quiet waters of Sydney Harbour....Nothing to see with the week long gale we suffered in south Pacific last year [Up to 80 knots before Cape Horn]. These strong conditions are not dangerous, just very strong. We try to make a good bench mark for the Challenge; it is worth some stress, humidity and big winter weather. That is part of this exceptional path around Australia.'
After the race to get in front of the weather system, travelling across the same path they have to take to travel across the Great Australian Bite to round South East Cape in Tasmania, Geronimo is now flying through the colder waters as she really heads down under. 'If we can get to Cape Leeuwin before the cold front arrives, we will have a very fast end, maybe an arrival in front of Sydney Opera on the 8 July,' predicted DE KERSAUSON over the weekend and they managed to do just that. 'From the start up to today [Saturday], this has been a magnificent sail. This round Australia path is just the most beautiful complete voyage we have ever made for my crew and I, much more interesting and demanding than the Round Britain, and much more beautiful than any other passage'.
As Geronimo travelled down the Western Australian coast past Perth and Fremantle she was sailing approximately 200 miles off the coast in order to lay a course for Cape Leeuwin. 'Within the same gust we can feel on our face the cold and the warm air together. The progress is painful in a hard and choppy sea. Nice test for the crossbeam repair. We have had to perform numerous manouevers. Wind shifts from ten to twenty degrees and the helm is difficult. Geronimo suffers in the black night but the progress in the night is still fast. Outside foul weather gears and harnesses, inside it's impossible to sleep in this shaker. The wind is 30 degrees sharper than the forecast has,' remarked skipper Olivier DE KERSAUSON on Sunday night as they sailed at approximately 18 knots in a 40 knot breeze from the west southwest.
On Sunday the French and Australian crew pulled out all the stops to place themselves in the optimum position for their passage to Tasmania and Maatsuyker Island and the southern tip of Tasmania. The crew had approximately 1,400 miles to travel across the Great Australian Bight and the bottom of the country before making the last turn on the home stretch to the finish line off the Opera House in Sydney Harbour.
'The watches get down whitened by the salt, with the smiling faces at the end of a successful match. Meals are simple, pasta with the cooker tightened to the galley, some vitamins, water to rinse the eyes burnt by the salt even with the protection glasses. Followed by an attempt to sleep which is far from being obvious. But do we really need to sleep when we are so happy? Magic Australia,' said DE KERSAUSON as his crew pushed the boat as hard as they can. 'Everything is alright, no problem for the moment, we cannot be much faster than we are but have found a good compromise. 25 knots average with building up sea. Don't worry for us; it is just cold now, very cold'.
Meteorologist Richard WHITTAKER from The Weather Channel predicts, 'Geronimo has managed to place herself very close to the front but there is the possibility of big swells up to four metres running through the track Geronimo is taking. There is a gale warning for the area but it is anticipated that the breeze will moderate over the next 24 hours. If Geronimo is placed off the east coast of Tasmania by Friday she will be assisted in her home run by a southerly surge with predicted breezes of 20-25 knots.'
If Geronimo can maintain her current speeds she will set a record for the 6,500 mile journey of less than 20 days. The current Round Australia record, as ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), was set in July 2003 by Kaz and skipper David PESCUD (AUS) in a time of 37 days, 1 hour, 23 minutes and 57 seconds at an average speed of 7.31 knots.
Geronimo's Progress So Far
Day 1, 480 nautical miles
Day 2, 420 nautical miles
Day 3, 428 nautical miles
Day 4, 420 nautical miles
Day 5, 330 nautical miles
Day 6, 502 nautical miles
Day 7, 496 nautical miles
Day 8, 263 nautical miles
Day 9, 372 nautical miles
Day 10, 470 nautical miles
Day 11, 405 nautical miles
Day 12, 460 nautical miles
Day 13, 399 nautical miles