Seven days to the Equator
The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young - Schneider Electric team seems set to improve significantly on the time set for this leg on the successful 1997 record attempt. Sport Elec, de Kersauson's trimaran on that occasion took 11 days, 4 hours to reach the Southern Hemisphere and if he can keep the pressure on it looks like he may well even beat ENZA New Zealand's staggering record of 7 days 4 hours 24 minutes from the start to the Equator.
It all now depends on the weather conditions Geronimo encounters in the next few hours of her journey south along the African coast. "We will have to be patient", said de Kersauson on his latest radio bulletin. He knows very well that the present options open to his giant trimaran are strictly limited. Geronimo's strategy is therefore pretty straightforward: to reach the equator as quickly as possible by the most direct route and cross into the Southern Hemisphere to pick up the southern trade winds.
This strategy is not easy to put into practice. For the last 48 hours, those on board Geronimo have been enduring sailing conditions that are beginning to put their nerves to the test. "We've had virtually no wind since we passed the Cape Verde islands", comments de Kersauson. "It's never risen above 18 or 19 knots. Even then, it's coming from behind us and right on our heading. We've been manoeuvring the boat all night. We haven't stopped!"
This slow progress meant that Geronimo was still 350 miles from the equator at 12:00 GMT (13:00 French time) today, but still hoping to cross it by daybreak tomorrow. "We daren't say any more than that - we're just keeping our fingers crossed" says Kersauson. "We do what we can with the wind we have. The trouble is, we don't have very much".