Between a rock and a hard place

Storm conditions for Orange in the Southern Ocean

Sunday March 24th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Position at 0800 GMT.
Day 22 Lat Long Distance in last 24 hours Distance since start Speed average last 24 hours Instant speed
Orange 40°40 S 47°06 E 397 M 9406 M 16,55 n 3,2 n
Sport Elec 47°25 S 21°00 E 346 M 7247 M 14,43 n

Conditions on board Orange have gone from rotten to worse than rotten. Today in his radio interview Bruno Peyron described how the his maxi-cat had been subjected to storm force winds and endless breaking waves that had regularly submerged the cockpit endangering the crew, the boat being tossed around like a nutshell.

"When you start surfing at 33/34 knots, when there are gusts of up more than 60 knots, when the waves more than 10 metres high and no more than 150 metres apart... and you add to that a confused sea which hits you broadside on... it's time to take your foot off the accelerator ! So we've decided to park for a while, to lie to. Just to give the sea time to calm down a little. We've pushed the boat a bit too hard over the past 48 hours, which is not how to get make it right round the world. What's more, it was about time to give her a full check-up ".

This morning at 0600 Peyron and his crew brought the giant cat head to wind in order to let the worst of the storm pass them over. The crew checked over the boat and the damage to report involved some electrical connections. "How the hell do we get out of this mess?" Peyron continued. "Sailing in 50-knots winds is no problem with this sort of boat. Sailing in these sorts of seas is a problem ! It's a veritable cauldron."

Orange's on board meteorologist Gilles Chiorri described the weather situation. "First of all, the low which was lying south-east of us has slowed. Secondly, as we were moving faster than the low, we have caught up with it. Thirdly, the high pressure zone behind us has swelled. Caught between two weather systems, the wind has increased and instead of having 40 knots, we find ourselves with 60 knots and a dangerous sea. We've let the worst go through and have put up a bit of canvas over the past hour (around midday). We are now sailing with three reefs in the main and are making way south ".

Chiorri summed up the scarey scenario on deck during his previous watch: "There are a few crests around and about our Orange world at the moment. On my watch, I had 56 knots of wind and 36-knot surf. It's tough, damp, violent and physical!" Crewman Benoît Briand added: "Helming in these conditions, there are times when you lose contact with the boat for ten seconds or so, as you are completely covered in water. You're not on the water any more but under it !"

Riding out the worst of the storm and forgetting the clock for a couple of hours should also have allowed the crew to take a breather from the exhausting conditions.

At midday today, Orange was still some 1000 miles south of the Kerguelen Islands and was back on her normal course by this afternoon, heading south-east.

Orange gets under way again under storm jib alone

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