New Hurdle

Orange has had to beat upwind to cross a second high pressure system

Sunday March 17th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Position at 0800 17 March
Latitude Longitude 24 hour distance Distance since start Speed last 24h Instant speed
ORANGE 35°28S 20°12W 214,65 m 6118,52 m 8,94 kn 13,2 kn
SPORT ELEC 21°13S 24°29W 367 m 4456,4 m 15,29 kn nc

The South Atlantic has not been lucky for Bruno Peyron's Orange. First the big cat was pushed far west close towards the South American continent. Now they have taken a dogleg back across to the southeast they find themselves beating into headwinds due to a high pressure system that shouldn't be there (see below). At present this is blocking their path south into the strong westerlies of the Southern Ocean.

At present they are sailing upwind in 20 knots of breeze and into a 4m swell. Orange has now managed to cross the centre of the high-pressure system to the south. "A Sunday in the South, it's a rather grey, choppy sea, 3 to 4 metres of swell... a pale sun peeks out now and then from a low ceiling," reported skipper Bruno Peyron. "Around us, the alert flight of the petrels, and sometimes, the striking, fascinating vision of a "jumbo", the heavy and majestic silhouette of an albatross..."

"This centre of the high was moving faster than us at almost 40 knots" said Bruno Peyron. "We didn't have any other choice but to cross it last night. It wasn't exactly hell, no, but not heaven either. The boat was slamming against the swell and the lack of wind deprived us of the inertia necessary to maintain the boat nice and flat. It was making the rig and sails suffer. Most of the time we were under-canvassed to avoid the boat taking off on the waves."

Slowly, Orange has progressed to the east, towards the African coast. With daybreak, Peyron's crew felt the pressure recede. Behind the cold front the sea was calmer and with the first reef quickly shaken out and the help of the gennaker the boat was soon sliding along faster and more consistently.

Now the SW wind is strengthening. They'll have to continue tacking upwind, and this is not only tiring on the crew, but also fatigues the gear - as a result another mainsail batten broke last night calling for another express repair. Peyron is well aware of the beating his boat is taking and has accordingly throttled back to preserve the big cat.

Peyron says that high speeds won't happen until later in the trip. "We've still got a lot of weight of stores on board," explained the skipper, "it won't be for another few days yet until after we've consumed more food and fuel that the catamaran will be light enough for really high speeds. The name of the game for us is arriving in the Southern Ocean with all our full potential intact". Despite a completely unpredictable Atlantic this year, Orange is keeping up a good average, is making progress along the route and is still in perfect shape.

Sébastien Josse observed "on board we've been feeling the South approach for several days now. The light's changing, the colour of the sea too. The variations in air and water temperature are surprising, more or less 10 degrees in several hours... With the cold and the damp, it's sure that our rhythm of life will soon be changing..."

The blue patch at 50S 5W is the high pressure system that has crept into the area where there should be strong westerlies...

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