Repairs take toll on Orange

A problem with the mainsail headboard car put paid to the efforts of a long night of manoeuvring trying to gain some easting.

Friday March 15th 2002, Author: mer media, Location: Transoceanic
Position comparison at 15 March at 0800hrs GMT

0545 this morning. Pitch dark night. Orange is sailing at 20 knots in a steady north-westerly. Philippe Péché comes on watch. As is the custom, those coming on watch slow the "giant" slightly in order to carry out a complete inspection of the boat before restarting the machine on its merciless hunt for miles.

An object is glinting on the net, a little oblong metal pin 50 cm long. Péché picks it up and instinctively glances aloft; "the mainsail headboard!" he thinks. Within a few minutes, Florent Chastel is hoisted to the top of the mast. And dead right! The mainsail headboard car had lost its end stop, freeing one of the two metal pins that ensure its stiffness and enable the car to work correctly.

The boats "busy beavers" get to work. Two hours of machining and Yves Le Blevec and Ronan Le Goff, headlamps on and files in hand, delivered a beautifully remade car. The main was re-hoisted to the first reef. The gennaker was sheeted in and Orange was off again. 20 knots to start with, then 23/24... real time lost: five hours or about 50 miles

As for the high, it hasn't slowed down. At 700 miles to the west of Porto Alegre (Brazil), the glutton is devouring Orange's air. Peyron and his men tried this morning to pull a flanker by skirting round it to the north. Alas! the problem with the mainsail headboard car put paid to the efforts of a long night of manoeuvring trying to gain some easting.

The specialist on board and those from Météo Consult are unanimous: they must cut through the centre of the high, gambling on a rapid shift of the zone of calm to the north-east, so that with a minimum of transition they can enter the flow of strong westerlies circulating down below 40° South. The sea is rougher, Orange is heading due south. 14th day of the race. Just an ordinary day in the Jules Verne, between technological challenge, meteorological gamble and the responsiveness of the sailors...

Gilles Chiorri: "We're doing 24 knots under single reefed main and medium gennaker, heading south. Saturday and Sunday will be decisive, because we are going to have to cross a zone of calms. But there's wind behind it, a lot of air to propel us hell for leather towards the southern tip of the African continent..."

Philippe Péché: "It was a real stroke of luck! Think about it, a 50 cm long metal pin that fell from a height of 40 metres onto our net! It could have sunk straight to the bottom, and we would only have discovered the damage after the explosion of the mainsail headboard! We were lucky. After that, the little geniuses on board, kings of the toolbox, set about the repair with joy. More than ever vigilance and surveillance are the order of the day for every watch."

Bruno Peyron: "The incredible responsiveness of this group never ceases to amaze me. The breakage had hardly been announced before there were nine on deck to slow the boat, send a man up the mast, bring down the main and carry out the repair... We knew that the Jules Verne would be demanding technically and complicated meteorologically, but more than ever it is a story about people."

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