Playing chess with the weather

Bruno Peyron is doing his best to outwit the weather systems that bar Orange's path

Tuesday April 16th 2002, Author: Mer & Media, Location: Transoceanic
Day 46 - 0800 GMT, 16 April 2002

Orange position: 45 deg 45S 35 deg 35 W
Distance covered in last 24 hours: 505.69nm (21.07 knots average)

Compared to Sport Elec record in 1997
Position: 56deg 38S 87deg 06W

Orange' s average speed since start: 18.83 knots

Weather systems are conspiring to ruin Orange's dash back up the Atlantic.The high is still filling. It is pushing away the low. The emergency exit envisaged yesterday to the east of the centre of high pressure has evaporated, far off the African coast. Behind, the low is deepening, and is threatening a storm. Between anticyclonic calms and a 65 knot headwind, Orange is searching for a way out. With the wind heading left, Orange has taken a short gybe and cut to the north. The cat has been beam reaching today with speed, aiming to cross the high tomorrow through its western edge. The goal is to make progress northwards, in a bid to reach the SE trade winds.

The rounding of Cape Horn often spells the end of the hardest work and the harshest conditions. But as skipper Bruno Peyron has pointed out, it does not mean in any way the end of the Southern Ocean and its complicated weather patterns. With the Falklands barely astern, Orange is going to have to cope with an Atlantic almost as complex as last month when Peyron and his men were looking for the gateway to the Southern Ocean. This time it's the South American coast that is being difficult. With its 960 hPa, the low that appeared off Buenos Aires is rushing across the ocean.

Gilles Chiorri and Bruno Peyron are doing overtime at the chart table. On deck, they've returned to the original watch system. With reefed main and masthead gennaker, Orange is storming along in a strong south-westerly. The rest of the day will be trickier. Once on port tack the wind will have started to slacken, while gently becoming westerly, then north-westerly. Then watching the barometer will briefly replace watching the met' charts and Orange is going to have to face what she likes least: beating to windward, but well sheltered by the high pressure. The objective: to avoid the calms. A little consolation however: each mile gained to the north takes them closer to the direct route, while the temperatures start to become milder, and the perspective of a nice shower in warmer climbs is appearing on the horizon for a crew which entered the rigours of the "land of darkness" almost a month ago.

Quote / unquote

Bruno Peyron
"The sea is a little difficult to negotiate today, a little side-on to the boat. It's difficult to find the right sail combination. No salvation for us to the west. This is why we're prolonging this long tack towards South Africa. We're giving a lot of thought to our next track to find an escape route from this high that moved very quickly in the night."

Bruno Peyron and Serge Madec
"Our objective is simple, bring home the Jules Verne Trophy which is a yachtsman's ultimate challenge. And secondly, we're accumulating a lot of ideas and information with an eye to The Race 2004. With Steve Fossett's PlayStation still chasing records, and "Maiden Two", the former Club Med of Tracy Edwards currently attempting the record between Cadiz and San Salvador, we can see that The Race 2004 is already on the way."

Gilles Chiorri
"I promised to take a shower as soon as we arrived in the Atlantic; I have not kept my word. It's still too cold and the weather equation we're having to solve is not simple. We'll soon be crossing our outward route about 200 miles to the west of Tristan da Cunha. The boat is still in great shape. The mainsail that now has one circumnavigation to its credit is impeccable, just a little deformed in the centre..."

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