South Atlantic complexities

Weather system is currently working in Orange's favour - but how long will it last?

Sunday April 14th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Day 43 - 0800 GMT, 14 April 2002

Orange position: 52deg 47S 58deg 36W
Distance covered in last 24 hours: 400.11nm (22.7 knots average)

Compared to Sport Elec record in 1997
Position: 58deg 10S 111deg 33W

Down the track: currently Orange is 1788 nm ahead of Sport Elec

Now back into the South Atlantic Orange has a comfortable lead over the equivalent position of Sport Elec during their Jules Verne Trophy record run five years ago. At 0800 this morning Sport Elec still had some 1,430 nautical miles to go in order to get to Cape Horn, while Orange was 358 miles past this point, marking the end of their voyage through the Southern Ocean.

Uniformity of the weather has not been a feature of Orange's loop of the planet to date and now they are heading back into the South Atlantic, the territory which slowed them so much on their outboard passage south, nothing seems to have changed. However in this case the weather situation may work in their favour.

Currently the South Atlantic between 30 and 60degS is dominated by a massive low pressure system deep in the Southern Ocean while the normal high pressure system parked over the centre of the South Atlantic is now in two parts - one to the south of South Africa, the other at 1200GMT today was centred over the mouth of the River Plate (between Argentina and Uruguay), while another low is positioned over southern Argentina.

Orange's situation will depend upon what happens to the high pressure system over the River Plate. At present the interaction between this and the Southern Ocean depression is creating downwind conditions to the south east of the high pressure system, but if this decides to take up its normal station further east, Orange could well find herself dogged by very light winds.

However Peyron should not complain as they currently have favourable following winds in a position where they would normally be encountering headwinds.

Peyron gave his view of their position: "For the moment, we are in a 20 knot southwesterly flow which is starting to pick up. This wind should be with us until tomorrow, but overnight, in view of the weather information we have, we've decided to head east over to 35° longitude west. We'll be going onto the easterly edge of a zone of high pressure to latch on to following winds and avoid running head on into a low off the coast of Argentina. No way are we going to go headlong into 45-knot winds and bring the boat to a halt to let the low pass! "

"If we have to take some radical weather options, then so be it" concluded Peyron "the boat is in fine fettle. It's great to know that we can rely upon her in this last home straight ".

This morning Orange was negotating their way round the Falkland Islands. "We have decided to gybe in 25 minutes, otherwise we'll be making an assault on the cliffs!" commented Peyron. At the time of today's 1300GMT radio chat, Orange was 15 miles from Port Stanley and Cape Pembroke - the first land they had seen since passing Madeira what seems like eons ago.

Another more routine problem the crew are experiencing is floating seaweed. "We slalomed between two enormous masses of drifting seaweed," described Peyron. "You see masses of seaweed like this off the Kerguelen Islands too. You have to be careful because you don't see them until the very last moment. If it gets caught up in your daggerboards or your rudders, you have a hell of a job getting rid of it".

Bruno Peyron (at wheel) and his merry men as they rounded Cape Horn yesterday.

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