Zigzagging south

Orange's crew is working hard as they forged south past Madeira

Monday March 4th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
There has been 475 miles on the clock for Bruno Peyron's maxi catamaran since yesterday midday - a 19.82 knots average, unimaginable from most boats, but a reasonable day for Orange. This is partly because the weather conditions are still far from ideal for the 110ft cat.

At 1400 GMT Orange was at the latitude of Casablanca 60 miles north east of Madeira and is gybing down a narrow corridor of breeze in the middle of a complex weather system. If they get off track their speed will fall, but fortunately Orange has her routing team back in France to help coax her through.

"You must have noticed it yourself", said Bruno Peyron during today's radio bulletin, "but our average speed has suffered a little and we have just got ourselves free of three hours of calm. We're currently sailing in a very narrow corridor of wind and we're passing one line of squalls after another. The wind goes from 6/7 knots to 35 knots with the sky that goes with it."

These variable conditions have scrabbling around for all the sails "I counted 23 sail changes in the last 24 hours" recalled Peyron. "We're doing about 27 to 32 knots at the moment. No need to add that apart from the complicated weather situation, it is very damp!"

The forecast charts show two low pressure systems between whichthe maxi-catamaran must forge her path south. One centre is over the southern Azores and the other over southern Portugal preventing the high from setting in properly. For Peyron and his crew the objective is to avoid the calms on the edges of both systems and so they gybe and they gybe to remain in the narrow corridor of wind between . It is hoped that this will carry them as far as south as the Trades, although these are unlikely to kick in until Orange has passed the Canaries, 260 miles away at midday today.

While the weather system is Peyron and his on-board meteorologist Gilles Chiorri busy, the muscles have also been put to the test since the start. "The watch system is working well and eight is not too many, or nine with myself, on deck for sail changes" declared Peyron. "We wanted to move the reacher a little while ago, as there must have been about 150 kilos of water in it. With five of us it wouldn't budge, with six neither, it needed seven to shift it! But everybody is now hanging right in there and we haven't really been questioning it since the start. Each one is coping with sleep in their own manner leaving all the landlubber worries behind him. For the moment I'm tending to sleep in a ball in the bottom of the boat, ready to lend a hand in case..."

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