Record in the balance

As Orange must cross between weather patterns on final run into Cowes

Saturday August 17th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Even with just 100 miles left to go on their bid to break Steve Fossett's round Britain and Ireland record, whether Orange will succeed remains uncertain. At 16.30 this afternoon it was looking good: all they had to average was 7.1 knots to break the record and at the time they were sailing considerably faster than this in favourable northeasterly winds. But Bruno Peyron and navigator Roger Nilson were still hesitant.

When asked what their prospects were skipper Bruno Peyron commented: "I don't know yet. It looks like we're going to be trapped. It's supposed to go southwesterly, but here we have north easterly. In between the two there will be holes."

It will be the effects of the transference zone between the high pressure to the east and the low to the west that will dictate the outcome. At the time of our conversation Orange had 15 knots from the east, but buoy data reports further down the course were showing 6 knots from almost due west. Navigator Roger Nilson told madfor sailing that the normally reliable American model showed the wind crapping out completely tonight in the Channel.

Coming along the coast the crew also had the option this afternoon to head in towards the coast to make best use of the sea breeze, although they felt that this could be potentially dangerous if the sea breeze stopped.

Yesterday the team did exceptionally well to avoid falling into a big hole off East Anglia as they sailed south down the North Sea. For Peyron and navigator Roger Nilson it was a case of damage limitation. After rounding the Shetlands they headed off on starboard tack out into the North Sea. "The whole idea was to push east, but not stupidly so to pick up the southeasterly which is what we did," explained Nilson. "It was risky. If we had been further west we could have been stuck for a long time. Everyone felt that we did what we had to do." In the end Orange was only slowed right down for around 2-3 hours last night. "It could have been much worse," concluded Nilson.

Aside from seeing the depths of the North Sea, the passage down the east coast of the British Isles was uneventful said Nilson. "There were many oil rigs, not so much shipping, birds landing around the boat. There weren't so many boats up north, but we saw a couple today."

The time they must arrive at the line off Ventnor on the southeast side of the Isle of Wight or before is 05:14 GMT tomorrow morning to break the present record of 5 days 21 hours 5 minutes and 27 seconds.

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