Ice ahoy

Geronimo encounters ice in the Pacific

Friday February 14th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Day 34 Position 24hr run Av speed
Geronimo 52°32S 153°16W 505 21.05
Orange 53°09S 175°08E 501 20.86

The boat's position at 15:00 GMT today: 51°43S - 147°26W
Distance travelled in 12 hours : 220 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 12 hours: 18,33 knots

Despite the fact that Olivier de Kersauson and his crew were as far north as 53° South, Geronimo encountered her first icebergs last night: something of a surprise in these latitudes. "It's a bit worrying," commented the skipper. "You very rarely see them this far north, except in years where there's a lot of ice break-up. Coming across ice here with relatively high water temperatures of between 7 and 10° sent a bit of a chill up my spine, I can tell you. It's a pretty alarming thing to happen, but sailing conditions are very unusual at the moment. To the north, there are cyclonic systems that we simply can't go near and to the south, the weather systems are extraordinarily complicated. We're being buffeted about between persistent high pressure regions and southerly depressions trying to move north. The result is uncomfortable seas, squalls and turbulent weather systems with fronts. If we're going to get ice as well, we'll have the full set! For the last 24 hours, it's felt as if we're really struggling to be where we want to be and find a latitude where the boat can really glide. It feels like everything's against us".

The means of detecting icebergs and growlers are as limited during the day as they are during the night. "What poses the greatest danger to us is all the chunks of ice that come off the icebergs or float just below the surface of the water. Only 10% of the ice breaks the surface. For example, a block of ice 100 m3 in size only shows one metre above the water. It was simple with slower boats like Sport Elec. A trimaran like Geronimo is travelling at 20 knots or more all the time, but the technical resources we have to detect ice aren't very different. There's also an element of luck in all of this, so we're paying very close attention, because if one of these hits the carbon fibre, it's going to be a drama! When the sea is high and waves are breaking at 5 or 6 metres, there's no way we can something just a metre high until the very last moment. So it's all a bit nerve-racking. When we get ten degrees or so further west, the danger will be less. But we've got to keep at it!".

The Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric sponsored trimaran is currently travelling rather slower than previously at between 20 and 21 knots. "For the last 7 or 8 hours, the wind speed has dropped to between 23 and 24 knots. There's not a cloud in the sky and visibility is excellent, unlike this morning when we were amongst the ice. We had no more than 4 miles visibility at best".

At present Geronimo is under the influence of a high pressure system to the north. She is currently 1250 miles (around three days) further down the track than Orange.

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