Conditions at 1500GMT. The large high is tracking east. Image courtesy of RayMarine

Conditions at 1500GMT. The large high is tracking east. Image courtesy of RayMarine

The way ahead is blocked

Much head scratching at the chart table of Geronimo

Monday March 10th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Day 58 0300 Position 24hr run Av speed Rel position
Geronimo 21°27N 36°11W 348nm 14.18 97nm
Orange 20°01 N 34°14W 411nm 17.13 -

Geronimo's position at 15:00 GMT today: 23°55N 36°34W
Distance travelled in 12 hours : 149 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 12 hours: 12.38 knots

It comes as small consolation today that Geronimo, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran is almost 100 miles ahead of Orange's record. As they approach the Tropic of Cancer, skipper Olivier de Kersauson and his 10-man crew have run into the slack winds characteristic of the tail end of the trade winds. Worse still, forecasts of the weather now awaiting the crew are encouraging either.

"There’s no way through," says Olivier de Kersauson bleakly. "We’re in the calms and in front of us we have an anticyclone and a depression. If we skirt around the first, we’ll find ourselves in the head winds of the depression. Instead of helping us, it’ll block our way. If we leave the anticyclone to port to find the best route to the depression, the whole of it will be against us. Today, there’s been no feasible opening to the north-east. It’s impossible to leave it to port by heading for Spain.

"The only other option is to leave it to starboard, even though we know that that’s not much good either. As long as we’ve had some margin in these hostilities, we’ve been able to get out of it pretty well, but that way offers no margin for manoeuvre at all. We must make it to a given point, and whatever we do this will be very difficult if things stay as they are. In the North Atlantic, the weather coverage is very comprehensive. We’re in a very heavy traffic area, both for aircraft and shipping. The inescapable conclusion of all this is that the meteorological information we’re getting is pretty reliable. Going around the outside of the Azores lengthens the route, but we don’t have a choice. Once we’ve taken that route, a small northerly depression would block us there too. To find the right winds, we’d have to go as far north as Ireland. So the question doesn’t arise, this isn’t a good route. The result is total blockage. It’s been the same story all the way from Cape Horn. Nothing’s changed, but we’re excelling ourselves in this depressing situation. It’s more like a lottery than sailing!"

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