Geronimo still on a blinder

De Kersauson waxes lyrical about the voyage so far

Wednesday January 29th 2003, Author: Rivacom, Location: Transoceanic
Having started their record attempt at 03:00:09 GMT on January 11, Olivier de Kersauson and his 10-man crew broke the Ushant to Cape of Good Hope record yesterday evening after 16 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes and 26 seconds at sea. This means that Geronimo has rounded the first cape of the Jules Verne Trophy course 2 days, 4 hours and 5 minutes ahead of Bruno Peyron's catamaran record holder, Orange.

The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Schneider Electric sponsored trimaran is now the fastest yacht ever between the English Channel, the Equator and the southern tip of Africa.

"It's fantastic! On the first leg of the course, we succeeded in getting everything right, but it was far from a foregone conclusion and the journey south through the Atlantic wasn't easy," commented skipper Olivier de Kersauson today. "We also had to sail around the anticyclone, and even then we becalmed for twelve hours, but there was no other course open to us. All of which goes to prove how well the boat is performing. We are very happy about that. The times we've set are not the very best possible, but sport is always relative, and this is relatively good!"

Geronimo may have reached the Cape of Good Hope faster than any other, but de Kersauson knows that the hardest part is yet to come: "There are some absolutely filthy weather systems on their way towards us, so it's going to have pretty difficult for us to make much headway south. The way south is obstructed by very northerly depressions. It's impossible for us to get the run we need to dive south to the latitude of the Kerguelens and really get going. The course ahead looks pretty tortuous for at least 1500 miles. It's not going to plan and I don't like weather problems in these places, because they're usually very bad news".

"The boat is impeccable," he continues. "We're keeping a very close on her because we know only too well how long this course is and that a trimaran like Geronimo can resist a certain amount of stresses and strains, but not too many. There is always this kind of torture between wanting go faster and the need to protect the equipment so that we still have a boat in racing condition when we round Cape Horn. It's pretty frustrating psychologically because there are times when you just want to give the boat her head at any price, and others when you know that every time you really push hard and hit bad weather, the boat suffers.

"These difficult decisions make life much more difficult compared with our progress south through the Atlantic, which was absolutely as the weather forecasts predicted - and fun as well. The high points were crossing the Equator and the speed with which we managed to get through the Doldrums thanks to Geronimo's ability to work so well in slack winds.

"After that, things were relatively easy, but now, we're amongst much more chaotic and violent weather systems. We're going to have to stay pretty flexible. In a few hours from now, things are going to get much rougher, with wind speeds of 45 to 50 knots, and maybe even more. But it's not the wind speed that concerns us; it's the lousy seas that the wind whips up here. Since this morning, we've had a completely crazy beam sea that's been really choppy and breaking fairly high, despite the fact that we haven't had any wind above 30 knots. It's not a matter of life and death though…

"When you go quickly in seas like this, boats suffer serious impact and that's what we're trying to avoid. I think we've done pretty well today, averaging a good 20 knots at the very least. To have any success in the Jules Verne Trophy, you need to be making over 20 knots all the time - that's rule number one".

Geronimo may be having a baptism of fire in the Southern Ocean, but the same is true for seven of her crewmembers: "This crew has done a lot of sailing and many of them had to start work young, because they didn't have parents who could finance them in "amateur races" to make them "successful racers". In fact, these boys have spent a very significant part of their lives on boats. Some have skippered charter boats. This crew has solid experience of big boats and all the right values of seamanship. When it comes to racing, all of them have done a lot of it and I think that racing is something you can pick up again very quickly.

"I'm very happy with the crew I have - and proud of them too. The crew is working well, with every manoeuvre being completed in record time. There's no doubt that when you've got boys on deck who are used to handling trawl nets, they know where to put their fingers when the winches start to spin. It all happens incredibly quickly with no need to speak or supervise. I'm really happy with that. Better still, everyone's enjoying themselves: the crew is enthusiastic, happy to be here, happy with the boat and happy about being in these waters. It's a pleasure to see people who are not blasé about what they do and really happy in their work.

"This mentality is incredible, as is the willingness to drive, manoeuvre, helm and look after the boat. We're managing to make the boat go really well, at the same time as keeping up an excellent team spirit. I've skippered a fair few racing boats, but I've not seen one wrong manoeuvre since we crossed the start line - that's how focused they are. I think that that's an enormous achievement for a crew. It's important to be focused to make sure that a winch never starts until the moment it should start, because when that happens, something gets jammed or a sail isn't hoisted. It's also a sign of respect and commitment to the boat and the programme, and I'm proud of that".

Geronimo is now in the Southern Ocean, but the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Schneider Electric crew have only seen one albatross so far, "it can't have been sent by the Tourist Board because it's too skinny". They will soon be amongst the unique light and magic of the far south.

Currently Geronimo is riding the low pressure system they picked up before the weekend. A high pressure system to the northeast looks like it may force the low pressure south, in which case Geronimo may be forced to head for the high latitudes or risk seeing lighter in winds.

0300 Day 17 Position 24hr distance Av speed
Geronimo 40°59S 22°32E 470 19.6
Orange 38°14S 00°20W 532 22.15

The boat's position at 13:00 GMT today (14:00 French time): 41°45S, 26°28E
Distance travelled in 10 hours : 197 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 10 hours: 19.7 knots

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