Red squares = Geronimo's track, red Xs = Orange. The forecast shows more wind to the west (as usual) as Geronimo tracks north, so it will be a case of de Kersauson miles sailed versus boat speed. Image courtesy of Raymarine. By our reckoning Geronimo is still ahead of Orange
 

Red squares = Geronimo's track, red Xs = Orange. The forecast shows more wind to the west (as usual) as Geronimo tracks north, so it will be a case of de Kersauson miles sailed versus boat speed. Image courtesy of Raymarine. By our reckoning Geronimo is still ahead of Orange

Jules Verne in the balance

From being three days ahead of the record Geronimo is now level pegging as she crosses the Equator

Wednesday March 5th 2003, Author: Rivacom, Location: Transoceanic
Day 53 0300 Position 24hr run Av speed Rel position
Geronimo 02°12S 32°30W 336 13.99 +110nm*
Orange 01°08S 22°36W 515 21.47 -

*By our reckoning Orange still had some westing to get in further up the course

Geronimo's position at 15:00 GMT today: 00°46N 31°54W
Distance travelled in 12 hours : 182 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 12 hours: 15,15 knots

Geronimo, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran crossed the Equator at 12:37:48 GMT today (13:37:48 French time). After 22,000 sea miles and 53 days, 9 hours, 37 minutes and 39 seconds of racing against the clock, Geronimo crossed the 0° parallel for the second time just 4 hours and 48 minutes behind the record set by Orange last year.

"This makes 2,500 miles in which the wind has been less than 8 knots for 90% of the time with squalls all the way," commented skipper Olivier de Kersauson. "We've never had a settled wind over 10 knots in all that time. We're not tacking, but we're close on the wind in the wake of a squall and have been for the last 72 hours. Luckily Geronimo goes really well in light breezes and we also have sails suitable for conditions like these. But it doesn´t mean that the boat and crew are having an easy time of it.

Everyone has to pay close attention almost all the time. For the last eight days, we've had to claw our way along every metre and every second of the course. Four hours behind Orange is not so bad. We could have lost two days if we hadn´t fought like lions", said the skipper.

Orange's Jules Verne Trophy record stands at 64 days, 8 hours, 37 minutes and 27 seconds. To break it, Geronimo will have to cross the finish line in less than 10 days and 23 hours time.

"The Doldrums are developing ahead of us. The weather system that we´re now in continues up to 3° or 4° North. There´s no wind in the North Atlantic because the trade winds are not established. The Doldrums cover an enormous area, at least 1,400 kilometres across. No information we have at the moment gives any reason to think that we´ll be able to go quickly in the days ahead. Although the atmosphere is quite good and active at the moment, it´s always worrying when you can´t see any improvement.

"For days and days, we've been waiting for the wind to arrive, but now, we know that we're going to have to wait for another 300 or 400 kilometres for that to happen.

"The Jules Verne Trophy will be hard earned if we make it. If we do succeed, it won't be with a day or even half a day to spare, but by just a few hours or even a few minutes. We could just as easily miss the record by 30 minutes. That's the way it looks right now. Orange might well have been stuck in the east, but we have been stuck in the south and we've only been able to make slow progress northwards. Orange managed a very honourable end to her record run and we´re going to have to go very quickly to beat her. In the meantime, every hour that ticks by puts us further behind", concluded de Kersauson.

Geronimo crossed the start line at 03:00:09 on 11 January. On 17 January, after a brilliant first leg through the North Atlantic, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew set a new record time for the passage from Ushant to the Equator of 6 days, 11 hours, 26 minutes and 21 seconds.

On 27 January, Geronimo rounded the Cape of Good Hope after 16 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes and 26 seconds at sea. Despite difficult conditions in the Indian Ocean, the crew arrived off Cape Leeuwin on 6 February to set a new record time of 26 days, 4 hours, 53 minutes and 13 seconds.

Despite very difficult sailing conditions in the Southern Ocean as the result of icebergs and low pressure areas settled more northerly than is usual, Geronimo rounded Cape Horn on 20 February after 40 days, 16 hours, 16 minutes and 4 seconds, thus improving on the time set by Bruno Peyron. After passing the famous rock, Geronimo ran into the worst conditions yet, with weak, unstable winds and a South Atlantic that offered no opportunity for a fast run to the Equator. All that remained was a direct route sailing closed hauled against the current. Geronimo's abilities in slack winds have therefore been exploited to the maximum in order to preserve her hard-won lead for as long as possible.

Now though, all the counters are set to zero for the final sprint home.

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