The tricky path north

Geronimo must find a way past the South Atlantic high

Friday February 21st 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Day 41 0300 Position 24hr run Av speed Rel position
Geronimo 55°49S 65°16W 361nm 15.06 +660nm
Orange 57°42S 85°01W 403nm 16.79 -

Geronimo's position at 15:00 GMT today (16:00 French time)
53°13S - 61°53W
Distance travelled in 12 hours : 195.45 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 12 hours: 16,3 knots

Olivier de Kersauson is now studying the weather charts hard to establish the best way Geronimo can work her way north up the South Atlantic. Tactically this is probably the hardest part of the Jules Verne Trophy record course. Last year when Orange made her passage skipper Bruno Peyron was forced to sail across the middle of the South Atlantic high.

While Geronimo is still feeling the effects of a low pressure system in the Southern Ocean giving them favourable winds, to the north the St Helena high is extending all the way from the centre of the south Atlantic to the Brazilian coast - presenting de Kersauson with a barrier of headwinds. However this is only short term and the forecast is looking much more hopeful that it might with a high pressure system forming over the South American continent. Geronimo may be able to speed up the east side of this in favourable winds, before it shifts too far east. This course will require Geronimo to head a long way east, but de Kersauson has already proved more than willing to sacrifice miles in order to sail in favourable winds. (see series of weather charts at the bottom of this article).

Interestingly Geronimo's margin over Orange is now down to just 660 nautical miles - a function of Orange putting in some serious mileage towards the end of her passage across the Southern Ocean rather than any speed deficit for Geronimo.

At 19:16:13 GMT yesterday evening, Geronimo, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric-sponsor trimaran rounded Cape Horn, setting a new record time for the passage from Ushant to the rocky tip of Chile: 40 days, 16 hours, 16 minutes and 4 seconds.

"We passed it at pretty close quarters," commented Olivier de Kersauson. "As usual, we couldn't take a direct route and had to gybe despite being less than a mile from the Horn itself. Just as we rounded the Cape, the haze lifted for about an hour. The light was beautiful and the sky was blue. It was almost warm and very beautiful. We took loads of photos: group shots of the younger guys and us older ones... It's incredibly beautiful, this black rock with its tiny lighthouse winking out of the darkness. We saw some mountain peaks of the kind you see in the Marquesas or the illustrations in books by Jules Verne. We had a very friendly chat with the lighthouse keeper, but we had to repeat ourselves 10 times, because he couldn't understand that anyone would be heading for Brest this way!"

"The weather around Geronimo is calm at the moment, just a breath of air and a slightly breaking sea. We are only making between 6 and 12 knots off the Isla de los Estados. We're heading for the island south of the Falklands. The forecasts aren't good. There's a high pressure system moving towards us which is stopping us heading any further east. Having discussed it with Pierre Lasnier this morning, we've decided to stick to the direct route. There's no strategy or other solution that will allow us to try and avoid a weather system at this time.

"Everything seems to be lying across our route. We may have more information at around 21:00 this evening. As of now, we will have to cope with the weather we get, whether it's good or not so good. The boat should be capable of making the time we need on this Jules Verne attempt. But it will depend on what we meet. Just because we've left the Southern Ocean behind, it doesn't mean that everything's going to be easy from now on. There's a real difference between the southern part and the wild part of this leg back north up the Atlantic. It's true that the sequence of anticyclones up the coasts of Argentina and Uruguay presents a permanent problem. From now on, we can look forward to a different kind of fatigue. The sea won't be so stressful and the boat won't be shaken around any more. At the moment, we can make all the trim adjustments we need to go faster and try and make the most of the least unfavourable changes in the wind as quickly as we can".

The Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric crew also have a new companion on board. "We rescued a small sea bird. We found it in one of the boat's trampolines. Perhaps it was washed on board by a wave. We've taken it below, near the generator, where it's a bit warmer. We've made it a nest in a pressure cooker, which is decidedly not a premonition of things to come! We're trying to feed it with fish and a little oil". When asked whether the bird is a male or a female, Oliver de Kersauson answered: "We haven't looked. It must be a male though, because it doesn't have a handbag!"

Current weather situation for Geronimo - she is the *

24hrs time - still going well, but there's that high ahead...

48hr hence - big high pressure system in the way.

72 hrs time

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