Skirting the high

Geronimo has yet to find the northwesterlies to take her to the Southern Ocean

Tuesday January 21st 2003, Author: James Boyd/rivacom, Location: Transoceanic
Showing the high pressure system. This is the same one making such slow progress for the Cape-Rio fleet. (Courtesy of Raymarine)

Olivier de Kersauson's maxi-tri Geronimo is now heading due south off the coast of Brazil, 45° from her most direct route. At present she is still skirting the northeast side of the high and as usual it is a case of shorten the distance and sail into a hole or sail further but faster.

“We simply can’t turn left, because the anticyclone is in our way and we have to make our way around it. That’s just the way it is,” comments Geronimo's skipper.

The winds have again become variable over the last few hours. “The trade winds are playing hide and seek with us”, jokes de Kersauson, one of the most highly capped round the world sailors. “And it’s rather annoying for the crew. Since there’s a little competition going on between the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric watches."

On board the crew divided into two watches, named after Geronimo's sponsors (and to help get their names into reports such as this).

"The current situation doesn’t suit everyone, since too much depends on the weather conditions,” continues De Kersauson. But the contest has done nothing to compromise the relaxed atmosphere on board Geronimo. “They are focused and working quickly and well. Everyone is doing what they should be, with no need to be asked. Everything is going well and the boat is performing brilliantly. Nevertheless, it’s not a life of routine at the moment, because we have to pay a lot of attention to the weather and every time the wind changes, we have to manoeuvre to cope with it”.

The crewmembers are taking it in turns at the helm. “I work on the principle that everyone on board a boat must be able to do everything to understand what is involved," says de Kersauson. "Good helmsmanship requires anticipation: a boat can only perform as well as the man at the helm. The level of skill has become more consistent since we started, to the point where 8 of us out of the total of 11 are very good helmsmen”.

In winds fluctuating between 14 and 26 knots, Geronimo is averaging 21.29 knots and has covered 254 nautical miles in the last 12 hours. “Sail changes are relatively frequent, but you have to think hard before making a change and that can take time and cause you to lose speed. With the sails well set, Geronimo is travelling at the same speed as the wind up to 25 knots. The forecasts we have are only accurate to 5 knots. That’s not the fault of the forecasters: I think that there just aren’t any systems to cope with Geronimo’s performance”. In the waters off Brazil: “It’s scorchingly hot, but we know that it will get cooler quite soon.”

However the forecast charts show that tonight Geronimo should finally get on the 'motorway' of northeasterlies that will take them back on course and at speed - even if the wind will be more or less directly from astern. The benefit of this looks like it may well be short lived as by Thursday this band of northeasterlies will be squashed between two converging high pressure systems. But by Friday they should be back into northeasterlies, feeling the effects of an intense depression crossing the Southern Ocean to their southwest.

Day 10 Position 24hr dist Av speed
Geronimo 21°58S 33°19W 462nm 19.26
Orange 14°49S 30°48W 530nm 22.08

Geronimo's position at 03:00 GMT
Latitude Longitude Distance in 24hr Average speed
Geronimo 462 nautical miles 19.26
Orange 530 nautical miles 22.08

The boat's position at 15:00 GMT today (16:00 local time)
26°13S, 33°04W
Distance travelled in 12 hours : 254 nautical miles
Average speed over the last 12 hours: 21.29 knots

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