Still in the ice zone

Foot still decidedly off the throttle on Loick Peyron's maxi-tri

Monday December 19th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and PredictWind

Date time Lat Long VMG Crs Spd Spd Spd Dist DTL DT G3
          Inst 4hrs 24 hours      
19/12/2011 07:00 54°40.64'S 119°00.20'W 21.6 110° 21.8 24.4 25 599.1 8 760 940.1
19/12/2011 04:00 54°20.44'S 121°02.33'W 21.2 110° 21.3 28 24.3 583.7 8 833 948.4
19/12/2011 01:00 53°48.45'S 123°16.50'W 30.1 112° 30.2 28.8 23.1 554.3 8 918 939.3
18/12/2011 22:00 53°17.08'S 125°34.12'W 29.6 110° 29.6 28.3 22.4 536.6 9 006 935.6
18/12/2011 19:00 52°43.18'S 127°46.96'W 32.5 114° 32.5 28 21.6 517.3 9 092 943.1
18/12/2011 16:00 52°06.64'S 129°56.39'W 28.5 111° 28.6 27 20.7 497.7 9 179 953.5
18/12/2011 13:00 51°39.22'S 132°04.19'W 28 110° 28.2 16.2 18.8 451.5 9 263 967.9
18/12/2011 10:00 51°15.74'S 133°22.87'W 10.9 126° 11.1 15.1 18.3 439 9 317 1 005.10
18/12/2011 07:00 51°02.58'S 134°27.11'W 19.3 99° 20.4 20.2 18.9 453.7 9 359 1 055.10

This morning Banque Populaire has 1726 miles still to sail before she reaches Cape Horn having endured a relatively slow (by 40m trimaran standards) Saturday before the wind returned yesterday lunchtime (UTC). Since then the 40m trimaran has been back up to 28-29 knots average speed but her progress is set to be slowed as she runs into a ridge - a lobe pointing south from the area of high pressure to her north. This ridge is forecast to move east in a scenario similar to what the Volvo Ocean Race fleet experienced last week. However the powerful trimaran has more opportunity to break through and into the southwesterlies being generated by the depression to her southeast. These southwesterlies should take her all the way to Cape Horn where she should arrive on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Throughout the weekend the 40m trimaran has been negotiating a corridor through a giant ice zone, which she is still not clear of. We understand in the last eight hours there have been seven sightings of bergs. When daylight returns they can speed up again, but it seems likely that she won't be free from the ice hazard until night fall tomorrow.

Yesterday skipper Loïck Peyron said: "We are still in the midst of many icebergs in 27 knots of wind, sailing under mainsail with two reefs on its own. We have to turn south to avoid two icebergs which will probably have their babies around them. We will have to sail an extra 5-10 miles to get past them before we can accelerate again to get out of this area, but definitely it will not be simple. It's pretty scary because the smaller pieces of ice are less detectable by radar and they can easily break the hull. The crew who are offwatch sleep feet first because it is safer in the event of an impact. So we continue at 15 knots, as gently as possible towards the exit of this very dangerous area. After dawn, everything is much better because in addition to this we are upwind and the sea is abominable."

But in fact sailing upwind to get through the ice is good, as it allows them to alter course safely, which is something they can't do so easily downwind.

Peyron continues: "This is not the Pacific at all. From a purely weather point of view to avoid a big ridge ahead of us we should be further south. But at the moment we have to sail in a 1200 miles long straight line through an ice zone that is 2,800 miles wide, and we will stay north deliberately, until we find a way out of this area. At night it's really dangerous. This is our punishment at the moment."

The upshot of this is that Banque Populaire's lead over Groupama 3 has dropped to 940 miles from a high of 2,337 nm on 10 December. Aside from the ridge, the maxi-tri should be able to regain some more miles on her virtual green three-hulled rival before she reaches Cape Horn. However her crossing of the Pacific won't be one to enter the record books. 

One wonders how the Volvo Ocean Race/Global Ocean Race are going to tackle this area.

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