Great seamanship: Chasing the Dawn

The title of Nick Moloney’s remarkable book about breaking the Jules Verne unlimited round the world record in the 33m catamaran Orange offers a hint about the man that few titles ever do. No punches are pulled as it describes tearing around the Southern Ocean in 2002 at over 30 knots with 500-mile days commonplace. Every now and again, the author’s Aussie roots peek through in a French world under the team’s great skipper Bruno Peyron. Chasing the Dawn is pure romance. Most voyages are made to the west, following the setting sun, but these guys are going east so rapidly in such high latitudes that it’s like being in a Mach 2 jet fighter flying faster than the Earth is turning. Despite the literally shocking battering these men are taking, their esprit de corps and appreciation of the beauty of their surroundings continually shines though. Even the mighty machine, overtaking Cape Horn greybeards at galactic speeds, fills them with wonder. Chasing the Dawn extract Log entry, 21 March: average speed since the start 17.47 knots. The wind has been steadily increasing throughout the day into the high 20s and 30s. 30+ boat speed right now, the sea pattern is a little confused so the ride is unpredictable. We’re still sailing with one reef in the mainsail, staysail and medium gennaker. Our next sail choices as the wind increases are tied to the cockpit. Everything else is now inside the boat as far back as possible. The forecast is slightly split. One forecast shows our expected wind speed at 45 knots, another map says 55 knots max. The approach is to hang onto the sails and wind that we have for as long as we can maintain a reasonable control margin. The thought of flipping over is now consistently on our minds. We are trying to outrun the core of an approaching storm. We will certainly have a bit on our plate in the next few days! On 21 March at 0216 GMT we crossed from the South Atlantic Ocean into the South Indian Ocean and in doing so set a new record for the fastest time from Ile d’Ouessant to the Cape of Good Hope. It was a small but well-deserved victory, and we savoured the moment. Sport Elec had taken 21 days to get there. Peter Blake and the crew of Enza set a record of 19 days and 17 hours. We passed over the imaginary line due south from Cape Town in a new record time of 18 days, 18 hours and 40 minutes taking 23 hours and 13 minutes off Enza’s time. Then the Roaring Forties started to roar. The low pressure we’d been keeping an eye on caught us up and the wind built rapidly. “There’s no doubt, we’re in it now,” said Bruno over the satellite phone to our mission control base on a barge on the River Seine in Paris. Our land-based communication agency, Mer et Media, told the world of our situation: … Continue reading Great seamanship: Chasing the Dawn