Team Daedalus turns tail in the Oryx Quest in the hopes of outrunning a huge hurricane in the Pacific

Tony Bullimore and his young crew on Daedalus, the 102ft maxi catamaran, have decided today to act on advice from weather router Lee Bruce to avoid a ‘massive storm’ moving towards the southern Pacific. Bullimore’s crew is part of the Tracy Edwards’s Oryx Quest Race, which started from Doha last month. They are the tailenders of a fleet thinned to only three after the retirement last week of Olivier de Kersauson.

Technically a tropical cyclone, this major Category 4 storm has been named Hurricane Percy. Its centre in the middle of the South Pacific is shown vividly in this NOAA QuickSCAT satellite observation chart, the purple and black areas indicating winds of more than 50 knots.

Hurricane Percy has already passed directly over American Samoa, and subsequent attempts to contact the 50 inhabitants of Swain’s Island have so far failed. The storm is now bearing down on the westernmost Cook Islands, which are making urgent cyclone preparations. From there, Hurricane Percy is forecast to travel south-east and intensify.

Most models agree that its path will then turn southerly, and it is this trajectory that is worrying Bullimore. “The present course we were steering would put us right into the centre of this weather system [tomorrow]. We would then have winds of 50 knots, gusting 60-70, with massive, out of control seas,” he reported earlier today. “Not good news for the boat, and what could have been a new experience for most of the crew, would have been hard going. Not really on. It really should be avoided.”

Bullimore has reduced sail and turned round to head west until it is safe to continue towards Cape Horn. At the front of the fleet, almost 3,000 miles ahead, Brian Thompson’s crew on Doha 2006 will be unaffected; they rounded the Horn in the early hours this morning. David Scully’s crew on Cheyenne is 2,000 miles ahead of Daedalus and is likewise out of harm’s way.