Bruno Peyron and his men are racking up the miles as they prepare for a blow
Increasing winds, grey skies and cooler temperatures are beginning to herald the Southern Ocean for Bruno Peyron and the crew of Orange. They are rapidly running down to the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope with, on average, 25 knots of wind today. The skipper confirms that life is different now, with sail changing and reefing – no mean feat with a mainsail that weighs 700kg – taking place more frequently.
The wind is forecast to continue rising, perhaps to as much as 50 knots tomorrow. Peyron has reconfirmed his intention to preserve the boat and crew, as far as possible to spare either any damage. As they are 1,800 miles ahead of the last record attempt at the same stage, Peyron believes a new time is within their reach without taking those risks, and he is prepared to resist the temptation of other records to secure it.
“If the conditions are stable, we can put in 530 miles a day regularly without causing too much suffering on the gear,” he explained. “We haven’t yet come across the conditions for beating the 24-hour record, but we won’t be trying it, especially as the boat is still too heavy at the moment.”
Australian crewman Nick Moloney spent back a particularly interesting account of life on board today, describing what’s going on aboard and the excited anticipation and trepidation at what’s ahead:
‘The wind has been steadily increasing throughout the day into the high 20s and 30s. 30 boat speed is now more frequent on our LED display. The sea pattern is still a little confused so the ride is slightly unpredictable. We are still carrying one reef in the main, staysail and medium gennaker. The reacher and solent (our next choices on sails as the wind increases) are tied to the cockpit, everything else in now inside the boat and as far aft as possible.
‘The forecast is slightly split. One model says building to 45kts, another 35. It’s pretty difficult to get really accurate information in this part of the world, and from here on until Cape Horn it just gets more remote and questionable. Solution, as usual: hang on to what you’ve got for as long as you can maintain a reasonable control margin.
‘We are under 800 miles to the Cape of Good Hope and are very keen to ‘rack up’ a few big days to get closer to our original target. We are obviously monitoring the intensity of this deep low as we are trying to out run its core peak in strength before burning out. We have a collection of sea mountains just south of the Cape which jack the waves up and confuses them. Our ETA on this shallow is in the height of this Force 9 so we will certainly have a bit on our plate in the next few days.
‘It’s pretty exciting preparing your machine for a blow and your mind for dealing with it all in the pitch black of night. I enjoy watching people’s attitude change into a more serious mode. In the Whitbread we became machine-like. No simple chatter, just compressed concentrated minimal discussion about our boat’s set-up, small changes to assist control and how to react immediately to a hull fly or nose dive.
‘No doubt tonight should provide a few heart stoppers. But it’s all just the beginning. We’re in the South now. Sections of this body of water are the most remote places on the planet – sometimes, at best, three days from any real assistance.
‘The sea is grey along with the sky. The dim light from the sun behind the clouds is diminishing. We are entering a slate grey environment’ only to be broken by rolling white crests of waves, even our bright Orange machine is losing her contrast. It’s time for the ocean to show us another mode yet again.
‘This is what we signed up for.’