As the round the world record deadline passes, Olivier de Kersauson and his disconsolate crew are becalmed a few hundred miles from the finish
Olivier de Kersauson and his ten crew on the 110ft trimaran Géronimo sadly conceded defeat yesterday afternoon as the Jules Verne Trophy deadline stretched inexorably out of reach. On their 64th day at sea, they were still 680 miles from the finish line at Ushant and just trickling along in near calm. Orange’s record-setting time expires at 1136GMT today.
This is an incredible blow for de Kersauson and his crew, who drove the trimaran unscathed through appalling conditions in the Southern Ocean, only to be thwarted by a huge area of high pressure stretching from the Azores to France. They broke every intermediate record all the way round the course, setting new times to the Equator, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn, then lost it all in the North Atlantic. At one stage they were two days ahead of Orange’s time, a huge margin for these fast boats as it represents a lead of over 1,000 miles.
Their deafeat could herald the beginning of a new era in non-stop record circumnavigations, when an extra measure of uncertainty can be added to risk. Until now, the biggest obstacle was avoiding breakage; multihulls were going through such a spurt of development in size, power and speed that the record was almost sure to fall if you made it round.
Now it is levelling out. De Kersauson has prepared and sailed his huge boat to perfection, but the comparatively small increments by which the record can now be improved is entirely dependent on favourable weather, and this year the weather hasn’t co-operated.
“There’s a real feeling of impotence on board. there’s nothing any of us can do about weather as ridiculous as this,” said de Kersauson yesterday. “It’s so unusual! Even if we’d had a three-day lead by the time we reached the Azores, we’d have lost it anyway. This weather system is really huge and totally surreal: in July or August, you might expect it, but in March It’s really unbelievable.”
The Jules Verne Trophy remains with Bruno Peyron, set last year in the 110ft catamaran Orange (now Kingfisher 2) in 64 days 8 hours 37 minutes 24 seconds.