Olivier de Kersauson and team near finish of Yokohama-Hong Kong Challenge 6/5/06

Having left Yokohama in Japan on Tuesday, 2 May 2006 for an attempt at the Yokohama-Hong Kong Challenge the Capgemini and Schneider Electric trimaran, Geronimo, has now passed the southernmost tip of Taiwan, and had began her final run to Hong Kong. With more uncertain weather conditions forecast, Olivier de Kersauson and his seven-man crew are now due to arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday morning.

Everything has gone perfectly on board the maxi trimaran since she left Japan at 0954 GMT on Tuesday. Having covered over 1,400 nautical miles, Geronimo is closing on Hong Kong at some speed. Comments de Kersauson: “Our route was towards the Luzon Strait to the south of the Hengchun Peninsula in Taiwan. Since the start, we’ve experienced quite a lot of shipping traffic; however, we’ve had consistent wind conditions, and a strong, but regular, residual swell.

“One of the most surprising things is how dramatically visibility is reduced in these inky-black nights as the waves reflect the light emitted by phosphorescent plankton. The result is that we can’t see merchant ships or other vessels until we’re within two miles of them, at best. Therefore we’re keeping a very close lookout?which means intense concentration during the watch on deck.”

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the Strait of Luzon is the only deep-water channel between the Pacific and the China Sea, and is subject to the influence of many hot and cold currents. Historically, and of note, this body of water has been the scene of many shipwrecks, especially during the Second World War.

Despite having only an eight man crew rather than the usual 12 or 13the temperate weather has made life a little easier physically. “After the start, the first few hours were pretty rough, but since then, conditions have been very good. The sea is fluid and sailable, the watches are well into their routine and, since the wind direction is good, we don’t have to make many manoeuvres. So even with only eight on board, it works well because this crew knows the boat inside out,” continues de Kersauson.

In order to set a new record time for the 1,650 miles from Yokohama to Hong Kong, Geronimo is sailing through waters that are completely new to her skipper, commenting: “I’ve never been in this exact area of the sea. We left the Pacific and entered the China Sea, and the region certainly has dangers, especially piracy. A fishing boat was attacked recently, but that was off Vietnam. Where we’re going, the risks aren’t as great. It’s a bit further away in the Malacca Strait in Indonesia and off the South Vietnamese coast that things can get dangerous.”

After the passage to Taiwan, Geronimo is likely to encounter less reliable winds of between 8 and 10 knots. In this case, the trimaran could well arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday morning (local time), where she will have to tack her way through the hectic maritime traffic in the bay. With more than 700 vessels a day navigating her waters, Hong Kong is Asia’s leading commercial port.

The trimaran will be welcomed by the prestigious Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, which will be offering its hospitality and facilities to Geronimo’s crew.