Fears over the integrity over the rig remain uppermost in the minds of the crew of Orange as they head towards the Azores

As Orange continues its charge up the Atlantic in flat seas at 15 knots, Bruno Peyron has given a tentative ETA: ‘At 18 knots average, we’ll cross the line at midday on Sunday,’ he said today. ‘At 17 knots, it’ll be Sunday evening?but of course, Orange can go faster?’

In spite of this cautious prediction, fears over the intergity of the rig are still uppermost in the minds of the crew. At present they are making good progress toward the Azores, where they hope to skirt the western edge of the Azores high before turning right and heading for Brest.

One of their biggest concerns remains how the rig – or rather the ball at its base – will cope with the stresses of tacking or gybing. ‘For now the mast is quiet. We are all relieved that the sea is calm,’ wrote Nick Moloney this morning. ‘We will surely see some fast down wind surfing in the final miles of the tour and concern has reached the boat about opposite loading on the mast joint. We always felt that if she fell it would be after a tack or a gybe. We have been going upwind for a long time and soon we will be in down wind conditions. If you can imagine bending something back and forth until it fatigues enough to break, well thats sort of what we will be doing in regards to load application to the damaged ball.’

With the centre of the area of high pressure looking set to expand to the south east, and with a new system heading across the North Atlantic by the end of the week, Orange will have to plan their moves carefully if they wish to avoid sailing through areas of dead air or subjecting the rig to potential stresses from the stronger winds of the low. However, with 11 days left to make the last 2,000 miles in order to break Sport Elec’s record, it seems as though the cat has every chance of getting the cream. Or is that tempting fate?

At 0810 GMT this morning:

Position: 35°01 ‘N / 39°59’ W Speed 24h: 18.4 knots Distance since departure: 26075.01 miles Distance 24h: 458.7 miles