Peyron's men are in the Southern Hemisphere 8 days after leaving Ushant, but the wind has died, leaving them virtually parked
Bruno Peyron and his crew on the maxi catamaran Orange crossed the Equator last night, eight days after starting their Jules Verne attempt at Ushant. They are well over 800 miles ahead of Olivier de Kersauson’s position at the same point when he set the Jules Verne record in 1997, but slowed dramatically this weekend and saw ENZA’s record time to the Equator slip beyond their grasp.
This has been an eventful and exhausting weekend. On Friday, the crews’ hearts were in their mouths when there was a loud bang from aloft, alarmingly reminiscent of the sound when the top of the mast broke off last month. Happily, this time it was less serious: the gennaker halyard swivel had exploded. Crewman Florent Chastel went up, made a repair and they were back in action within an hour.
Wind deserted Orange and for the following 24 hours they logged a dispiriting average of only 7.2 knots. For a boat of this type that’s well and truly parked. Crewman Philippe Péché described it thus: “In light airs you have to restart the boat permanently. It’s a tricky exercise that demands all the members of the watch to co-ordinate the movements of the helmsman with the tension of the sheets and the angle of the daggerboard. It demands a lot of concentration. You come off steering watch exhausted…”
Australian crew Nick Moloney also alluded to tough conditions aboard. “Very very typical conditions. Stinkin’ hot and light, shifty winds. Have just begun a succession of tacks. We are slow. The big girl is struggling to drag herself through the sea. Our average is probably 2 knots of boatspeed. Shocker.
“Last night was light wind cruising with big gennaker at around 10kts of boatspeed with a large lightening storm just to our west. Hammerheads began to form above us at around 0400 this morning…and then swallowed us completely. Result: no wind.
“We have been changing sails a lot and moving weight around. Everyone is pretty knackered as it’s difficult to sleep in the heat. Steering is difficult. When there is no shade from the sails you drive standing with your feet in two buckets of water.”
Now in the Southern Hemisphere, Orange is waiting for the wind to pick up. Navigator Hervé Jan predicts that it will arrive soon from the port side, but admits that the weather systems look complicated and that the South Atlantic High is lying very low and wide.
Skipper Bruno Peyron reported yesterday that he was happy with progress so far, felt that the record was still well in their sights and said that the boat is “in superb condition.”