In winds of 30kts tonight Orange II is continuing to make excellent progress and should cross the Ushant finish line between midnight and 0500

With less than 300 miles to the finish of the round the world challenge, the atmosphere aboard the maxi-catamaran Orange 2 has barely changed.

One sole striking difference: the small gennaker has been dropped due to a southerly wind shift. The shift was expected and a 30 knot wind is continuing to blow.

Under two reef mainsail and trinquette, Bruno Peyron and his 13-man crew are still making 25 to 27 miles per hour. As these conditions, generated by the movement of a depression, are set to last, the ETA for crossing the Ushtant finish should be between midnight and 0500 GMT, with a race time of 50 days and between 14 and 19 hours.

This will be a successful all-round performance as the holder of the record around the world and the Jules Verne Trophy will be one and the same once more. The course time achieved last year by Cheyenne (Steve Fossett) and by Geronimo (Olivier de Kersauson) will also be relegated by 7 and 12 days respectively.

This time differential speaks volumes about the level of performance attained by this latest record attempt, the fourth in Bruno Peyron’s career and his third victorious one. The first to break the 80 day record in 1993, the skipper has unquestionably set the target very high this time around. Yet, in true form, Bruno is the first to redefine the debate: “Back then I didn’t want to know the limitations of feasibility. I still totally believe that today.”

Bruno Peyron at this afternoon’s radio session said: “The weather forecasts are fining down even though it’s never an exact science. With Orange and France Telecom, we have everything we need to track down the files we want on all the world’s Internet sites, specifying the size of the information and the time that suits us. All this data arrives in 20 seconds. That helps the navigator and it also gives us some fast, very fine trajectories.

“On the other hand though, too much information kills the information, so with Eduardo Valderas, we have created a form of software that enables us to be selective about the data we require.

“Those who have the privilege to travel far over long periods like us are torn between the desire to finish, to end on a high note, to bring this story to an end and the desire to be reunited with those we love. We are also aware that we will be separated from this magical group. The state of mind is both serene and attentive. It is naturally like that and that is how it should be. We can be concentrated with a smile. That’s how it has been since the start of this round the world. We are all equally concentrated and that’s the right way to round this off properly.”

Yann Elies added: “We are obviously trying to get our heads around what’s going to happen to us in a few hours time and we’re making the most of these final hours. In a few weeks, we won’t be able to make the most of the boat like this. The wind kicked back in 48 hours ago and it is favourable for making headway at an average of 30 knots. For the time being, we’re not really aware of our performance. Most of the activity and human exchange occurs when we change over watch. The lively zone is under the hood with the ‘on watch’ clad in foulies in the cockpit as they pass the ‘stand-by watch’. We talk about everything and nothing, and about the conditions, then after five minutes, everybody gets back into position. That’s the most convivial moment along with a fair amount of exchange in the galley.”

Lionel Lemonchois continued: “We have the ideal machine for this round the world course. It’s a big boat which sits high off the water. You feel like the sea is smaller. The waves don’t seem as high. You lose a bit of the scale of the real sea. Right now we’ve got 30 knots of wind and waves of 4-5 metres. If we were sailing on a little boat with one metre waves, that would be the same thing.

“Setting off on Orange II a month and a half ago, 55 days was reasonable but 50 days seemed unimaginable. The climb back up the Atlantic hasn’t been easy, but when you win a race, it’s thanks to a number of things. It’s thanks to a boat, a crew, a skipper. For the rest of the course we were fairly spoilt. I don’t think a 100 per cent success rate on such a voyage is possible. We have reaped the benefits of good choices and the accumulation of a favourable sequence of events.”

And Yves Le Blévec said: “The sound of the rudder when we go quickly reminds us that it has suffered a serious impact. For the past two weeks we have been surveying it on a daily basis and it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse so we’re fairly confident. We don’t forget about it though because of the noise it makes when we’re doing over 15 knots and the sensations you get at the helm. The damage cannot degenerate, but we don’t forget about it. We don’t talk about it very much as we haven’t finished yet and I think that, without being superstitious, I would prefer to talk about it once we’ve crossed the finish line.”

Bernard Stamm concluded: “We’re coming, that’s the most important news! We’ll be happy to see everyone again. We’ll be happy to change our rhythm a bit and eat something else! Powdered food is good, but it lacks variety. We dream of a good piece of meat! We made some guesses about our arrival and Roger was the closest but that’s a bit like insider trading: 50 days and 16 hours! I was 4 hours ahead.”