Breaking the North Atlantic record is going to be tough for Bruno Peyron and his team aboard Orange II but not impossible

Several hours away from the decisive moment of truth concerning the result of their attempt at the North Atlantic record, Bruno Peyron and his men already have one major reason to be satisfied – covering 700 miles in 24 hours. Quite a performance in itself, but the celebrations will have to wait, as there are still 1,200 miles left to do in 48 hours to allow them to cross The Lizard finishing line as champions. It’s going to be tough, but not impossible.

Chatting about Team Orange’s performance Peyron said: “I’m naturally very pleased about what we have just achieved. Going beyond 700 miles, after having been part of the first crew to break the 600-mile barrier in 24 hours (Club Med, back in 2000), just helps us to appreciate how much progress has been made!”

The giant Orange II managed to swallow up 703 miles, then just before 4 minutes past one GMT 706.2 miles in 24 hours (performance currently undergoing validation by the WSSRC), thus smashing the record held by the former Club Med, while at the same time leaping over an historic hurdle. Peyron continued: “We wanted this boat to be the fastest yacht in the world, and I think today that we weren’t that wrong about it. It seemed to us that the window of opportunity offered by the weather was right for an attempt on the Atlantic, and it seems today that it is perhaps better than we imagined. In any case, we are managing to sail faster than planned, and in an hour’s time we’ll be 48 hours away from the deadline (interview carried out at 4.15 pm CET). There are exactly 1,200 miles separating us from the finishing line.

“The wind should come around in the next two or three hours, and we’re going to have to be extremely careful about choosing the right moment to gybe, as it’s going to be down to a question of the angle to the wind what happens next. Above all, I want to avoid gybing in the Irish Sea, so that’s why we’re looking for the best route possible, which will allow us to return on just one tack.”

As the wind comes around slowly from the south west to the north-west, it should enable Team Orange to carry out the gybe they have been waiting to do, and this will put Orange II back on direct course. This should take place late in the day. The only thing is that the low pressure area off to the north of the maxi-catamaran was in the process of overtaking them, and the skies were brightening above the deck: Peyron continued: “An improvement in the conditions is more of a worry to us than something to be pleased about. You have to know just how close you can get to the fine weather without burning your wings. The wind is on the left, but if we turn too quickly, we’ll have the wind coming at the wrong angle and the speed will drop off. The compromise solution will be found in the next two or three hours, and I’m in permanent contact with the weather experts back on dry land to decide on exactly the right moment to start to carry out the manoeuvre. We’ll know the outcome, whatever happens, in the next 20 hours, but there’s no way we can ease off. We’re sailing with the gennaker fully out, and adjusting things to make sure we’re getting the most out of the boat all the time. She is reacting very well, and even if we’re pushing her very hard, we haven’t broken anything at all!”

The record time for the Atlantic crossing, held since 10 October 2001 by the American Steve Fossett aboard the giant catamaran PlayStation, is 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and 6 seconds, achieved at an average speed of 25.78 knots.