Tactical challenge ahead as Peyron’s crew chase record through the Atlantic

Orange faces the home stretch after rounding Cape Horn this weekend. But although Bruno Peyron’s crew have safety left the Southern Ocean behind, they face the next set of hurdles to their Jules Verne bid: a slalom course of complex weather systems.

Today, they should leave the Falkland Islands in their wake and begin to pick up a moderate south-westerly wind flow. Because of an area of low pressure off the coast of Argentina, they will be trying to edge west. “No way are we going to go headlong into 45-knot winds and bring the boat to a halt,” said Peyron emphatically during a chat show yesterday. “If we have to take some radical weather options, so be it.”

The crew had a record Pacific Ocean crossing – 12d 19h between Cape Leeuwin in Australia and Cape Horn – but that did not cancel out relatively slow progress across the Indian Ocean, which was hampered with storm force headwinds. The entire Southern Ocean part of the voyage has taken 42 days and at present Orange is just four days ahead of Olivier de Kersauson’s record.

Crewmember Nick Moloney sent the following report this morning:

‘Cape Horn again. Am very happy to say that I was as excited as the first time. Definitely not as scenic as the first time for me as she was heavily shrouded in thick mist, but we could easily make out the landscape in the increasing light of dawn as we were within a few miles from the rocks.

‘We actually tried to sail deep around it but were forced to gybe quickly in strong winds as it became apparent that we were about to become part of the icon. Total frenzy as we shortened the mainsail to two reefs and turned in a rather disturbed seaway.

‘Spent yesterday gybing our way to the Falklands and now with it in our wake we are making 32 knots of boatspeed directly towards Brest. We have some difficult weather ahead, the biggest headache being a strong depression to the north of us will become a dominant feature in the next few days almost certainly bringing us strong upwind conditions. Keep in mind that this is where Club Med suffered most of her damage in The Race.

Damage is something that we think about all the time. We are on the home stretch in an ocean riddled with debris. Past cases such as Ellen in Vendee Globe striking objects in the water and severely damaging the boat are scenarios that play on our minds always.

‘We have changed the watch system to a 4 watch system in order to attack every available opportunity over the next few weeks. Every mile is golden right now. We have a reasonable margin on the current record and hope to maintain it?. I hope our luck hold for the next 20 or so days.’