Grands Records: The equator in their sights
Six and a half days after crossing the Trophée Jules Verne start line off Ushant at 01:25 GMT (02:25 French time) last Monday and 2,785 miles later (an average speed approaching 18 knots), Geronimo is approaching the equator. This is the first waypoint on her circuit of the globe and one she should cross during Monday morning. The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young – Schneider Electric team therefore seems set to improve significantly on the time set for this leg on the successful 1997 record attempt. The trimaran Olivier de Kersauson was sailing on that occasion took 11 days, 4 hours to reach the Southern Hemisphere.
All now depends on the weather conditions Geronimo encounters in the next few hours of her journey south along the African coast. “We will have to be patient”, said the current record holder in his latest radio bulletin. He knows very well that the present options open to his giant trimaran are strictly limited. Geronimo’s strategy is therefore pretty straightforward: to reach the equator as quickly as possible by the most direct route and cross into the Southern Hemisphere to pick up the southern trade winds.
Bit it’s a strategy that’s not easy to put into practice. For the last 48 hours, those on board Geronimo have been enduring sailing conditions that are beginning to put their nerves to the test. “We’ve had virtually no wind since we passed the Cap Verde islands”, says Olivier de Kersauson. “It’s never risen above 18 or 19 knots. Even then, it’s coming from behind us and right on our heading. We’ve been manoeuvring the boat all night. We haven’t stopped!”
This slow progress meant that Geronimo was still 350 miles from the equator at 12:00 GMT (13:00 French time) today, but still hoping to cross it by daybreak tomorrow. “We daren’t say any more than that – we’re just keeping our fingers crossed” spits Kersauson. “We do what we can with the wind we have. The trouble is, we don’t have very much…”.