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Orange II shatters the world 24-hour record

by Agence Mer & Média 4 Jul 2006 07:39 BST
The team on Orange II have shattered the world 24-hour record sailing 752 miles averaging 31.3 knots © JB Epron / Orange

Bruno Peyron’s crew covered 752 miles on their first day

No sailboat has ever been so fast until now. Having set out at 11h00’06 GMT on Sunday from New York to attempt to snatch the incredible Atlantic record from Steve Fossett (4 days, 17 hours 28 minutes and 6 seconds), Bruno Peyron’s crew has already achieved something on this voyage. Orange II has just demolished their own 24-hour sailing record by covering 752 miles in one day. This is already something that will enter the history books and it may just be the start. At a mind-blowing average speed of 31.3 knots, the maxi catamaran is ahead of where PlayStation was on the charts. No sailboat has ever sailed more quickly over 24h...

Monday 3rd July 2006. Living up to her good habits, Orange II is sailing much faster than the wind. Setting out from New York, Bruno Peyron’s crew have already accomplished one historic victory: at 11h 06 GMT today (Monday) the maxi catamaran setting out to conquer the Atlantic record had already clocked up a monumental distance on the log: 752 miles covered in 24 hours: a new outright speed record for a sailboat over one day. An average speed of almost 31.3 knots, obviously reaching peaks in excess of 35 knots.

«It’s quite impressive, as we’ve once again found a greater potential in the boat», commented a quite calm Bruno Peyron during the 09hOO GMT radio session, as the Orange II monster was approaching the Newfoundland Banks, in precisely the weather conditions that you can expect in this desolate region of the North Atlantic: thick mist and crossed seas. «It’s a real pea-souper. We can’t make out the bows of the boat and we’re on permanent radar alert to avoid any fishing boats that may lie in our path.» Under the small gennaker and two reefs in the mainsail, Orange II is diving into the fog attacking the tough record set by Steve Fossett’s PlayStation. This time considered to be unbeatable by many was set in October 2001 by the American billionaire: 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and 6 seconds.

123 miles ahead of PlayStation

In order to beat the legendary Atlantic record, they will have to cross the finishing line off The Lizard at the southwestern tip of Britain by 04h27 GMT on Friday morning. For the moment, Bruno Peyron’s crew is ahead of where they need to be to grab the record. At the first comparison point this morning, Orange II had a lead of 123 miles over PlayStation’s record run. «Since the start, there have been strong conditions continually averaging more than 31 knots and with flat calm seas allowing the helmsmen to get used to things in ideal conditions,» commented Bruno Peyron. «We’ve exactly the conditions we were expecting with a south westerly flow and a good angle to the fine 25 to 30 knot wind, which is positive in terms of sheer speed. Although the sea became a little less comfortable this morning with 1.5 to 2 metre high waves on the beam, for the time being that isn’t slowing us down,» the French yachtsman was pleased to announce, in a tone clearly showing how satisfied he was with the performance of the other eleven men making up the crew, including Bernard Stamm, Yann Guichard and Pascal Bidégorry … «They’re doing a fine job. They’re going very fast!»

Going fast is of course the obsession in this crazy sprint against the clock across the North Atlantic, which has already seen them smashing one record. What about tomorrow? «The day should be a little bit better, as we won’t need to go out of our way, as we had to do today to get around the Nantucket Banks,» explained the skipper of Orange II. Pushing back still further this new barrier is therefore not impossible. «Up until now, we’ve had our work cut out: we had to carry out eight manoeuvres, with changes of sail. With twelve men it’s physically exhausting and we’re only working using two watches. Each team must therefore wake up the other when it’s time to carry out some work, as there is no watch on stand by, as there was for the circumnavigation.»

The fear of being slowed down at the end of the journey (as happened in August 2004, when the crew failed by 31 miserable minutes) still haunts them. «There is always this uncertainty when you set sail on summer lows,» explained Bruno Peyron. «In fact, the weather forecasts do not agree: for some the high pressure areas, which are giving fine weather over the continent at the moment, will block the path of the lows; for others, these lows will get through nevertheless. I think… I hope that we have enough speed to cope with the first possibility and we’ve obviously been working with that less favourable option in mind. If the second scenario arises, it will be something of a miracle.» A « miracle » which would allow them to win one of the greatest jackpots in the history of sailing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At 12h 30 GMT today there were still 2080 miles to cover to get within reach of this legendary record that has only been smashed seven times in a century.

"What they said" : Roger Nilson, navigator on board Orange II : "Everything is fine on board… until now there haven’t been any problems with the equipment or the men. Since we got close to Sable Island there has been thick fog. The seas are still calm, but some crossed waves are arriving from the south. We went 9 miles south of Sable Island and are on a bearing of 75°, with an average speed for the boat of 32 knots under the breeze gennaker, which is very efficient. We took in two reefs just before the island, as the wind got up to 34 knots. The latest wind charts indicate that we are likely to be sailing on the starboard tack right up to the end, with perhaps one small gybe. Approximately 4 days and 8 hours… in theory… We’re sailing in general 3 or 4° above the polar angle."

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