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Orange II on record pace with just 650 miles to go

by Agence Mer & Média 5 Jul 2006 19:00 BST

Bruno Peyron's maxi catamaran may cross the finishing line tomorrow evening

With a damaged rudder, Orange II is going to have to manage her lead

On Wednesday afternoon at 13h GMT, Orange II only had 650 miles to go to cross the finishing line at The Lizard, which is 50 miles less than her average daily distance since setting sail from New York on Sunday. Bruno Peyron’s maxi catamaran may be finishing tomorrow evening and in so doing she will shatter the North Atlantic record held by Steve Fossett (4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and six seconds). A word of caution however. Because of her damaged rudder, Bruno Peyron has decided to ease off and use his lead.

Wednesday 5th July 2006. - At 12h48 today (Wednesday), Orange II only had 650 miles to go, or less than a quarter of the total distance, to reach the finishing line at The Lizard. The maxi catamaran was still recorded averaging almost 30 knots over the previous 24 hours. Bruno Peyron and his crew have never been better placed to smash PlayStation’s incredible North Atlantic record held by Steve Fossett with a time of 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and six seconds. «We’re still planning on an ETA of around 16 to 17h GMT tomorrow (Thursday) (18 to 19 h CET) », Bruno Peyron asserted before adding the proviso: «But we know full well that you have to be very cautious with this type of forecast… If we break both rudders this afternoon, we won’t make it home this week and you’ll have to come and get us, as we aren’t carrying any oars!»

Finishing by tomorrow evening?

This is the crux of the matter: Orange II is damaged. Following a collision with an unidentified floating object, an incident that was announced yesterday, the port rudder has suffered some damage. «It is as if a 50cm chunk has been bitten off,» explained Bruno Peyron, «behind the spindle (the vertical shaft) and it’s starting to splinter off on the front side too.»

Consequently, the boat is difficult to control at very high speeds, and the Orange II boss has logically decided to ease off on the pedal, imposing a speed restriction of 30 knots. Bruno Peyron explained to Jean Maurel during today’s radio session: «the rudder is wobbling all over the place and dragging the boat to the left with an incredible force. If we let go of the helm, she will gybe immediately. That could become dangerous, especially as we’re putting so much pressure on the other rudder. And if we lose control, there could be an involuntary gybe, and we would find ourselves with 800 m2 of cloth on the wrong side and that could spell disaster with a capsize.» That is why the skipper of Orange II has decided to ease off on the gas. «The speedo is constantly oscillating between 24 and 29 knots. That’s something we just have to accept. It’s a bit of a pity, as today we could have achieved average speeds above those at the start.»

The suspense continues therefore out on the Atlantic, where Orange II is still advancing very quickly (averaging between 29 and 30 knots over 24 hours), but stealthily too. This damage to the rudder has led to a change in the planned trajectory, as Bruno Peyron explains: the weather pattern «would normally force us up towards Ireland, but we want to put off gybing for as long as possible to avoid making the rudder splintering process worse and damaging the other one. So we have chosen to extend our route a little.»

In other words, if they grab the record tomorrow evening or before Friday morning at 4h 28 GMT, it will be a historic moment but it could be bettered in the future. «That will leave a certain latitude for future records,» joked Pascal Bidégorry, one of the helmsmen, who is discovering the "monster" for the first time. He pointed out: «The weather couldn’t be better. It’s extraordinary crossing the Atlantic on one single low-pressure area, and my confidence is high. The only regret I have is that incident with the rudder, as if the boat was in tip-top form, we could really have made them sit up!»

The skipper of the Banque Populaire trimaran can be reassured: in spite of the damage that occurred yesterday at the halfway point, Orange II is already well on her way to getting them to sit up and take notice, as she is only the eighth sailing boat in a century to grab this legendary record. At the fourth comparison point, the crew of Orange II had a lead of 280 nautical miles (518 km) over PlayStation’s relative position. It is true that the wind is going to ease off and that the voyage is going to be longer than planned because they will be leaving it for as long as possible before gybing for security reasons. However, «we should do it», Bruno Peyron said.

Moreover, between 16h tomorrow afternoon and 04h28 GMT on Friday morning, they have more than a dozen hours and at Orange II’s speed twelve hours represents some 350 nautical miles… If the rudders hold out and the crew maintain the perfect compromise between speed and safety, tomorrow evening or tomorrow night or early on Friday morning, Orange II will become the fastest boat to sail across the Atlantic, as well as already being the fastest over 24 hours and the fastest around the world. An incredible "monster", you might say.

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