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The world’s fastest catamaran

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May 24, 2006

The world’s fastest catamaran

The world’s fastest catamaran

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May 25, 2006 At 36.8 metres, Orange II is a very large catamaran, designed that way so it can track straight and true at very high speeds. Almost certainly the fastest boat on the water, in August 2004, Bruno Peyron piloted Orange II in an attempt on the crewed Transatlantic record, missing the mark by minutes but setting a new 24-hour distance record by covering 706.2 miles at an average speed of 29.42 knots. In March 2005, Peyron and a 13-man crew completely blew away the around-the-world sailing record set by adventurer Steve Fossett onboard Cheyenne – Orange II’s new mark of 50 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes eclipsed Fossett’s record by seven days. The magnificent maxi-catamaran is now at the Newport Shipyard in Rhode Island, waiting for the appropriate weather window to begin another record transatlantic attempt. Interestingly, Fossett holds the transatlantic record too – set aboard PlayStation, Fossett raised the outright Atlantic crossing record to a point where it can in some ways be compared to the 100-metre dash in athletics. In order to beat the record, Peyron will need to bring all the ingredients together for a perfect race: smooth straight lines on a direct course for home, a strong and steady wind from the right direction… and a level of human endeavour befitting the ocean: a colossal effort! When he starts his endeavour some time in the next week or two, he will have four days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and six seconds to sail across the Atlantic.

The pics take a bit of relating to - check out the image library of Orange II - and when you're looking at the images, you'll suddenly realise how big it is - massive.

Since Charlie Barr set the trans-Atlantic record at 12 days, four hours, one minute and 19 seconds in 1905, the route has become the stuff of legend: New York and Ambrose Light, the shores of New England and the huge Banks engulfed in mist, the loneliness of the Atlantic and the arrival back in the Channel approaches at the tip of Cornwall. There is no room for improvisation. However, it will require more than the conviction of Peyron’s men to set sail from New York. The approach to the study of the weather patterns is almost scientific. Then, there is intuition, flair and, yes, a helping hand from fate, which will decide whether or not the right low-pressure area will be in front of their bows, as they set sail for the Old World.

On board for the 10 racing mariners there is but one guiding principle. They must give their all, without faltering, remaining sensible and intelligent throughout. They need to be discerning enough to get through this stressful journey from the fogs of Nantucket through the fishermen of Newfoundland in winds that the sailors and boat itself always want to be stronger and stronger with the aim of drawing that perfect, triumphant arc between the two continents.

"After the round the world sailing record, the North Atlantic record is without doubt the most prestigious," Bruno Peyron has often stated. In terms of sheer speed, it is certainly the fastest record in the world. To beat Steve Fossett’s time, Peyron’s men will have to keep up an average speed of almost 26 knots throughout the Atlantic crossing. That means that the boat will have to be sailed continually at 30 knots to ensure this average is kept up throughout the voyage.

"We’re lucky to have at our disposal what is probably the fastest boat on the water today. Our crew has shown they know how to push her forward very quickly, so now we just require that little bit of luck concerning the weather to get things just right," explained the skipper of Orange II.

If the weather conditions allow, Orange II may well take advantage of the situation to attempt to improve on her 24-hour sailing record (706.2 miles), set in August 2004 during her previous attempt at the North Atlantic (an attempt which failed by 31 minutes).

Now, they just have to keep their fingers crossed and wait for that perfect window of opportunity in the weather…

The crew chosen for the record will be comprised of 10 people (like in 2004). Two watches of four will switch over on deck. Bruno Peyron and the Swedish navigator Roger Nilson, will be there to swell the ranks, if required. The skipper of Orange II will present his team line-up just before setting sail from New York. The busy diaries of some of his team are making the selection process rather tricky.

The first performance on this route belongs to Charlie Barr, the captain of the Atlantic schooner. The proud vessel entered the history books in 1905 with a crossing of 12 days and 4 hours, a reference time that was to stand for 75 years… Eric Tabarly would improve on the performance by 2 days in 1980 on board his folier trimaran Paul Ricard, at an average speed of 11.93 knots. Following that, the attempts and improvements came at a steady pace, and the record would gradually be improved by the top names in French multihull yachting: Marc Pajot, Patrick Morvan, Loïc Caradec, Philippe Poupon and finally Serge Madec… on board Jet Services V (the future Commodore Explorer), which achieved a remarkable performance in 1990 (6 days, 13 hours and 3 minutes), which would remain the record for 11 years!

We had to wait for the right moment and Steve Fossett’s attempt to see the record smashed on 10th October 2001. PlayStation entered the history books with a crossing lasting 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and 06 seconds! Since then, only Bruno Peyron has tackled the record. Holder on two occasions of the single-handed Atlantic record, the skipper of Orange II has not yet managed to smash the crewed record. We should not forget, however, on his last attempt back in August 2004, he only missed out by a whisker.

Orange II is named after leading mobile telecommunications operator Orange, a subsidiary of France Télécom.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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