Transatlantic sailing record attempt poised to begin (live on the web)
By Mike Hanlon
July 1, 2006
July 2, 2006 Five weeks ago we ran a story on the World’s fastest sailing boat, the 36.8 metre Orange II catamaran (amazing image library here) which holds the round-the-world record (50 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes) and the world 24 hour record (706.2 miles at an average speed of 29.42 knots), indicating the boat and crew were on stand-by for an attempt on the trans-Atlantic record of four days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and six seconds. In terms of sheer speed, it is certainly the fastest sailing record in the world. To beat Steve Fossett’s time, skipper Bruno 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. The news is that after five weeks of waiting for the ideal conditions, Orange II is now making final preparations to leave New York today. Having a sponsor such as France Telecom enables the whole world to sail with Bruno and the boys during the four day sprint, and not only is it possible to follow the attempt live , there is a live video streaming conference planned for the mid-point of the voyage at the attempt web site. This story includes an interview with Bruno Peyron and is written on the eve of his Atlantic record attempt.
The crew of the giant Orange II arrived in Newport yesterday. One final night ashore before tackling this long sprint across the North Atlantic tomorrow (Sunday). Bruno Peyron has confirmed that the crew will be setting sail this evening from Newport to head for Ambrose Light, in order to start out on Sunday afternoon between 12h and 18 GMT. For the moment, the final preparations are coming to an end, and a healthy enthusiasm can be felt amongst the twelve crew members, who will be going aboard for this high speed crossing of the Atlantic. Just a few hours before they set sail, the skipper of Orange II gave us his final impressions.
The weather conditions: "The weather conditions are just what we were expecting before we jumped in the plane. For the moment, it is fine in Newport, but the front is approaching with the skies clouding over, so that’s no surprise for us and is exactly what we were expecting. We will have to set sail from Newport in a few hours, at around 18 or 19h GMT, in order to get to the starting line off New York. We’re expecting a south westerly flow with 25 to 30 knot winds for the start, strengthening once we have left the Nantucket Banks behind, so that’s perfect. We’ll have a good angle with a fairly southerly route, which will add on some miles in comparison to the direct course, but that’s nothing to worry about. There remains one little uncertainty for the arrival zone, but it’s not serious enough to stop us from trying our luck.
No France-Brazil match: No, sorry, but we’re going to be busy concentrating on something a bit different from the French team. We wish them the success that everyone is hoping for, but unfortunately we won’t be able to watch the match. As for our team sheet, it’s not going to be 4-4-2, but rather 2-2-6, with priority being given to the attackers, in other words the top level helmsmen that are on board. We’ll have fewer defenders than during the Jules Verne Trophy.
Organisation on board: The organisation of the watches will be different from on the Jules Verne. We’ll be sailing in two watches of six and the time spent by each person at the helm will depend on the level of difficulty they encounter. It will be up to everyone to decide for themselves how long they can remain fully concentrated at the helm. The dials will tell us and when at a particular time, the speed drops off, it will be time to change over at the helm. For the time being, everyone is concentrating hard and there’s a lot of excitement on board. What I’ll be expecting from everyone from tomorrow is a mixture of the right sort of aggression and a clear head.
Simulation: We have some time simulations, but they remain theoretical. They give us between 4 days 16h and 4 days and 2 hours, but we don’t have much faith in the latter, which is overly optimistic. It doesn’t really tell us much for the moment.
Speed: Everyone knows this is the fastest record in the world (an average speed of almost 26 knots). To succeed it takes a very fast boat, and Orange II is probably the fastest yacht in the world today, but that isn’t enough. It takes a team that can make the most of her potential. Then, you need a very skilled weather team. Finally, we’ll require nature to let us through, and that’s something beyond our control. The boat will certainly be taken to the limit, which wasn’t the case during the circumnavigation. Here, the level is so high that we have to push the machine all the way, if we want to beat this time of 4 days and 17 hours. We already managed to do that for the Mediterranean record. Since then, we’ve made some more progress, but now, between the theory and practice, there’s an ocean to cross and an ocean is always an ocean….
Risks: There are always major risks in any top level ocean racing competition, especially on board these record breaking machines, when they are pushed to the limit. We have to set a fine balance between the required aggression, power and performance, and above all the safety aspect. There are no rules. You can’t find this in books. We’re gambling on the huge experience in our group and the number of miles we have already covered together in order to maintain this vital balance.
Objectives: Firstly having the best crossing possible, whatever the time at the finish. Then, trying to improve on our 24-hour record (706.2 miles), and finally smashing the Atlantic crossing record. They are our three objectives together. Personally, I have a fourth. I’ve been lucky enough to bring home three Jules Verne Trophies, and I’d like to bring home three Atlantic records. I already have two sailing single-handed, so there’s just the crewed record left.
The record: I’m not concentrating so much on what happened before, but more on our future objective. Of course, I have a lot of respect for everything that happened before, as this record is such a great story. Charlie Barr in 1905, Tabarly 75 years later, then all the great names of French multihull racing right up to Fossett’s final record. What is at stake for me is clear, that is being the fastest crew over this route. We’ve got what it takes, but we’ve still a long way to go to reach the finish.
History of the North Atlantic record
The first record on this route was set by Charlie Barr, the captain of the Atlantic schooner. The proud vessel managed to complete the crossing in 1905 in 12 days and 4 hours, a time that was to remain the record for 75 years. In 1980, Eric Tabarly and his foiler Paul Ricard improved on Barr’s performance by two days, crossing the Atlantic at an average speed of 11.93 knots. Following that, the attempts and improvements came at a steady pace. The record would gradually be improved upon by the French expert multihull racers: Marc Pajot, Patrick Morvan, Loïc Caradec, Philippe Poupon and finally Serge Madec... On board Jet Services V (the future Commodore Explorer), he was to set a record (6 days, 13 hours and 3 minutes) in 1990 that was to last 11 years. We had to wait for the right moment and Steve Fossett’s attempt to see the record fall: on 10th October 2001, PlayStation set the historic record of 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes and 6 seconds. Since then, only Bruno Peyron has made an attempt at the record. Holder of the single-handed Atlantic record on two occasions, the skipper of Orange II has not yet managed to improve on this crewed record. We should add that on his last attempt back in August 2004, he missed out on the record by a whisker (just 31 minutes).
Bruno Peyron’s achievements
The 1st yachtsman to sail around the world in less than 80 days (Jules Verne Trophy 1993), Bruno Peyron is the only yachtsman to have beaten this circumnavigation record three times. Founder of The Race (first race around the world with no limits 2000 / 2001), he is the record holder of the greatest number of miles covered in a ocean racing maxi-catamaran (330,000 miles). Some extracts from his list of successes:
- 3 times record holder of the crewed round the world record (1993, 2002 and 2005) - Twice record holder of the single-handed Atlantic crossing (1987 and 1992) - Twice record holder of the crewed transpacific record (1997 & 1998) - 4 times record holder of the 24 hour record (1982 / 1995 / 2000 / 2004) - Record holder for the Mediterranean crossing (2002) - Twice awarded the Golden Neptune Award (Neptune d'Or) (1987 & 1993) - 24 ocean records and 37 ocean crossings - More than 400,000 miles covered around the world’s oceans.