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Round-the-world record smashed

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Bruno Peyron knocks more than a week off the sailing record, taking back the Jules Verne Trophy

Bruno Peyron knocks more than a week off the sailing record, taking back the Jules Verne Trophy

Frenchman Bruno Peyron has reclaimed the round-the-world sailing record and the Jules Verne Trophy, smashing American Steve Fossett’s record time by more than a week.

A determined Peyron, whose 124-foot catamaran Orange II bowed out of a record attempt a year ago with hull damage, finished the 27,000-mile circumnavigation March 16 in a blistering 50 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes, 4 seconds. The time was a little more than 7 days, 12 hours faster than Fossett’s, set on his 125-foot cat Cheyenne a year earlier. Orange II averaged 22.2 knots over the course and logged a remarkable 30-knot average over 12 hours in the Southern Ocean.

“This is a genuine record, which is beyond dispute,” Peyron said, after crossing the finish near the Ushant, an island off Brittany, France. “The boat is certainly a classy creation and was handled by a superb crew.”

Peyron and his 13 crewmembers raced in favorable weather and seas over most of the course. Maneuvering around instead of through bad weather, Peyron says he never encountered more than 30 knots of wind except below the Falkland Islands off Cape Horn, where he ran into 48-knot gusts but mercifully flat seas.

Orange II, a Gilles Ollier design launch-ed in December 1993 at the French Multiplast yard, had built a 10-day lead over Cheyenne’s time after rounding Cape Horn for the final trek to the finish. Peyron hoped to finish in less than 50 days but lost 72 hours against Fossett’s time in the long slog up the Atlantic. He set record times for crossing the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Tasmania, the Pacific from Tasmania to Cape Horn, and equator-to-equator via the capes — Good Hope, Australia’s Leeuwin and the Horn.

Peyron’s successful assault on the record seemed in doubt just once, off the Falklands, when Orange II ran over what Peyron believes was an orca whale while sailing at 25 to 30 knots. “It was a very violent impact, a bit like when you run up on the sand or hit a rock,” Peyron reported from sea. “We immediately saw a fin in our wake, probably that of an orca or [some other] whale.” Peyron says the crew felt two jarring bumps as the creature hit the port daggerboard and then the port rudder. Peyron says the crew felt some vibration from the rudder, and subsequent examination revealed some delamination along about foot of its leading edge. Four days later, the crew dove under the boat to check the rudder again and found no further deterioration.

Orange II’s best day was early on as it raced down the South Atlantic, logging 689.4 miles — just 17 miles shy of the 24-hour record set by Peyron on the same boat the previous summer. Orange’s worst day was 166 miles, off the Cape Verde Islands off western Africa. The catamaran logged a dozen 600-plus-mile days over the voyage.

Peyron beat not only American adventurer Fossett’s absolute record for a sailing circumnavigation, but Olivier de Kersauson’s Jules Verne Trophy circumnavigation record of 64 days, 13 hours, 59 minutes. (Fossett’s time of 58 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes wasn’t recognized for the Jules Verne Trophy because he refused to pay the entry fees.)

This is the third time Peyron has won the Jules Verne Trophy. He received his first Jules Verne in 1993 as skipper of the 86-foot Commodore Explorer, and another in 2002 for the 110-foot catamaran Orange.

Peyron has been a pioneer in round-the-world racing, as well as sprinting around the globe in giant multihulls. He introduced to the world circumnav-

igations on huge, blazingly fast, light-weight catamarans and trimarans with his event named The Race 2000. In fact, Peyron and British racer Tracy Edwards sued each other over Edwards’ organization of an around-the-world super-multihull race out of the Arab states — one Peyron claimed was his idea. Her Oryx Quest 2005, which drew four big multihulls, was starting as Peyron raced round the world.

Peyron has proclaimed Orange II the fastest sailboat in the world and says it will continue to be the fastest for five years. He expects to break more records with it, including the coveted Atlantic record, which Fossett also holds.

Peyron says Orange II is the culmination of 10 years of work and collaboration with the Multiplast yard and designer Ollier. The boat is a significant improvement over the early 100-plus-foot designs that came off Ollier’s drawing board for The Race. According to Ollier, Orange II is a more efficient upwind sailer than her predecessors, is lighter aft, sails without a masthead gennaker for easier handling, and carries its crossbeams almost 11 feet off the water so they ride above waves instead of through them. He says he already is looking at a next-generation cat that is bigger and performs 10 percent better than Orange II.

And De Kersauson, skipper of the 112-foot trimaran Geronimo — previous holder of the Jules Verne Trophy — says the hunt is on now to break 50 days in a round-the-world sailing challenge. “The hurdle of 50 days is now within reach, showing the huge amount of progress that one makes each year,” he says.

Between them, Peyron and Fossett have slashed the round-the-world sailing record by 13-1/2 days in less than a year of racing giant cats.