Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Groupama Switches to Code Green to Beat her own Transatlantic Record

Groupama 3. Image copyright Loïc Dorez/Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

On standby since 7th July in New York, the Groupama 3 trimaran skippered by Franck Cammas has just switched to code green. Barring a last minute change in the weather forecast, the fastest sailing boat in the world (WSSRC record), will set off on Wednesday night or Thursday morning (French time) on her bid to break her own Transatlantic Record.

In Lorient, Groupama team's base, the excitement is tangible. Whilst Franck Cammas is in direct contact with Sylvain Mondon at Météo France and Stan Honey, Groupama's navigator, in order to narrow down the departure time from New York, the logistics team is completing the crew's transfer to the United States. "Contrary to what you might think, the crew hasn't been in New York since 7th July. Our standby organisation is such that they must be able to make the transfer to the start zone within 24 hours. Since 7th July, we've been keeping them informed each morning at 1000 hours of the latest weather forecasts provided by Sylvain Mondon. The minute we switched to code yellow (possible departure within 48 to 72 hours), they prepared their gear for sea. They are currently in the plane bound for New York" says Stéphane Guilbaud, team manager.

On their arrival at Gateway marina, the crew will climb aboard a trimaran which has been perfectly prepared by the shore crew as well as two of the crew, Loïc Le Mignon and Olivier Mainguy: "It's great to get together again. We're both excited and concentrated. The challenge awaiting us is a sizeable as well as a complicated one. It's sizeable because driving a trimaran like Groupama 3 to perfection is a real challenge and it's complicated because we're going to have to adapt to wind and sea conditions, which will probably be a bit different to those which are forecast. According to our latest information, the window which is opening up right now is a very good one, with downwind conditions, though we may be forced to drop a bit further South than the shortest route" analyses Franck Cammas.

In his offices in Toulouse, Sylvain Mondon analyses the various weather charts that he seeks out from both the European and American servers. Following that he integrates Groupama 3's performances into this information, taking into account his recent experience of sailing aboard. Ultimately, according to the routes selected, he obtains a time for the crossing: "After being the first sailing boat to cross the Atlantic in under 100 hours at an average speed of 29.2 knots just two years ago, Groupama 3 set a very high standard. To go even faster, we're really going to need a great trajectory and stay as close as possible to the 2,925 miles which make up the direct route (5,265 km)".

It's worth remembering that in 2007, during her victorious record attempt, Groupama 3 also beat the 24 hour distance record by covering 794 miles at the incredible average speed of 33.08 knots: "We achieved this record time very shortly after leaving New York. The conditions were perfect with a well established wind on the beam and flat seas. If we hadn't broken one of the two foils, we would have exceeded the legendary benchmark of 800 miles. This figure is incredible to read, but even more incredible to experience in the flesh at sea aboard Groupama 3. This is another reason why we're here today. The speed, the adrenalin and the challenge that this crossing represents is magical" adds Franck Cammas

To accompany him in this quest for absolute speed, the skipper of Groupama 3 has equipped himself with an entourage of `old faithfuls' as well as new crew. Among the familiar faces onboard are Stève Ravussin and Frédéric Le Peutrec, watch leaders, Ronan Le Goff and Bruno Jeanjean at the bow and Loïc Le Mignon, second helm. As for the newcomers, their track records speak for themselves: Lionel Lemonchois, reigning champion of the Route du Rhum, Bernard Stamm, reigning champion of the Velux Five Oceans, Stan Honey, winning navigator in the Volvo Ocean Race on ABN AMRO and finally Olivier Mainguy, a member of the Groupama team who will take up position at the bow alongside Ronan and Bruno. In the main, the crew is pretty much the same as the one that broke the first record of the 2009 season by crossing the Mediterranean in 17 hours and 8 minutes on 16th May.

Groupama 3. Image copyright Loïc Dorez/Team Groupama.

In Gateway Marina in New York, Groupama 3 is pulling at her warps: "We are experienced at quickly finding the right trim and getting the very best out of Groupama 3; it's the men that make the difference. As such my entourage comprises an exceptional crew, which I'm very proud of. All ten of us are ready to go" concludes Franck Cammas.

The crew:
Franck Cammas, skipper, watch leader and helm
Stève Ravussin (CH): Watch leader and helm
Frédéric Le Peutrec: Watch leader and helm
Loïc Le Mignon: Second helm
Lionel Lemonchois: Second helm
Bernard Stamm (CH): Second helm
Ronan Le Goff: Bowman
Bruno Jeanjean: Bowman
Olivier Mainguy: Bowman
Stan Honey (USA): Navigator
Sylvain Mondon: onshore weather advisor

Course: 2,925 miles from the Ambrose Light in New York to Lizard Point at the south-west tip of England

Two records to beat:
- North Atlantic Crossing held by Groupama 3 of 4 days 3 hours and 57 minutes at an average of 29.26 knots on 23rd July 2007
- Distance covered in 24 hours held by Groupama 3 with 794 miles at an average of 33.08 knots on 20th July 2007

The other records held by Groupama 3:
- Mediterranean record in 17 hours and 8 minutes at an average of 26.72 knots on 16th May 2009
- Miami - New York in 1 day 13 hours at an average of 27 knots on 4th June 2007
- Cadiz - San Salvador in 7 days 10 hours and 58 minutes at an average of 21.7 knots on 1st May 2007


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