Sunday, 2 August 2009

Groupama 3 - Supersonic!

by Vincent Borde

Groupama 3 was the first yacht to smash the barrier of 800 miles in 24 hours and less than 850 miles from the finish off Lizard Point, Franck Cammas and his crew are still within the reference time to beat her own Transatlantic record. However, her rival that set out just moments later is also in the process of achieving a fantastic time...

The duel is well and truly on in the Atlantic Ocean: Groupama 3 and Banque Populaire V set out from New York on Wednesday evening and are on target to devour the 2,925 miles to the UK in under four days, with an ETA for the middle of Sunday afternoon! Indeed the weather conditions have been particularly favourable since Newfoundland, to the extent that the two giant trimarans are displaying `supersonic' speeds, with an average speed of over 38 knots! In fact both boats have broken the symbolic barrier of 800 miles in 24 hours by a considerable margin, with Franck Cammas and his nine crew the first to crack the reference time at 2100 hours UT on Friday, gradually increasing the pressure to 857 miles this noon to an average speed of 35.7 knots (65 km/hr). In the meantime, Pascal Bidégorry and his crew benefited from the power of their larger machine to crush this same 800 mile barrier at around 2200 hours on Friday, and had racked up a distance of 907.9 miles at 1000 hours UT this Saturday!

"We didn't expect to reach these kinds of speeds! The weather conditions were exceptional in enabling us to achieve such averages... We were able to attack speeds we're not used to making, but we have a rival alongside us! We didn't imagine we'd gain 2.7 knots on our previous record... A step has been crossed. However, we must remain concentrated and wise all the way to the end of the Atlantic record attempt. The change of floats have been a positive one as they're a lot stiffer in the waves: the passage through the sea is better and Groupama 3 is using her full potential without any risks being taken. We're getting better and better and faster and faster at performing manoeuvres, which is positive for the Jules Verne Trophy..." indicated Franck Cammas when contacted by telephone at 0930 hours UT this morning.

A day from the goal!
Although this incredible distance covered in 24 hours is an exceptional performance, the primary aim for Franck Cammas and his crew remains the Transatlantic record, which has been held by Groupama 3 since July 2007 in 4d 03h 57' 54''. With less than 850 miles to go, they're certainly in with a shot as, at the steady average speed of the past few hours, the green trimaran has just one long day to reach the tip of England, which amounts to an ETA of around 1400 hours UT! Of course the same is true for Pascal Bidégorry and his men: whilst there is less than a third of the course to go, the two boats are approximately the same distance from the finish, though the blue multihull has the advantage after setting out from New York two and a half hours later.

Franck Cammas at the 0930 hour UT radio link-up with Shore HQ in Lorient: "We're still on starboard tack sailing 120° off the wind and we're powering along as the seas have become flatter. We've been moving a little faster than the low, which has been pushing us along since Newfoundland, and the wind is also easing off slightly. We hoisted more sail aloft at around midnight last night on a direct route towards the goal and we're just where we wanted to be in relation to the low."

The last three hundred miles may yet see the battle on the water restart as the breeze is set to ease progressively as it approaches the European continental shelf: a more or less Northern position to enter the English Channel is essential if they wish to conserve an optimal attacking angle in relation to the wind. This is especially true with the wind set to switch down a gear from thirty knots of SW'ly this lunchtime to around twenty knots of S'ly off Ireland on Sunday morning... However, the two crews haven't chosen the same trajectory for the finish: indeed Groupama 3 is around forty miles further South than her rival, which may have an impact on the deficit of around 70 miles that Franck Cammas and his nine crew had conceded at noon this Saturday...

"Groupama 3 is threading her way directly towards Lizard Point whilst Banque Populaire has selected a more N'ly option. This 50 mile separation may leave some way clear for opportunity. The wind is likely to ease off a little and back round to the South: we're trying to stay ahead of the low so it remains to be seen how it pans out..." concludes the skipper of Groupama 3.

Record for distance covered in 24 hours
Friday 31st July at 2100 hours UT (Groupama 3): 801.8 miles
Friday 31st July at 2200 hours UT (Groupama 3): 829.9 miles
Saturday 1st August at 02 hours UT (Banque Populaire V): 856.1 miles
Saturday 1st August at 1000 hours UT (Banque Populaire V): 907.9 miles

Cammas - Groupama

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