Thursday, 5 November 2009

Jules Verne Trophy: Groupama 3 Switches to Code Green

The crew of Groupama 3: Franck Cammas, Fred Le Peutrec, Stève Ravussin, Lionel Lemonchois, Thomas Coville, Loïc Le Mignon, Ronan Le Goff, Bruno Jeanjean, Jacques Caraës and Stan Honey. Image copyright Yvan Zedda.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Less than a day since Groupama's announcement that it is renewing its partnership with the French sailor Franck Cammas until 2015, the skipper is announcing the switch to code green. This colour means that Groupama 3, on stand-by in Brest since 1st November, will set off on Thursday 5th November on her bid to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy, a round the world record attempt under sail.

50 days and 16 hours: this is the time to beat in order to snatch the record for the fastest yacht to circumnavigate the globe. Since 2005 the record has been in the hands of Bruno Peyron aboard the maxi catamaran Orange 2.

For his second attempt at the record, Franck Cammas has put together the perfect team to steer Groupama 3 through what is a hostile yet fascinating universe: "The time to beat is very quick. In order to succeed, besides an excellent boat, you need a crew which blends experience, performance and solidarity. As such a loyal and ambitious partner is required, which has been the case with Groupama for over twelve years. The renewal of our partnership until 2015 is an additional source of motivation in paying Groupama back for the trust they've shown in me" says the French skipper.

Accompanying him in this round the world adventure via the three capes are the loyal members of the Groupama team: Swiss sailor Stève Ravussin with whom Franck has already won two Transat Jacques Vabres, Fred Le Peutrec, Loïc Le Mignon, Ronan Le Goff as well as Jacques Caraës. Alongside them are some newcomers to the team in the form of Lionel Lemonchois, reigning champion of the Route du Rhum, Thomas Coville, solo Transatlantic recordman, Stan Honey, winning American navigator from the Volvo Ocean Race as well as Bruno Jeanjean, World Champion Match Racer.

This dream team has been preparing for the attempt in earnest since the start of the year, covering 15,000 miles or two thirds of a circumnavigation of the globe since that time: "We know each other well, we get on well and we're eager to go, even though we know it will be difficult. Circumnavigating the globe under sail as fast as we can isn't something you do everyday. We'll have to be quick without causing Groupama 3 to suffer and by manoeuvring her well. Added to that we'll have to choose the best course" adds the skipper.

Watching the weather for the past week, Franck Cammas, Stan Honey and Sylvain Mondon from Météo France appreciate the quality of the window opening up on Thursday: "There's going to be strong winds and big seas off Brest with 30 knots of breeze and five metre waves. We're going to be shaken about at the start but, from Cape Finisterre, the wind will become more favourable. We should then be able to smoothly hook onto the trade winds" wrote the skipper of skipper of Groupama 3 in an email to his nine crew yesterday.

This analysis is confirmed by Sylvain Mondon who will be accompanying Groupama 3 throughout his attempt from his office at Météo France in Toulouse: "The weather window expected for Groupama 3's Jules Verne Trophy attempt isn't exactly classic for this type of attempt. Indeed, by choosing to set off on Thursday 5th November, just after the passage of an active zone with numerous squalls and strong gusts in what are still big seas, Franck Cammas and his men haven't taken the easy option. This is evident in the strong NW'lies which are set to blow across the Bay of Biscay until Thursday morning, picking up big seas (waves in excess of 6m), calling for the crew to be prudent.

Though Groupama 3 is setting off in such conditions for the first 24 hours at sea, things are likely to be much more favourable for the next stage in the proceedings. The NE'ly tradewinds will notably be established and steady as far as the Cape Verde archipelago. This tradewind configuration is very different from the conditions Groupama 3 experienced in 2007 during the previous attempt with numerous remnants from recent storms originating from a low between the Canaries and the Azores.

As far as the Southern Atlantic is concerned, it is still too early to have an accurate idea of what awaits Franck Cammas and his crew. Nevertheless, the overall conditions can be described as favourable with established SE'ly tradewinds to the South of the equator and the Saint Helena High is expected to be a little closer to Africa rather than South America".

In Brest this evening for a final crew supper, the ten men on Groupama 3 intend to leave the quayside at the port of Le Château on Thursday at 1100 hours, in order to present themselves on the start line for the Jules Verne Trophy between 1600 and 1700 hours local time, in front of the Créac'h lighthouse on the island of Ushant.

The organisation aboard Groupama 3

Three watches of three people:
• Franck Cammas, Loïc Le Mignon, Jacques Caraës
• Stève Ravussin, Thomas Coville, Bruno Jeanjean
• Fred Le Peutrec, Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff
• Stan Honey, navigator, off watch

Cammas - Groupama

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