by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller
After crossing the equator at 0902 hours UTC this Saturday morning after 5 days and 19 hours at sea and with a lead of over a day in relation to Orange, the maxi trimaran Groupama 3 has begun her descent of the Southern hemisphere. Faced with SE'ly tradewinds and in a still, fairly calm sea, Franck Cammas and his nine crew are making for the Brazilian coast at an average of twenty knots.
The big glides under gennaker are over. So too are the storm squalls of the Doldrums. The archives for this first intermediary time between Ushant and the equator have been written now, with the 2010 version of Groupama 3 recording the second fastest time in maritime history. Her deficit amounted to just 3 hours 44 minutes behind the best ever time, which was set back in November 2009 by... Groupama 3: "We're certainly very happy with this time as it really wasn't a simple task in prospect on leaving the Breton coast last Sunday. It's better than we could have anticipated at the start," said Franck Cammas during the radio link-up with the Paris HQ for the Jules Verne Trophy.
He continues: "Nevertheless, we were caught out by the Doldrums, which suddenly reawakened on us and proved complicated to negotiate with violent squalls, storms and lightning. For seven hours the wind was constantly turning and even dropped away completely at one stage. In the middle of the night it wasn't easy to zigzag between the squalls".
An uncertain future
By managing to maintain an average of 22 knots (40 km/hr) since leaving Ushant, Groupama 3 has continued to extend her lead on the current Jules Verne Trophy holder: 1 day 7 hours and 49 minutes: "The weather forecasts aren't very favourable for joining up with the Southern Ocean. To avoid the calm conditions, we're going to have to get very close to the Brazilian coast and drop down very low before we can hang a left towards the Cape of Good Hope. We'll lose a fair number of miles in relation to Orange but there's still a long way to go. We're going to have to stay very concentrated and be ready to snap up any opportunity that arises".
On a technical level the skipper of Groupama 3 is confident: "We've been right around the boat several times but we haven't found anything suspicious. Aside from the radar, which gave up the ghost for a few hours yesterday but has worked well since, all's well aboard and there are no particular areas of wear. Having navigated through some pretty mild sea conditions thus far is a good thing as the structure hasn't been very put upon."
As far as the crew are concerned, Franck concludes: "They're still racing flat out. Life aboard is taking its course amidst an atmosphere of good humour. It really is a fine team. In addition to that we are all clean as we made the most of the squalls to have a good shower".
Groupama 3's log (departure on 31st January at 13h 55' 53'' UTC)
Day 1 (1st February 1400 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2 (2nd February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3 (3rd February 1400 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4 (4th February 1400 UTC): 565 miles (lead = 245 miles)
Day 5 (5th February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 562 miles)
Day 6 (6th February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Best passage time to the equator from Ushant
Groupama 3: 5d 15h 23' (November 2009)
Jules Verne Trophy reference time to the equator
Orange 2: 7d 02h 56' (January 2005)
The crew and organisation aboard Groupama 3
• Watch No.1: Franck Cammas / Loïc Le Mignon / Jacques Caraës
• Watch No.2: Stève Ravussin / Thomas Coville / Bruno Jeanjean
• Watch No.3: Fred Le Peutrec / Lionel Lemonchois / Ronan Le Goff
• Off watch navigator: Stan Honey goes up on deck for manoeuvres
• One watch system on deck, one watch on stand-by ready to help manoeuvre, one watch totally resting
The record to beat
Currently held by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 since 2005 with a time of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes at an average of 17.89 knots. Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës were aboard at the time.
Cammas - Groupama