by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller
Though the tradewinds are now blowing in from the East, Groupama 3 is still not able to set a course due South. The reasons for this are that the high pressure isn't far to port and the current aim is to hook onto the low pressure system forming off Rio de Janeiro...
For the time being the descent towards the Roaring Forties is going well, even though the giant trimaran is being forced to bend her trajectory towards the SSW, so as not to get caught up in the Saint Helena High. Of course this makes the route longer, but as the average speeds are in excess of 25 knots, the deficit in relation to the reference time is non-existent. Groupama 3 still had a lead of over 525 miles over Orange 2 this Sunday afternoon. Furthermore the living conditions aboard have considerably improved since Franck Cammas and his nine crew have been sailing with the wind right on the beam and on less aggressive seas in relation to conditions immediately after the equator...
"We have some perfect conditions! Flat seas, a beautiful starry sky and a deep heat, which means that we can sail in T-shirts at night without even getting wet... We're making good headway: we were even flying two hulls with the central hull just licking the surface of the water. The tradewinds are fluctuating a little in terms of direction and strength, however we're managing to keep carrying full mainsail and solent jib. We're sailing even faster than the target speeds the electronic speedos are showing!" indicated Frédéric Le Peutrec during the radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.
Patience is the better part of valour
Indeed it's not until Tuesday that the crew will be able to progressively bend their course to the South and then South-East, once Groupama 3 is properly abeam of the centre of the high pressure. At that point the winds will shift round to the North and ease off a little, however Franck Cammas and his men will be able to hoist the large gennaker and slip along sweetly on calmer seas. They're going to have to stay ahead of the cold front and be sure not to dally as a new cell of high pressure seems to be moving in off the Brazilian coast... Furthermore, between this high and low pressure, there is likely to be a tricky little passage to negotiate, though the crew of the giant trimaran are used to threading their way through such zones by now!
"When you set off on a Jules Verne Trophy, you know there are going to be highs and lows and that at times you're going to lose ground on the reference time. There are always contrasts: the first week was supported by the weather forecasts, but after that it's just pot luck! The rounding of the Saint Helena High is proving a little annoying at the moment as we're having to cover too many extra miles, but that's the name of the game with a circumnavigation of the globe... You have to reach a compromise with the elements, and that's the charm of being at sea."
After a week's sailing, Groupama 3 has already covered over 3,600 miles in relation to the optimum route for a Jules Verne Trophy, with an estimated lead of one day and ten hours...
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): 456 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Day 7 (7th February 1400 UTC): 430 miles (lead = 539 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)
Cammas - Groupama