Saturday, 20 February 2010

JVT: Groupama 3 is Shooting Across the Indian Ocean

On board Groupama 3. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

The miles have been streaming by since Thursday lunchtime: 763.4 miles across the water in 24 hours at an average of 31.8 knots! The stable W to NW'ly wind is enabling Groupama 3 to maintain a constant speed thanks to a sea, which remains manageable for a thirty metre long trimaran. The deficit in relation to the reference time has shrunk away to less than 240 miles...

Time is ticking by! After amassing a deficit of over 430 miles following 18 days at sea at 1400 UTC on Thursday, the time spent in the Indian Ocean was beginning to drag for Franck Cammas and his nine crew. However, having now succeeded in getting ahead of the front circulating around the Roaring Forties as it shifts quickly across towards Tasmania, Groupama 3 has finally clawed back some miles this Friday. And as this wind-fuelled boost of speed is set to continue as far as the Pacific, the deficit on Orange 2 will be recovered over the course of the weekend, transforming into a lead at the start of the third ocean... However the sailing conditions are particularly wet for now...

"We're going to unfurl the heavy gennaker as the NW'ly wind is easing off a little. In fact we're switching between the solent jib when there's 30-35 knots and the small gennaker when there's no more than 27-32 knots of breeze. We're really copping it at the helm... It's raining a lot and there are big seas. That's why we're avoiding sending anyone up to the foredeck. I prefer a helmet but some of the others are wearing ski masks to stand up to the spray as it slaps against your face. Fortunately the water isn't cold..." stated Fréd Le Peutrec, at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

Constant speed

The current script for this round the world sprint began at midday on Thursday and is continuing to record some incredible average speeds for a `normal' sailor: 32, 33, 34, or even 36, 37 knots. Such a pace doesn't seem to be unsettling the crew of Groupama 3 who are confident in the boat's structure, which isn't suffering impact from the sea. Furthermore this tempo with over 700 mile days across the water should last the whole weekend, or even longer! Indeed from Sunday evening, the giant trimaran should pass the longitude of Cape Leeuwin (SW Australia), and by Tuesday Tasmania will already be in their wake... A crossing of the Indian Ocean in a little more than eight days in prospect then! Should this prove to be the case, the crew will have a good handful of miles on the reference time and look set to explode the WSSRC record between Cape Agulhas and Southern Tasmania, set by Orange 2 in a time of 9d 11h 04'...

"We look to be on target to maintain this pace as far as Tasmania, or even as far as New Zealand. We may have to put in a few gybes to reposition ourselves, but the trajectory will remain very straight, in contrast to Orange 2 in 2005... For 48 hours, we're still going to be pushed along by this thirty knot wind, then it will ease a little but the W'ly breeze will accompany us as far as the Pacific. Furthermore, if the depression stagnating over Auckland Island evacuates, we won't have any real transition to negotiate at that point, which would be quite good!"

By passing over 200 miles to the North of the Kerguelen Islands, the continental shelf hasn't altered the sea state, which has remained orientated in the direction of the wind. This has enabled Groupama 3's helmsmen, currently taking turns at the helm every half hour, to benefit from the waves to power up. Franck Cammas and his men still haven't seen any landfall since leaving Ushant as the giant trimaran's course hasn't taken them close to the austral islands. However there are numerous seabirds around...

"It's soaking both outdoors and in, both on the inside and the outside of our foulies! The levels of humidity have reached 100% and the heating doesn't work... As such there isn't a little corner by the `fireplace', despite Ronan's best efforts to fix the problem. Fortunately it's fairly mild since we're on the southern edge of a zone of high pressure, with wind dropping down off Africa. We're being tailed by petrels and albatrosses..."

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)
Day 8 (8th February 1400 UTC): 305 miles (lead = 456 miles)
Day 9 (9th February 1400 UTC): 436 miles (lead = 393 miles)
Day 10 (10th February 1400 UTC): 355 miles (lead = 272 miles)
Day 11 (11th February 1400 UTC): 267 miles (deficit = 30 miles)
Day 12 (12th February 1400 UTC): 247 miles (deficit = 385 miles)
Day 13 (13th February 1400 UTC): 719 miles (deficit = 347 miles)
Day 14 (14th February 1400 UTC): 680 miles (deficit = 288 miles)
Day 15 (15th February 1400 UTC): 651 miles (deficit = 203 miles)
Day 16 (16th February 1400 UTC): 322 miles (deficit = 376 miles)
Day 17 (17th February 1400 UTC): 425 miles (deficit = 338 miles)
Day 18 (18th February 1400 UTC): 362 miles (deficit = 433 miles)
Day 19 (19th February 1400 UTC): 726 miles (deficit = 234 miles)

WSSRC record for traversing the Indian Ocean (from Cape Agulhas to Southern Tasmania)
Orange 2 (2005): 9d 11h 04'

Reference time from Cape Agulhas to Cape Leeuwin
Orange 2 (2005): 7d 05h 35'

Cammas - Groupama

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