by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller
Still in the high pressure which is stagnating off Argentina, Groupama 3 is trying to make as much headway as possible to the North. In order to do this, Franck Cammas and his men are having to tack in line with every shift to exploit these transitions: seven tack changes have been made since Sunday afternoon.
Very attentive to the slightest wind shift since this weekend, Franck Cammas and navigator Stan Honey are remaining concentrated to exploit these rotations. Right now it's very much like a virtual race against Orange 2 with five years separation, and the giant trimaran is rather at ease since she has been designed for these light to moderate headwinds. However, the crew of Groupama 3 is having to react very quickly all the same, which isn't always easy at night, beneath an overcast sky and a waning moon. As such they're zigzagging their way northward.
"In high pressure conditions such as these, there is always a discrepancy between the grib files and the actual situation on the water: at the moment, we've fallen into a zone of light winds, probably due to a big squall to our right... The breeze should pick up radically at sunset to pump out 30-40 knots of E'ly on our beam: as such we're going to have to reduce the sail area and even set the heavy airs jib! We've got some work on our hands because the wind isn't as steady as all that... However, we've recovered well from the fatigue we'd amassed in the Deep South" indicated Franck Cammas at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.
Kissing the sea
With the central hull just kissing the surface of the water, the helmsmen are taking it in turns to keep the giant trimaran making headway on a single leeward float and at around 0900 UTC, Groupama 3 had put in her final tack change of the day. Indeed the wind had clocked round to the N and was gradually shifting round to the NE early this afternoon: the average speed was increasing to in excess of twenty knots again and the separation between her and Orange 2 was beginning to stabilise at 325 miles...
"The boat is really light and highly responsive, which makes it easy to tack since we don't need to do any stacking (shifting of moveable ballast). Furthermore, Groupama 3 is less heavy than when she left Ushant and you can really feel the difference because we've consumed a good hundred kilos or so of diesel and food... It's the first time we've been on a beat since 31st January. We're back on a route taking us almost due North until Tuesday morning, at which point we'll have to put in some more tacks to reach the tradewinds, which are still some 700 miles ahead of our bows. The temperatures are already milder, with overcast skies, but we're still sporting our foulies on deck!"
Franck Cammas estimated that he couldn't have a deficit of more than a day on crossing the equator! As such the pressure's really on over this phase of the course. Indeed Orange 2 only began to slow as she approached the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, but then her climb up to Recife proved to be fairly laboured. In fact it's becoming an increasingly established fact that bagging the Jules Verne Trophy record is still uncertain and everything will depend on their progress off Brazil...
As a result the aim of Franck Cammas and his men is to progress northward as quickly as possible, but there's not really any alternative in terms of the general strategy: Groupama 3 will have to close on the coast of South America, without getting too close to the shores of Brazil, where some stormy lows generating variable winds are in the process of forming... Therefore the next phase will involve a great deal of activity in the cockpit of the giant trimaran as the crew will have to link together multiple manoeuvres.
"Groupama 3 is exiting the anticyclone in winds of around twenty knots, which are increasing in strength as they begin to veer: this will enable her to bend her course round from this afternoon, whilst simultaneously picking up the pace. However, from Tuesday evening and through until Thursday, the crew will have to negotiate a stormy zone along the shores of Brazil..." explained Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.
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)
Day 20 (20th February 1400 UTC): 672 miles (deficit = 211 miles)
Day 21 (21th February 1400 UTC): 584 miles (deficit = 124 miles)
Day 22 (22nd February 1400 UTC): 607 miles (deficit = 137 miles)
Day 23 (23rd February 1400 UTC): 702 miles (lead = 60 miles)
Day 24 (24th February 1400 UTC): 638 miles (lead = 208 miles)
Day 25 (25th February 1400 UTC): 712 miles (lead = 371 miles)
Day 26 (26th February 1400 UTC): 687 miles (lead = 430 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 797 miles (lead = 560 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 517 miles)
Day 29 (1st March 1400 UTC): 434 miles (lead = 268 miles)
Day 30 (2nd March 1400 UTC): 575 miles (lead = 184 miles)
Day 31 (3rd March 1400 UTC): 617 miles (lead = 291 miles)
Day 32 (4th March 1400 UTC): 492 miles (lead = 248 miles)
Day 33 (5th March 1400 UTC): 445 miles (lead = 150 miles)
Day 34 (6th March 1400 UTC): 461 miles (lead = 58 miles)
Day 35 (7th March 1400 UTC): 382 miles (deficit = 100 miles)
Day 36 (8th March 1400 UTC): 317 miles (deficit = 326 miles)
WSSRC record from equator to equator
Orange 2 (2005): 33d 16h 06'
Cammas - Groupama