Tuesday, 2 March 2010

JVT: Hunkering Down in the Storm on Groupama 3

Franck Cammas at the helm of Groupama 3. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Groupama 3 has been forced to distance herself from the direct route towards the Horn in order to skirt around a very fast low, which is circulating around sixty degrees or so South. The sea state is making the life of Franck Cammas and his men, tough, tiring and very wet.

Under two reefs in the mainsail and staysail, the giant trimaran is driving hard towards the ENE to avoid the most violent zone in a disturbed system, which is tracking across towards Cape Horn at 45 knots. 80 knot (145 km/hr) winds were blowing around Drake's Passage this Monday lunchtime!

"We're sailing in a steady wind of up to 37 knots, and the seas are fairly chaotic and pretty big. It's not easy to negotiate... It's very wet on deck and the helmsmen are trying to protect themselves behind the windscreen, which is in a very sad state of repair, held together by lines. There's a cross swell with a few high waves (2-3 metres) and the boat comes to a standstill in a wave from time to time. We're being shaken about quite a lot and it's very uncomfortable. Fatigue has set in and the manoeuvres are a lot more laborious. We're having to remain prudent" indicated Jacques Caraës at the 1130 UTC radio-link up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

A detour to the North

Beneath squalls but with fairly acceptable visibility, Groupama 3 is also distancing herself from the ice field which has been pinpointed to the SW of Cape Horn. Of course this trajectory isn't ideal for completing what has been a rather aggressive Pacific and the giant trimaran is losing miles sailing 25° from the shortest route. A little over 250 miles ahead of the reference time this Monday lunchtime, this lead will shrink even further until the point where they put in a gybe. Added to this, Orange 2 was very quick over this section of the round the world with a VMG of thirty knots for three days...

"We're being forced to cover additional ground by heading up to the ENE and the gybe isn't scheduled before tomorrow, Tuesday, once the wind has shifted round to the NW. The upshot of this is a big detour to the North, but we have no other choice... We're not getting helped along on our way to Cape Horn! The low to the South is going faster than us: it will roll over the top of us and after the gybe we're going to have to be careful as the sea will still be very heavy. This disturbed system will pass into Drake's Passage, leaving a very messy Pacific in its wake! We're going to lose ground but we've just got to put up with it. We have the whole Atlantic to open up a lead after that. We know that it's going to be full-on so we're not going to show off in a situation such as this, which isn't the easiest of passage."

A Hard Cape indeed...

As a result, the rounding of Cape Horn is now scheduled between daybreak and midday on Thursday. The difficulty for the onshore weather router Sylvain Mondon, and the onboard navigator Stan Honey, lies in knowing what the sea state will be like and how Groupama 3 will be able to approach this key marker in the Jules Verne Trophy. Accessing it via the North isn't going to be easy because as the wind shifts round to the NW on Tuesday evening, this will make the favourable approach difficult to achieve as the wind will be right on their stern...

"40 knots of wind remains manageable and we have the possibility of reducing our sail area still further. We could even sail barepoled but I hope it won't come to that... Inside Groupama 3 things are rather noisy as we go into overdrive and then crash to a halt in the wave ahead. You constantly have to hang on as the accelerations and decelerations are violent. We're trying to dry out our foulies, but it's not really working... The atmosphere has changed a bit: you have to make sure you recuperate and priority is given to rest time. We're not hanging around to chat! Everyone is protecting themselves as best they can..." concludes Jacques.

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)

WSSRC record for the Pacific Ocean crossing (from the South of Tasmania to Cape Horn)
Orange 2 (2005): 8d 18h 08'

Cammas - Groupama

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