Wednesday, 24 February 2010

JVT: From one Ocean to another... for Groupama 3

Plus ça change: Life on board Groupama 3. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Still maintaining the high speeds that have coloured the past five days, Franck Cammas and his nine crew should make their entry into the Pacific Ocean tonight. In so doing Groupama 3 is set to pocket the record for the passage from Cape Agulhas to Tasmania in a time of under nine days. Furthermore, with the favourable weather conditions set to last, the coming days are likely to be just as fast.

Groupama 3 is on the point of collecting her first trophy of this Jules Verne! Indeed this round the world sprint has also provided the crew with the opportunity to beat three other records recognised by the WSSRC (World Sailing Speed Record Council), the official body in charge of validating the best times under sail. It is also hoped that the prize haul will include the record passage across the Indian Ocean (Orange 2: 9d 11h 04'), that of the passage across the Pacific Ocean (Orange 2: 8d 18h 08') and that from the equator back to the equator (Orange 2: 33d 16h 06').

"We're monitoring our progress in relation to Orange 2 and even though she's not a direct opponent, we're looking at her virtual wake. We knew that under Australia we were going to make up our deficit as Bruno Peyron and his crew had to put in several gybes with some slower phases. However, they traversed the Pacific very quickly... It will be difficult to maintain the same average speed as far as Cape Horn. If we have a bit of a lead at that stage that wouldn't be bad: theoretically the climb up the Atlantic should enable us to claw back the time!" said Fred Le Peutrec at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

At the end of 23 days at sea then, Groupama 3 has been tracking ahead of the reference time for some ten days and lamenting a deficit for thirteen days... Right now Franck Cammas' aim is to commit to the Pacific with a lead of several hours over the record pace.

Shift and gybe

With the NW'ly breeze accompanying them for the past five days, the sea state remains sufficiently well organised to enable the crew of Groupama 3 to make good speed effortlessly and free from stress. The situation is set to change a little after Tasmania once the breeze backs round to the W or WSW on Wednesday. The giant trimaran will then have to gybe to avoid New Zealand. However, as far as the average speed is concerned, there shouldn't be any signs of a drop in pace yet...

"Happiness is a funny thing! Not only are we getting used to these average speeds in excess of thirty knots, our enthusiasm is waning... We've noticed on board that when you're sailing at 28 knots, it feels like you've come to a standstill! At times you have to get it into your head that you're sailing at 33-35 knots, or even forty... We've got our bearings now since we've been sailing on the same tack for the past five days: we're organising ourselves to eat, sleep and keep up the maintenance on the boat. We're going to have one manoeuvre to perform during the course of tomorrow, Wednesday. A gybe will be required to reposition ourselves given that the low off New Zealand has filled in. At that point we'll hook onto a fluctuating W'ly breeze."

However, for the next 24 hours, the wind will oscillate between the W and NW whilst remaining fairly strong: 28 to 32 knots, gusting to 35-38 knots. The waves are also building, but for now they're still on the aft quarter so they'll be driving Groupama 3 forward over these last few miles across the Indian Ocean and the first few miles across the Pacific.

"It's still very grey... as has been the case for the past five days! It feels like we've been under the same cloud. It's still wet with little visibility, but the temperatures are continuing to be mild. It's rather different to when I did The Race in 2001: it was very cold then, but we were treated to a fantastic aurora australis."

Avoiding the ice

The entry into the Pacific Ocean with the passage of Tasmania is expected to take place late this evening (UTC/ early hours of the morning in Tasmania). As such Groupama 3 should complete her journey across the Indian Ocean in under nine days and hence claim the WSSRC record between Cape Agulhas (South Africa) and the southern tip of Tasmania. Right now it is likely she will reduce the previous record held by Bruno Peyron and his crew since 2005 (9d 11h 04') by a dozen hours.

"With the final known zone of icebergs having been left a few tens of miles to starboard, Groupama 3 has been able to bear away a little this Tuesday and make full benefit of the fairly strong NW'ly wind to put a little big of southing into her course. Indeed, with the latitude at which Franck Cammas and his crew have been sailing, Groupama 3 was still relatively close to Australia: this trajectory has been guided by both the wind from the previous days and by the presence of a large quantity of icebergs to the South of 47 degrees. This southward shift is necessary since you have to follow a course of at least 47°30 S to avoid New Zealand! Therefore we can expect to see Groupama 3 making a very high VMG (velocity made good) bordering on 28/30 knots and with that their lead should continue to increase between Tuesday and Wednesday" explains 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)

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

Cammas - Groupama

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