Wednesday, 10 February 2010

JVT: Groupama 3's Post-Tropical Dilemma

Loïc Le Mignon on board Groupama 3. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Since crossing the Tropic of Capricorn at around 0700 UTC this Tuesday, Groupama 3 has been confronted with two differing options as a result of a cold front. Indeed the speed at which she makes headway will depend on the choice between a succession of gybes or a longer hook towards the South-West...

First you have to get over a col before dropping down into a valley of low pressure! Such are the issues involved in skirting around the Saint Helena High. Indeed Franck Cammas and his nine crew had to put in a gybe early this afternoon so as to shift across to the SW to avoid being caught up in the calm conditions.

"This lunchtime we're on the SW edge of the Saint Helena High on flat seas in a warm, but not very consistent wind, pumping out around fifteen knots of breeze. We're slipping along very nicely though... The boat isn't suffering and neither are we. We've managed to maintain our lead over the reference time, but we're going to lose a little ground over the coming days. Nonetheless, we hope to reach the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope with a deficit of less than half a day in relation to Orange 2" analysed Frédéric Le Peutrec during the radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.


In fact their course hasn't yet been totally marked out this Tuesday as some small zones of high pressure are forming across the ideal trajectory. Two solutions have been envisaged according to the motion of these zones, which are generating little breeze. Either a long tack on starboard in order to hunt down a cold front off the Rio de la Plata will be necessary for Groupama 3, or a series of manoeuvres so she can pick her way between these windless zones.

"It's still very hot down below! However, we've been able to make headway under gennaker, gradually bending our course as the NE'ly wind has given way to the N'ly, and now the NW'ly wind. We're following the natural curve of the zone of high pressure. Between now and the start of the afternoon we're going to put in a gybe, so as to shift across into a better position to be able to hunt down a steadier breeze. We'll be trying to reach the latter by Wednesday. First of all though, we'll have to get over a small col between two centres of high pressure. Tonight we're going to be in light airs... but as we exit that zone, we'll hook a ride on a train of lows!"

Therefore it's already been established that the giant trimaran will see her 393 mile lead drop away sharply on this ninth day. However, once she reaches the Roaring Forties, the wind will become more stable from the West and the crew will be able to link together distances of over 600 miles a day. This probably won't be sufficient to come back on Orange 2 though, as the Jules Verne Trophy holder amassed some very good days as they swept across the bottom of the Atlantic. In the meantime, Franck Cammas and his men are making the most of the ideal conditions to perform a general scrub down...

"We're drinking a fair amount of water at the moment; between 50 and 60 litres a day! We're also benefiting from the temperature of the sea to have showers and even rinse ourselves off... There's not a drop of spray on deck, but in a few days time we'll be stringing together a number of weeks in the Deep South so we won't be able to strip off then..."

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)

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

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