Thursday, 4 March 2010

JVT: The Chilean parabola for Groupama 3

Closing in on Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

After carving out a big arc up to 47°S over previous days, Groupama 3 has begun her parabolic descent towards Drake's Passage on starboard tack, at what must be considered as reasonable speeds given the sea state. She should round Cape Horn in light airs on Thursday though the next stage of the Atlantic programme is still uncertain...

Around 600 miles from Cape Horn, the approach towards the coast of Chile isn't scheduled before early afternoon on Thursday, though it's not yet certain whether or not Franck Cammas and his nine crew will track close to the legendary rock. Indeed, inspiring an area as it is, sailors across the globe know only too well that it doesn't pay to stay in this lively region for too long...

Nearing Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

"We're getting a little bit shaken about and by the end of a period on watch we're really cold. We're battling against the dampness! As regards navigation, we had a great start to this Pacific Ocean, but since then things haven't quite gone to plan. We're a little disappointed to have lost so much time dealing with this low: we thought we'd have a two day lead at the Horn but in reality we'll be making our rounding at virtually the same time. However, the trimaran is in perfect shape, ready to make her climb up the Atlantic and we're all set to make up our losses! I recall that on Orange 2, we were in much more favourable conditions with the wind giving us a big kick up the backside to head up the coast of Argentina... In principle that's not going to be the case for us: the weather's going to have to give us a bit of help sometime" indicated Lionel Lemonchois (already a Cape Horner five times over...) at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

The sea is hope...

A few hours before Cape Horn: Bruno Jeanjean. Image copyright Team Groupama.

In 2005 Bruno Peyron and his crew had to put in several gybes to round the tip of Chile and, five years on, Groupama 3 has been on (since 0500 UTC) virtually the same course, but with a lead of over 280 miles, which relates to around half a day. However, this advantage will yo-yo once again with the W'ly wind forecast to ease tonight and Franck Cammas and his men forced to put in several gybes to remain at 57°S as far as Cape Horn.

"Day broke just half an hour ago. I'm at the chart table sending emails as I wait to head up on deck with Ronan and Fred. It's a way of preparing yourself for the cold and dampness which reigns up top! Conditions are pretty much the same as yesterday: thirty knots of wind, sun and a big four to five metre swell. The boat is dropping off the back of some big waves synonymous with the Southern Ocean... Since yesterday evening we haven't had much sail aloft with two reefs in the mainsail and small gennaker. There's no need for a lot of sail because we're having to bear away to line up with the direction of the sea and be able to surf down the waves. If we try to luff up things become too brutal for the boat."

... the Horn is its freedom

Approaching Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

"The wind is set to ease as we approach the coast of Chile and the sea is also likely to become calmer. The routing is changing everyday because the situation is pretty unstable: if you let it run it seems to indicate a trajectory to the NE, towards the Falkland Islands, in headwinds! However that will all become clearer once we're round Cape Horn. In principle, there's often a weather transition once you get into the Atlantic: the winds are rarely the same from one side to the other of the Andes."

Indeed the sailing conditions will differ dramatically once they enter the Atlantic and the crew will be under a lot of pressure to extract themselves from this transition zone which, as yet, is a bit hard to visualise. However, it comes as a great source of satisfaction that, despite Groupama 3 having only a slender lead over the reference time, she is on the point of escaping the Southern Ocean unscathed and, above all, the trimaran is in perfect condition for devouring the 7,000 miles left to cover to reach Ushant. "Mar esperanza, Horno libertad".

Seas on the approach to Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

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)

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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