Saturday, 6 March 2010

JVT: Into the light... for Groupama 3

Groupama 3 passes Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

With Cape Horn astern, Groupama 3 is now traversing some very different weather conditions: the downwind breeze has given way to headwinds, but the giant trimaran is managing to maintain her lead. However, Franck Cammas and his men know only too well that the finish line off Ushant is still 6,800 miles away...

Groupama 3 rounded Cape Horn a long way offshore last night, at 1830 UTC on Thursday 4th March. However, one hour later, a NE'ly rotation of a lighter wind inspired Franck Cammas and his nine crew to change tack and follow the longitude of the most S'ly rock in America, before switching back on course towards Ushant and hence right to the foot of Cape Horn. The crew were then able to immortalise this high point in their round the world with a photo session as the sun dropped over the horizon...

"Last night, things were pretty light as we approached Cape Horn, which is rather unusual in this part of the world! We even came close to rounding it three times... In the end we found ourselves at the very foot of the rock, which was superb. Since then we've been able to put the pedal to the metal again on very pleasant, flat seas. In addition the wind has shifted round to the NW so we're reaching on a favourable tack. The three new cape horners (Bruno, Steve and myself) were very happy because we were allowed a piece of chocolate... The cape is pretty high and more imposing than on the photos! It makes you want to return here and cruise around the channels of Patagonia" indicated Franck Cammas at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

The midnight delight of the lighthouse keeper

Since Auckland Island to the South of New Zealand, Franck Cammas and his cape horners hadn't seen land, let alone other boats or a voice on the VHF radio...

"Ronan had a chat in Portuguese with the lighthouse keeper at Cape Horn: he told him that we'd come from Brest, but when he said we were going back to Brest as well the guy didn't really understand!" As such it was actually shortly before midnight UTC that Groupama 3 truly entered the Atlantic Ocean: "It's a very big cliff! However, we're happy to have got past it after fourteen days in strong winds and difficult seas. Even though it was superb to sail through such beautiful seven metre high Pacific waves, it's rather like a kind of deliverance now after the high speeds we had to maintain. The pressure's eased! We're going to open a bottle at the Bar des Sports this evening..." adds Steve Ravussin.

As regards the third new cape horner of the day, Bruno Jeanjean was also enthusiastic about having rounded the famous Horn: "It's an important passage in a sailor's life! Conditions were ideal for enabling us to see it up close: it's the final boundary of the Southern Ocean. It will also make the last third of this round the world course very tactical because we didn't have much of a lead on rounding the rock. We haven't taken any risks up till now and we've been lucky to have some fairly cooperative weather conditions. Right now we're really going to have to show what we're made of in terms of our skills, our manoeuvres, our time at the helm and our decisions at the chart table! It's going to be complicated and it's certainly going to be a close call at the finish, but it's going to spice up this ascent of the Atlantic."

Pressure, decompression, expression

The wind is set to remain stable over the coming hours as well as being moderate, which is a change from the lows of the Pacific. The seas are no longer heavy, the sun is out, the waves are no longer drenching the helmsman and the crew has made the most of the situation to open the hatches for a short while to get some air down below. However, the temperatures are still cold around the Fifties and Franck Cammas and his nine crew will have to wait another couple of days before they can really dry out both boat and bodies alike... After the pressure of the Pacific, it's time for the decompression of the Atlantic! Indeed the three new cape horners weren't shy in expressing their satisfaction at having reached this third cape of the Jules Verne Trophy.

However, though the giant trimaran is still making good headway to the NE, she will have to deal with headwinds over the coming days. The current programme is for Groupama 3 to pass to the East and a long way offshore of the Falkland Islands and further extend the distance to travel; a detour which could add an extra 1,100 miles to the course between Ushant and Cape Horn in relation to the wake of her predecessor, Orange 2... Some additional miles on the menu then, but this will accompany a largely sufficient average speed (nearly thirty knots) to maintain a lead of 150 miles. This news comes as a further paradox since Bruno Peyron and his crew were very fast on this ascent of the Southern Atlantic (8d 05h 36') as far as the equator, benefiting from downwind conditions as far as Brazil, while Franck Cammas and his men are sailing with slightly eased sheets in a moderate breeze... Ultimately conditions aren't proving as unfavourable as all that then for the giant trimaran, which seems to have a particular fondness for the medium wind and flat seas!

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)

WSSRC record from equator to equator

Orange 2 (2005): 33d 16h 06'

The crew and organisation aboard Groupama 3

• Watch No.1: Franck Cammas / Loïc Le Mignon / Jacques Caraës
• Watch No.2: Stève Ravussin / Thomas Coville / Bruno Jeanjean
• Watch No.3: Fred Le Peutrec / Lionel Lemonchois / Ronan Le Goff
• Off watch navigator: Stan Honey goes up on deck for manoeuvres
• One watch system on deck, one watch on stand-by ready to help manoeuvre, one watch totally resting

The record to beat

Currently held by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 since 2005 with a time of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes at an average of 17.89 knots. Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës were aboard at the time.

Cammas - Groupama

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