After 5 days, 15 hours and 23 minutes, Groupama 3 has crossed the equator, establishing a new reference time over this stretch of the course between Ushant and the line marking the switch of hemispheres.
Now sailing close-hauled in a SE'ly tradewind, Franck Cammas (FRA) and his nine crew are making headway at an average speed of 20 knots, heading due South...
In the middle of last night, the crew was able to observe that the clouds and squalls were astern of Groupama 3: the clouds were disappearing from the sky, the stars were out, and a crescent of moon was dimly lighting a clear horizon. They'd ploughed through the Doldrums at an average of over 15 knots, which remains an amazing performance, albeit a predictable one in light of Sylvain Mondon's forecasts from Météo France. Cammas and his men certainly weren't sparing of their efforts though as they tried to extract themselves as quickly as possible from this Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, on a mission to drive down towards the equator, which they crossed at 07:13 UTC. As such, they have a lead of 1 day, 11 hours, 33 minutes over the Jules Verne Trophy record time set back in 2005 by Orange 2.
"We crossed the equator at first light and I was on watch with Franck [Cammas] and Loïc [Le Mignon]. We ticked off the miles on the GPS to savour the exact moment of passage: it's always a slightly magical moment when you switch from one hemisphere to another... We've done rather better than we could have anticipated on leaving Ushant so it seems that we've had more wind than forecast. We've improved on the reference time by around fifteen hours: it augurs well to be back in contention in this way with a boat in tip-top condition... You can sense that Groupama 3 has been very well prepared. It's really very agreeable to see the degree of work which all the technical team have put into the boat. Today we're reaping the benefits of that and it's enabling us to make headway in some great conditions," indicated Jacques Caraës during the lunchtime radio link-up.
Hooking Onto The Front
The 10 men on Groupama 3 have already achieved 3,235 miles at an average of 24 knots when crossing the equator. And if all goes to plan, at the latitude of Recife (Brazil), scheduled for this Wednesday evening, the wind is set to shift round to the E, which will enable the trimaran to make headway beam onto the wind and set the speedo reeling at an average of over 25 knots. As such the daylight hours of Thursday promise to be pretty quick because, as the giant trimaran gains grounds to the South, the breeze will clock round to the NE, then N level with Salvador de Bahia. And at this latitude, a stormy zone currently in the process of forming will generate a series of little depressions, which will push the Saint Helena High over towards Africa: a corridor of steady downwind condition should then form towards the Cape of Good Hope...
"We're now into the SE'ly tradewinds, which are proving to be fairly steady since they're pumping out 20 to 25 knots of breeze: we're living on a tilt, close on the wind and it's not the most pleasant point of sail on a trimaran. The sky has cleared, with some good heat, but it's not very comfortable: we're going to have to wait a few more hours before we begin to open the sails a little, ease the sheets and accelerate... We've got a fairly short chop with lots of spray so we're having to hold on! We don't have too many manoeuvres to perform at the moment though; simply hoisting the mainsail or putting in a reef from time to time, according to the strength of the tradewinds. It'll be a whole different ball game in a week's time in the cold... We're hoping to hook onto a front near Brazil in order to rapidly drop down towards the Cape of Good Hope, which is why we can't afford to hang about as a few hours could make all the difference..."
Indeed, the timing is tight for hooking onto the cold front, which would enable them to curve a course taking them directly towards the Indian Ocean. The Cape of Good Hope is a little over 3,500 miles ahead on a direct course. If Groupama 3 maintains the average speed of 24 knots which she's been making since the start, it will take between seven and nine days to reach it...
The crew and organisation aboard Groupama 3
• Watch No.1: Franck Cammas and Loïc Le Mignon and Jacques Caraës
• Watch No.2: Stève Ravussin and Thomas Coville and Bruno Jeanjean
• Watch No.3: Fred Le Peutrec and Lionel Lemonchois and Ronan Le Goff
• Off watch navigator: Stan Honey goes up on deck for manoeuvres
• Each watch lasts three hours
• One watch system on deck, one watch on stand-by ready to help manoeuvre, one watch totally resting
The Record To Beat
Record: Round the World, non stop, crewed, any type
Yacht: Orange II
Skipper: Bruno Peyron (FRA)
Dates: January-March 2005
Elapsed time: 50 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes and 4 seconds
Distance: 21,760 nautical miles
Average Speed: 17.89 knots