Three days after starting her round the world record attempt Groupama 3 is hurtling along and after averaging over 30 knots through the weekend has moved over 50nm ahead of world record pace.
With the wind set to continue to shift through Saturday evening, Cammas and his nine crew will gybe onto a tack taking them due south towards the equator.
A good night for rest on Friday and a fine day for this start to the weekend: Groupama 3 has maintained average speeds of around 28 knots and at noon on Saturday she was sailing about a hundred miles to the NW of Madeira. On Friday evening, the deficit in relation to 2005's reference time stabilised at about 30 miles, and through Saturday evening Groupama 3 turned that deficit into an advantage, and at the latest polling at 00:00 UTC on Sunday 8 November, was 74nm up on Orange II's record pace.
Speaking on Saturday, Cammas said on the midday radio link-up, "This evening we're going to gybe onto a direct course towards the equator and hence accelerate! The manoeuvre is scheduled at least 250 miles from Madeira so as to avoid the wind shadow from the archipelago's land mass. For now, we have all the sail aloft with an average of 16 knots of breeze. We're going to remain in downwind conditions out to the west to avoid further gybes and benefit from more wind. As such we'll be able to luff once the wind eases prior to the Doldrums."
Unfortunately, though the sailing conditions have become almost perfect, the skipper reported that navigator Stan Honey has been suffering from a persistent headache since the start. "The only problem is with Stan, our navigator, who has had a headache since we left... I hope it will pass: we've given him aspirin. He's managing to do his job at the chart table, but he's suffering a bit. It may be the engine fumes: we've checked there aren't any leaks... Fred and Thomas are taking care of him as they're in charge of medical matters onboard. They've been trained, they know the medication we have in the first aid kit and they have their contacts onshore if a more thorough intervention is required." We hope this shooting pain subsides but already, with more sun and the rising temperatures, the atmosphere aboard is serene, though we're having to remain on our guard against squalls.
"We're into the downwind conditions we were after so that's nice. Since we rounded Cape Finisterre, the seas have become more organised so we were able to enjoy a good night slipping along towards Madeira. The temperatures are increasing dramatically with every hour that passes... And we've been able to sleep soundly! There are still some thirty knot squalls around with the cold front which is beginning to fall away: as such you have to keep your hands on the sheets..." explained Cammas.
An Evening Gybe
In view of Bruno Peyron's trajectories in 2005 and that of Groupama 3's at the moment, there is a big discrepancy due to the different weather conditions. Orange II opted for a route taking them closer to the direct course through the Canaries, while Cammas and his men are slipping along to the west to get free of the effects of the volcanic land masses. The catamaran didn't have a very good third day at sea as a result of the islands, which entailed a large number of manoeuvres, whilst the giant trimaran will have just a single gybe to perform this weekend. With the wind gradually shifting round to the NE, Groupama 3's wake will take the form of a gull's wing outline with a very pure course taking them straight down towards the equator. The change of hemispheres is scheduled for the sixth day...
"The planned time slot for crossing the equator is around six days: it's a good average, as it was two year ago (6 days, 6 hours and 24 minutes, best passage time). However, it will all depend on how long it takes to traverse the Doldrums, which don't appear to be nasty at the moment. If everything goes to plan we should be faster after our first gybe than we were during our first attempt..."
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