By leaving the Atlantic Ocean, Groupama 3 has already covered 7,200 miles, or over quarter of the Jules Verne Trophy course, the complete loop amounting to 24,530 miles according to the optimal route possible. In conserving a lead of 23 hours and 30 minutes over Orange II's reference time at the passage of Cape Agulhas, the outer edge of South Africa, Franck CAMMAS (FRA) and his men demonstrated that they are well on the pace of a Jules Verne Trophy attempt of below 50 days.
Despite the weather conditions being trickier to negotiate than three years ago, Groupama 3 hasn't lost any time on the descent of the South Atlantic and is therefore keeping its hopes alive of beating the outright round the world record. The crew has nevertheless had to contend with numerous gybes and has racked up more miles than its predecessor, yet still clawed back a lead of 2 hours and 57 minutes on this section of the course between the equator and South Africa.
"If all goes to plan, we should improve on Orange II's time on entering the Indian Ocean, but it'll be a close run thing! We've covered a lot more ground than Bruno PEYRON in the Southern Atlantic, and heading into the north at the start of the Indian Ocean doesn't set us up particularly well for the next stage. The maxi catamaran sailed a superb course between the equator and South Africa, but we are still inside the time of the Jules Verne Trophy... It's reassuring! Of course we're disappointed by the weather, which is complicating things, but this intermediary time warms your heart a little..." said CAMMAS at the radio session on Wednesday lunchtime.
Enormous Seas In The Indian Ocean
Indeed, the difficulty lies in the next three days as Groupama 3 won't be able to adopt a normal course. Due to a large low, which is picking its away along under the bows of the giant trimaran, generating very big to enormous seas, with 12 metre waves, CAMMAS and his nine crew having to adopt a more northerly course as a result. Added to this, they will have to sail 700 miles further! However, to avoid these building seas, they're going to have to lay low for a while...
"We shouldn't have to reduce the sail area too much as we don't want the calm conditions to catch up with us, but if things become too bad, we'll bear way a little more... The wind won't be too strong over the coming days, at around 25 knots, but 500 miles to the South of us, there is 70 knots with a big swell, which may well cause us some bother from tomorrow morning. We should find a more manageable ocean from tomorrow evening, which will enable us to make easting again [rather than a course to the NE]... But that's the name of the game: Orange II also lost some time over certain periods," explained CAMMAS.
Slight Bulkhead Damage
In addition, the skipper of Groupama 3 indicated that a bulkhead had come unstuck a week ago: "We are in a zone with five metre waves, which are well orientated but then, within the space of ten degrees, it can be a different ball game... Due to the impact, which causes waves of vibrations from forward to aft, everything is being shaken about down below, the men and the structure alike. A bulkhead came away in this manner a week ago: we have laminated it but we need to intervene again... This messed up the organization aboard a little since I'm doing the navigation and Yves Parlier is taking care of the work: it's not easy. We eased off the pace on the helm a bit too much, but that hasn't changed much as regards our course and our average speed. The worst point is going to be in 24 hours time once the seas are more abeam of us... We look forward to coming out the other side!"
Stéphane GUILBAUD, team manager of the trimaran, explains the situation: "The part in question is a central bulkhead on the aft beam, referred to as the C-0 because it's right in the middle of the beam. For the time being, this slight damage isn't causing a problem and the crew is at the end of the repairs. The first part of the intervention consisted of laying a sheet of carbon on the area the day after the incident... The cause of the problem stems from the fact that it's not solid enough in light of the stresses it absorbs. The technical team had already encountered this problem on Groupama 2, without it preventing the trimaran from completing its races."
The sailing conditions aren't going to be very pleasant then over the next 48 hours...
Speaking about the weather for the circumnavigation, Sylvain MONDON, from Météo France, said, "The week has gone by since the equator in an atmosphere of southeasterly tradewinds, backing to the east, then a stormy low came in from Brazil, pushing the Saint Helena High towards South Africa. This has enabled Groupama 3 to have a fairly similar trajectory to that of Orange II by taking a bit of a short cut in the Southern Atlantic. Unfortunately, the wind angle didn't enable the trimaran to make it in a single tack and instead several realignments were necessary under the Saint Helena High."
He continued, "In relation to the logical and usual courses on a circumnavigation, the trimaran won't have the opportunity to drop between 45° and 50° south due to very big seas: 500 miles to its SE, there are waves of 12 metres! This unsettled zone is forcing the boat onto a fairly northerly course to keep its distance from these waves, but it will still be sailing with 6-7 metre waves over the next 24 hours... In the middle of the Indian Ocean, to the North of the Kerguelen Islands, it will end up in downwind breezes after making headway with the southerly wind on the beam. The extended course over the Indian Ocean can represent 700 to 800 miles between a course along 40° and one along 45° South, which equates to a good day's sailing!"
The Record To Beat
Record: Round the World, non-stop
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 nm
Average Speed: 17.89 knots
Groupama 3 - www.cammas-groupama.com
World Sailing Speed Record Council - www.sailspeedrecords.com