The zone of high pressure, which has slipped under the African continent is in the process of calming the seas generated by a very large low, which passed to the south of Prince Edward Island yesterday. The nasty southerly swell, which was kicking up waves abeam of the giant trimaran, is decreasing in size all the time and the crew will find conditions more manageable and the sailing more pleasant. However, in return for the calming seas, the 20-25 southerly breeze is beginning to ease as it backs to the SE, which will force Groupama 3 to sail upwind for a few hours.
As a result this Friday shouldn't be an excellent day in terms of progress across the water but the current round the world record holder, Orange II, wasn't very fast over this stage of the course either.
The weekend should enable the Groupama 3 crew to get back onto the record pace again as a new low will generate southwesterly breezes. On a southeasterly heading, Groupama 3 will be able to pick up its skirts and make an average of nearly 30 knots over a messy but manageable sea. Most importantly, CAMMAS and his crew will slip along towards the Kerguelen Islands and therefore reduce the amount of ground to cover on their loop of the Antarctic by sailing along 45-50° south rather than 40° south as they are today...
Despite the 'light patch' experienced by the crew, and the loss of miles to Orange II, at the video-conference on Thursday, CAMMAS appeared untroubled, explaining that the 'scar' was going to close up again in half a day...
"The weather's not very fine and there are shifty winds and messy seas. We have seven metre waves, but they're short and it's difficult to know what sail to hoist as the breeze is changing very quickly, passing from 20 to 28 knots: we'll have to limit the impact as much as we can! In this way the boat goes very fast at times, making over 30 knots, and then comes to a stop sharply: it's not easy to control it..." he said.
A Mass Of Swells...
During round the world voyages under sail, in a race or on a record attempt, in solo or crewed configuration, in a monohull or a multihull, the method of sailing has deeply changed. First off, the boats go faster, then because the sailors are more experienced and finally because the weather forecasts are considerably more reliable and safe over longer periods... Gérard PETIPAS (FRA), navigator to Eric TABARLY (FRA), recalled during the radio session that: "a compass, a knife and a barometer, that's what we had to predict the weather..."
It was the same scenario for Eric LOIZEAU (FRA), skipper of Gauloises II during the crewed round the world race in 1977-78, who only had isobaric charts received via fax... Times have changed with digital files today, which enable not just the forecasting of the strength and direction of the wind over the next five or even seven days, but also the sea state.
"Multihulls brake in the first instance due to the sea state: we can easily reach thirty knots but as soon as you have waves, you have to reduce the sail area to limit the speed and the result is that you end up with more apparent wind. It's this wind, which is dangerous when it varies rapidly, generating impact with the sea and making the boat go from 25 to15 knots in a few seconds... This is all the more impressive on a trimaran, because with its three hulls, there is still one wave, which hits the windward float very hard! And the vibrations of this resound throughout the platform. The blows are pretty impressive..." stated the skipper of Groupama 3.
Now, when a front generating a strong northwesterly breeze is succeeded by a westerly wind and then a southerly storm, these three trains of waves form an extremely violent pyramid-shaped chaos, which is above all highly unpredictable. This mass of swells, which have mixed together, create a fearsome undulating disharmony for the structures of multihulls, not to mention the sailors who bathe in the spray they kick up, smashing against the bulkheads down below and vibrating from head to toe! There can be nothing worse than a trimaran seasoned by shaker sauce... Fortunately, multihulls have the ability to accelerate to free themselves of the biggest seas in order to find some more high performance sailing conditions... However, for CAMMAS and his nine crew, they'll have to wait until the start of the weekend for that!
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