At dawn on its eighth day at sea, Groupama 3 has increased its lead over the reference round the world time to 650 miles and continues to accelerate.
Fine seas, blue skies, steady wind: the tradewinds generated by the Saint Helena High are much in evidence and are filling in as Franck CAMMAS (FRA) and his nine crew gain southing.
The icing on the cake is that the centre of the high pressure is compressed over Africa and, this breeze which had already backed to the east yesterday, is now gradually shifting to the NE... This rotation will become increasingly favourable then for Groupama 3, which will gently be able to track to the SW, shortening its trajectory towards the Indian Ocean...
Such is the way the weather situation is shaping up over the next few days, with the arrival of an active low from Argentina slipping along under South Africa and enabling Groupama 3 to adopt a curved route parallel to that of Orange II four years ago. This same route enabled a large amount of time to be saved since the catamaran took just 7 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes to sail from the equator to the Cape of Good Hope.
Already this Friday, Groupama 3 is extremely quick: 685 miles of the past 24 hours at an average speed of 28.5 knots and a lead which has stretched to 655 mile, which is keeping spirits high.
Looking beyond the next 24 hours, the crew also have good reason to be feeling positive as Sylvain MONDON (Météo France), onshore weather expert for Groupama 3, explained, "The Saint Helena High [is] being pushed eastwards by a fairly active low, which is shifting across the South Atlantic: the tradewinds are orientated more to the east as they fill in. The situation will carry Groupama 3 to the roaring 40s fairly rapidly... There is also a corridor of air which gives us some cause to hope for an entry into the Indian Ocean at the start of next week! We have been pretty surprised in the light airs as regards the trimaran's performance: it is capable of going twice as fast as the strength of the wind!"
Skirting Round The Edge
The connection with the tradewinds of the Saint Helena High were timed to perfection on Thursday lunchtime, and after a reduction in the pace due to the Doldrums and the passage of the equator, Groupama 3 has kicked up her heels again and is making nearly 30 knots! The objective of CAMMAS and his men now is to quickly make southing to catch hold of an Argentinean low...
The north-south transfer has gone rather well for the giant trimaran. CAMMAS' crew didn't waste any time after the Doldrums, accelerating again at 4° South to over 20 knots in around 15 knots of SE'ly. However, the change was even more radical from sunrise (7° South), when the breeze backed favourably to the east. This enabled Groupama 3 to sail with the wind on the beam (and no longer upwind) with an added intensity to the breeze, which rose to 18-20 knots. All of a sudden, the average speeds surpassed 30 knots and their lead over Orange II shot up.
"In two days, we shall be quite far South to track down a front, which is shifting to the west and will enable us to "take the corner" and close on the Cape of Good Hope. It's almost an ideal scenario even though we'll have to go quite far south, and therefore a little outside Orange II's course. We are lucky to have a front, which will traverse the Saint Helena High level with Tristan da Cunha,"
recounted CAMMAS at the noon radio session yesterday.
He continued, "We still have some leeway today to aim for the most favourable point to hook onto the low, slipping along nicely for most of the time. The moment where we hoist the gennaker to adjust the place where we will encounter the Argentinean front will be important. We're handling Groupama 3 with kid gloves by lifting the foil a little and raising the daggerboard. Since the passage of the equator, there haven't been too many manoeuvres and the crew has been able to rest, do a bit of washing, clean up the gear and tidy up a bit..."
A special radio session on Thursday was an opportunity to see firsthand the living and sailing conditions of the crew on Groupama 3, thanks to a live broadcast of images films by Jacques CARAËS and Steve RAVUSSIN. It was also a chance for the whole shore crew from the Lorient Base to come to Paris and see the boat after the passage of the equator, as she negotiated a tropical squall.
The crew showed themselves to be in great shape despite the equatorial heat and don't seem to have suffered from the repeated manoeuvres they've had to make to get to the equator. Above all else, the increase in wind under a squall clearly showed how Groupama 3 was able to accelerate effortlessly on very manageable seas and that the boat wasn't stressed after a week's sailing.
Indeed, navigator Yves PARLIER will be able to bend in the trimaran's trajectory as they make southing. In fact, the boat will follow the edge of the Saint Helena High, from its NW to its SE on a single regular curve to round the centre of the high pressure. Bruno PEYRON (FRA) and his crew took 7 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes to cover the 3,500 miles separating the equator from the Cape of Good Hope: will Franck CAMMAS and his nine men benefit from similar conditions so as not to lose too much time?
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