Snaking between cells of high pressure, Groupama 3 is seeking to avoid being caught up in the anticyclones, which are positioned way down South... Franck Cammas and his men know that they have to endure another 24 difficult hours before they can hook onto a steadier, powerful W'ly breeze.
In the atmosphere there are plateaus and craters, anticyclones and depressions... Between the two are cols and valleys. Currently approaching the Roaring Forties, from Friday morning Franck Cammas and his nine crew are likely to reach some very light, problematic conditions, however the analysis remains very positive. Indeed Groupama 3 always manages to maintain sufficient speed to get through the tricky zones before the small zones of high pressure succeed in catching up with her.
"We should find wind ahead of our bows! I hope we've escaped the lightest breezes now... This Thursday morning, we weren't even making an average of six knots, with less than three knots of breeze. Fortunately we're in the process of leaving these zones, which are closing up behind us. The end of the tunnel lies at 37° South! However, in a few days time, we'll have enough wind to get the boat making good headway... And it's beginning to cool off. There are already some albatrosses in the sky, the sun is shining and the sea is the purest of blues. However, we're constantly having to trim the sails in order to escape these zones of high pressure"
explained Franck Cammas to French celebrity Yann Queffélec, during the 1130 UTC videoconference at Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.
Hamlet or Othello?
To be or not to be? This is a question Franck Cammas is asking right now. This is not in metaphysical terms but rather geographical ones, as current sailing in the calms of the Forties is proving worthy of the surrealism of the Doldrums... However the Southern summer can also be temperamental and the extension of this high pressure across the whole of the Southern Atlantic is nothing unusual. The difficulty for navigator Stan Honey and onshore router Sylvain Mondon, lies in locating a coherent route, keeping the risk of coming to a complete standstill at a minimum.
"We had to make a decision two days ago: we opted for the riskier route, that's to say traversing zones of flat calm, and we're doing better than if we'd taken a big detour to get around them! We're fairly happy with our decision because we've gone faster than the wind holes, which are forming behind us..."
As such remaining on a trajectory close to that of the round the world record holder was quite logical, and on a Jules Verne Trophy, it is an established fact that leads or deficits fluctuate according to the weather data: the main thing is to maintain your trust in your boat, in your crew and in the weather forecasts, which run for another month, on as far as Ushant!
Balancing out time
"We knew that our start was good and that the next stage wasn't easy: ultimately we'll have less of a deficit on rounding the Cape of Good Hope than we envisaged in Ushant! This only represents a quarter of the Jules Verne Trophy. Even though we're not in a good position for this entry into the Indian Ocean, the latter is shaping up to be favourable... The boat hasn't suffered and we should only have a deficit of between five and eight hours on the reference time."
To follow, as soon as the giant trimaran has caught up with the low moving along 60° South (sic!), the tempo will dramatically increase and Franck Cammas and his men are likely to be just as fast as Bruno Peyron and his crew along this section of the course. As such the deficit amassed over the past few hours will stabilise and the passage around the Cape of Good Hope just a few hours behind the reference time won't prove too disadvantageous!
Groupama 3's log (departure on 31 January at 13h 55' 53'' UTC)
Day 1 (1 February 14:00 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2 (2 February 14:00 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3 (3 February 14:00 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4 (4 February 14:00 UTC): 565 miles (lead = 245 miles)
Day 5 (5 February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 562 miles)
Day 6 (6 February 1400 UTC): 456 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Day 7 (7 February 1400 UTC): 430 miles (lead = 539 miles)
Day 8 (8 February 1400 UTC): 305 miles (lead = 456 miles)
Day 9 (9 February 1400 UTC): 436 miles (lead = 393 miles)
Day 10 (10 February 1400 UTC): 355 miles (lead = 272 miles)
Day 11 (11 February 1400 UTC): 267 miles (deficit = 30 miles)
Best passage time to the equator from Ushant
Groupama 3: 5d 15h 23' (November 2009)
Jules Verne Trophy reference time to the equator
Orange 2: 7d 02h 56' (January 2005)
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