Groupama 3 is approaching the Indian Ocean and the passage offshore of the Cape of Good Hope is still scheduled for this Sunday night. The favourable wind, which has been propelling Franck Cammas and his nine crew along for the past two days, is beginning to run out of breath. As such the giant trimaran is expecting to lose a little speed on Monday, prior to being hit by a N'ly gale...
The situation has been beginning to get increasingly manageable since Franck Cammas and his men hoisted the heavy airs gennaker around 1100 hours UTC, with one reef in the mainsail. In fact, the cold front that Groupama 3 hooked onto 48 hours ago hasn't managed to get past them. Indeed, because its progress has been slowing since 1200 UTC, the breeze is easing progressively without necessarily proving disadvantageous to the giant trimaran, which should be able to spend the rest of today at average speeds bordering thirty knots. Navigator Stan Honey, in collaboration with Sylvain Mondon from Météo France, is reflecting on the best trajectory in which to enter into the next weather system: a stiff N'ly wind blowing across from the Mozambique Channel...
"We've been hammering along for the past couple of days! It's not been very comfortable with a very jerky motion. The boat is in perfect condition, as are we... It is grey though, with little visibility and no moon at night. It's been quite difficult to helm well when you can't see anything: you really have to be on the alert, have a good feel for the trimaran so you know the best place to position her and avoid falling into a hole at over thirty-five knots, or even forty! It's both a subtle and an exciting exercise. It's a luxury to be on a boat which gives you such a thrill and such pleasure..."
indicated Thomas Coville at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.
Harsh conditions on Monday evening...
Positioned at 41° South for the past couple of days, Groupama 3 is set to progressively bend her course towards the ESE as the N'ly breeze kicks in on Monday evening. Such a descent is positive for two reasons: First of all the angle of attack at 100° to the wind will enable the trimaran to maintain a high speed, even though the sea state is likely to deteriorate considerably. Above all though, by diving further South, Franck Cammas and his men will be shortening their course around the Antarctic. Indeed, with the Earth being round (or almost), there is less distance to be travelled the more the boat sails in the high latitudes...
"The Forties are never the same twice, but the Indian Ocean remains the worst of the three. The period ahead of us as far as Cape Leeuwin is the one I fear the most! The sea state is often very chaotic and this puts boat structures under a lot of stress: you have to prepare for it well, stay concentrated, protect yourself, eat and sleep as soon as you can. For now we haven't dipped into our physical capital: we're all really taking care of each other. Crewed sailing involves having respect for yourself and others and everyone has to be in good shape to go fast... We always marvel at sailing in the Southern Ocean though. It's the seventh time I've come here and it has a pureness and an untouched quality which is fascinating. For the time being the entry hasn't been harsh..."
The dwindling deficit...
Even though the trajectory has proved to be particularly pure over the past two days, there have been a series of manoeuvres aboard Groupama 3 to maintain this high speed. And there are likely to be even more over the coming hours with the forecast change in the weather for the start of the week. Fortunately the outside temperature and that of the water (13°C) remain fairly mild, which is always more pleasant, thanks to the N'ly winds dropping down from Africa...
"We only have a few hours deficit on the reference time, but we're not thinking about it too much: we're concentrating on making as fast a headway as possible. We'll have to drop down further South after a brief spell of slightly lighter conditions. After that though, there's going to be nearly 40 knots of N'ly so things will get harder! Logically we should be able to slip along nicely as far as Cape Leeuwin... If we get through this harsh section, beam onto the wind, tomorrow, we'll be in a good position to take on the Indian Ocean."
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)
Day 12 (12 February 1400 UTC): 247 miles (deficit = 385 miles)
Day 13 (13 February 1400 UTC): 719 miles (deficit = 347 miles)
Day 14 (14 February 1400 UTC): 680 miles (deficit = 288 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