On the 44th day at sea, Groupama 3 has made up the ground on Orange 2 very quickly and is now ahead of the reference time.
However skipper Franck Cammas (FRA) and his men have yet to traverse a ridge of high pressure. At that point the giant trimaran is bound to slow down in the lighter breeze, where it will be necessary to put in a gybe before hooking onto a low which will propel her as far as Brest.
Twenty-two days behind, twenty-two days in front! This round the world course, now less than 2,500 miles from completion, marks an important phase: the reversal of the trend. Amassing a lead of up to 620 miles (sixth day) and a 492 mile deficit (40th day) off Brazil, Groupama 3's progress has often been thwarted by rather unfavourable weather. This Tuesday comes as a great relief then for all the crew aboard Groupama 3, who can now view the next stage of the programme in a slightly more relaxed manner and with more clarity, as the forecasts are encouraging for this Atlantic sprint.
"We have some good conditions, we're going fast and there's a great atmosphere on deck, but we're going to have a battle on our hands with the ridge of high pressure that's lying across our path. Nevertheless, we can really smell home now! We've been waiting for this moment to get ahead again... At times recently, it's been possible to read a bit of doubt on our faces. However, our routing was right and we're beginning to make gains now. We remain humble because we've still got a way to go yet and there may be some obstacles across our path, such as containers or the like... Nevertheless, the strategy that's taking shape is giving the crew something to be enthusiastic about! In principle, we shouldn't be lacking in wind at the end and we're still envisaging a finish this weekend" indicated Jacques Caraës during the 11:30 UTC radio session with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.
In Time For Spring...
Suspense continues to reign today though as the completion of the course will depend on the time Groupama 3 takes to traverse the ridge of high pressure: if the wind is greater than ten knots, the giant trimaran could hook onto a front the minute she escapes the high pressure. However, if the zone of high pressure shifts across at the same time as the boat, the time frame may be considerably longer and Franck Cammas and his men might have to bide their time until they can hook onto another disturbed system... The least favourable routing gives an arrival on Sunday morning.
"The last few days will be pretty tough and we're going to have to stay on our guard, because we've certainly accumulated some fatigue along the way. Some of us have lost weight and all of us have weaker legs due to not moving round much aboard Groupama 3. We've had a balanced diet, even though it's not excellent everyday! The boat has also lost weight and you can feel that she's lighter... Five years ago on Orange 2, we weren't spoilt after the equator with a very W'ly course and two ridges of high pressure to traverse. We didn't really get going again until we were level with the Azores. We've certainly got an advantage today, especially as Groupama 3 has a superior speed capacity when sailing close-hauled. We're also driving the boat a bit harder because Bruno Peyron had a bit more room for manoeuvre to beat the Jules Verne Trophy in 2005: he always remained below the maxi-catamaran's potential."
The Final High Pressure Trap
"A ridge of high pressure is a barrier of light winds. However, that's not the only difficulty before the finish as there will be some fronts to negotiate. Groupama 3 has been well positioned since exiting the Doldrums, by shifting across to 40°W. Indeed the trajectory will be able to bend northwards and as the wind eases, the giant trimaran will accompany the rotation to the SE, then the S, gybing once the breeze has clocked round to the SW. The axis of the ridge of high pressure, where the winds are lighter, should be reached early this Tuesday evening. The zone which contains wind of less than fifteen knots stretches around 400 miles, with a particularly sensitive phase of around fifty miles with just ten knots or so of breeze..." says Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.
Once through this tricky zone, the wind is set to pick up considerably from Wednesday afternoon: an initial low is passing across the Azores to join up with Europe, whilst a second is due to follow suit. As such the wind will be established over this final section of the course through until the middle of next week, which means we can be fairly optimistic about the finish off Ushant. "The probabilities on a round the world in winter indicate that the strongest winds are in the Bay of Biscay: there will be waves of up to four to five metres and 40 knots of breeze or more..."
Groupama 3's log
(departure on 31 January at 13:55:53 UTC)
Day 1 (1 February 1400 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2 (2 February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3 (3 February 1400 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4 (4 February 1400 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)
Day 15 (15 February 1400 UTC): 651 miles (deficit = 203 miles)
Day 16 (16 February 1400 UTC): 322 miles (deficit = 376 miles)
Day 17 (17 February 1400 UTC): 425 miles (deficit = 338 miles)
Day 18 (18 February 1400 UTC): 362 miles (deficit = 433 miles)
Day 19 (19 February 1400 UTC): 726 miles (deficit = 234 miles)
Day 20 (20 February 1400 UTC): 672 miles (deficit = 211 miles)
Day 21 (21 February 1400 UTC): 584 miles (deficit = 124 miles)
Day 22 (22 February 1400 UTC): 607 miles (deficit = 137 miles)
Day 23 (23 February 1400 UTC): 702 miles (lead = 60 miles)
Day 24 (24 February 1400 UTC): 638 miles (lead = 208 miles)
Day 25 (25 February 1400 UTC): 712 miles (lead = 371 miles)
Day 26 (26 February 1400 UTC): 687 miles (lead = 430 miles)
Day 27 (27 February 1400 UTC): 797 miles (lead = 560 miles)
Day 27 (27 February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 517 miles)
Day 29 (1 March 1400 UTC): 434 miles (lead = 268 miles)
Day 30 (2 March 1400 UTC): 575 miles (lead = 184 miles)
Day 31 (3 March 1400 UTC): 617 miles (lead = 291 miles)
Day 32 (4 March 1400 UTC): 492 miles (lead = 248 miles)
Day 33 (5 March 1400 UTC): 445 miles (lead = 150 miles)
Day 34 (6 March 1400 UTC): 461 miles (lead = 58 miles)
Day 35 (7 March 1400 UTC): 382 miles (deficit = 100 miles)
Day 36 (8 March 1400 UTC): 317 miles (deficit = 326 miles)
Day 37 (9 March 1400 UTC): 506 miles (deficit = 331 miles)
Day 38 (10 March 1400 UTC): 321 miles (deficit = 384 miles)
Day 39 (11 March 1400 UTC): 255 miles (deficit = 309 miles)
Day 40 (12 March 1400 UTC): 288 miles (deficit = 473 miles)
Day 41 (13 March 1400 UTC): 503 miles (deficit = 483 miles)
Day 42 (14 March 1400 UTC): 445 miles (deficit = 403 miles)
Day 43 (15 March 1400 UTC): 482 miles (deficit = 216 miles)
Day 44 (16 March 1400 UTC): 401 miles (lead = 72 miles)
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
Get the latest updates from Groupama 3 at www.cammas-groupama.com