Groupama 3 is on course to smash through the 50 day barrier as the giant French trimaran moves within 1,000 miles of the finish of her attempt on the round the world record.
Groupama 3's trajectory as far as the finish off the Créac'h lighthouse isn't yet precisely defined as there are a succession of fronts lying across her path, generating some big wind shifts and some considerable variations in strength. 1,000 miles from the finish line, skipper Franck Cammas (FRA) and his men still have around a day and half at sea to complete their circumnavigation of the globe.
Cammas and his men went straight through the Azores archipelago last night, which involved two gybes to get around the central islands between Terceira and Sao Miguel and tie in with the NW'ly wind shift behind a front. Groupama 3 now has a lead of two and a half days over the reference time and could claw back further hours before Ushant as Orange 2 covered just a little over 250 miles VMG during her 48th day at sea, whilst the giant trimaran is projected to rack up over 650 miles...
The wind will carry them home...
"The crew are tracking towards Ushant at the mercy of the thalwegs and the rapid variations in the wind angles associated with the fronts, which are circulating at speeds which are slightly too fast to be used over the long term. As such a second front has caught up and then overtaken Groupama 3 overnight. With the SW'ly winds temporarily dipping below 20 knots, the way has been left clear for some NW'ly breezes to move in. It's these N to NW'ly winds which will accompany Franck Cammas and his crew over the coming hours. However, given that the fronts moving across to the E can still vary in terms of both strength and direction, it's possible that the giant trimaran will be able to join up with some slightly more favourable conditions if the elements lend themselves to that..." indicated Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.
As such Groupama 3's speed over the past few hours has been fairly variable, oscillating between thirty and fifteen knots and so it is very tricky to predict the moment the finish line will be crossed. We can well imagine that the uncertainty aboard requires the utmost concentration, especially as the nights are still very dark due to the lack of moon. Right now the temperatures have become colder with occasional rain... Cammas and his nine crew should nevertheless pass a long way offshore of Cape Finisterre, which avoids a tricky section tackling the shipping and Iberian fishermen. As day breaks the watch on deck will also become easier, as will the negotiation of the waves which have been stirred up offshore of the Azores.
The Pendulum Effect
In the disturbed air flow spread all over the Atlantic, Groupama 3 carries on its rapid progress towards the finish line and substantially increases its lead over the reference time. The arrival at the Créac'h's lighthouse is still scheduled for Saturday, but the time frame remains open all day as the low pressure area could slow down the giant trimaran.
If the departure's weather window was narrow, the gates of arrival are now wide open! But 1,500 miles away from Ushant, skipper Cammas and his men are not done yet with changing conditions: by having to approach the centre of low pressure which is currently pushing the giant trimaran, the wind will become more unstable and should suddenly change from southwest to northwest. The wind will also strengthen to over thirty knots with gusts in the squalls and the crew will therefore have many manoeuvres to undertake until the entry of the Gulf of Biscay.
"The sea is short, the wind is not very stable: it does not slide that much. But the sky is very clear unlike yesterday. On Wednesday night, we got it all: the wind went from six to thirty knots! With a flood of rain on top of that. Since we went through the front, everything is going much better, from wind to sea. However it will evolve as we get closer to the center of the low pressure area," Cammas indicated during yesterday's videoconference from 12:30 with the Groupama's Race HQ in Paris in the presence of culinary presenter Jean-Luc Petitrenaud.
After 46 days at sea, the crew is starting to get impatient and although the distance between land and the sailors is reduced by great surfs; we felt during the video conference with Franck Cammas that the crew was eager to return to their family ... and to normal food!
"We're going to have a good steak because dried food looks more like dog food! Eating is not a pleasure every day: luckily we got fish dishes and sauces prepared by Philippe Rochat to get some taste ... We are sailing too fast to fish and we have only raised a small flying fish out of this world tour, so small that we returned it to the sea "
The finish meal will still wait until Saturday as, by then, the crew will have to be fit and ready for the tough, but also irregular finish: the front will force men to reduce the sail and during those nights with almost no moon, navigation is always a bit stressful, especially when they have to manoeuvre. Without counting the shipping traffic which will intensify towards the approach of Cape Finisterre and a sea state to be degraded on arrival on the Continental Plateau.
And Front Swells...
"We'll have a rough night coming as it is always difficult to touch a low pressure centre: the wind is very irregular and the sea becomes chaotic as the waves mingle with the west great swell! These phases are unpleasant and risky for the equipment. We still have 24 hours a bit tricky ... We'll have to navigate carefully, but quickly because we must not be overtaken by the low pressure or we may have to negotiate even more difficult conditions! We do not hesitate in giving a hand to the guys on watch for the manoeuvres and for sails changes, to avoid fatigue and constantly adapt to this changing wind. "
Groupama's Race HQ moves this Thursday evening in Brest to prepare the arrival of the giant trimaran which should see the Brittany coast on Saturday. Once this low pressure area is passed tomorrow night, ETA (estimated time of arrival) can be refined to one or two hours. However, so far, the opening is between 08:00 and 20:00 (French time) depending on sea conditions and the wind regularity, as if the clock of the Jules Verne Trophy shells minutes, the yo-yo effect of the weather can change the "cooee" time !
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)
Day 45 (17 March 1400 UTC): 441 miles (lead = 412 miles)
Day 46 (18 March 1300 UTC): 579 miles (lead = 828 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