After three weeks sailing off Lorient designed to validate the completion of work carried out since her South African stopover in December, the maxi trimaran Groupama 3, skippered by Franck Cammas, is today beginning a stand-by period for a fresh attempt at conquering the Jules Verne Trophy.
Ready to get down to work since 29 December, the date of her return from South Africa, the technical crew from Team Groupama, assisted by employees from the Multiplast and Gépéto yard, have now completed the reinforcement work, most of which has been performed on the aft sections of the floats: "Despite the highly unfavourable weather conditions, the work necessary to repair Groupama 3 and make her reliable have been completed. The three test sails offshore of Lorient have enabled the crew to really push the boat to ensure that everything's working as it should," confides Stéphane Guilbaud, team manager.
"It doesn't happen very often that we end up working in the snow or in temperatures of less than 0°. We had to install some heaters and covers to respect the specifications inherent in working with carbon material. All this was done whilst Groupama 3 was on the water and the schedule was fairly tight so as not to risk missing a favourable weather window for setting out on the Jules Verne," adds Pierre Tissier, technical manager.
As regards the crew, although navigator Stan Honey is at home in San Francisco and Ronan Le Goff is in Brazil, the eight remaining sailors are present on site at varying degrees. Franck Cammas, Fred Le Peutrec and Loïc Le Mignon are there on a daily basis, Lionel Lemonchois, Thomas Coville, Jacques Caraës and Stève Ravussin are available for the sailing, whilst Bruno Jeanjean is monitoring the preparation of Port de Palavas Les Flots, of which he is the captain.
However, despite being geographically divided, the crew remain focused on the same objective: "We're itching to get back out to sea, to get back together again and experience the same passion for the sea and speed. You tend to forget sometimes, but our past experiences have made us stronger. We know each other well and we like sailing on Groupama 3. She's a very fine boat. It's up to us to maintain her so that we can get right the way around, without any major problems," says Le Peutrec.
As to whether or not the crew trust in her reliability, Cammas assesses the situation simply: "Groupama 3 has never been as solid as she is today. That clearly isn't a performance bond as she's a prototype, but we've done everything we can to ensure she is capable of getting us safely back to port. It's up to us to find the right pace and some acceptable weather conditions, even though it's evident that on a round the world we'll have to tackle some bad weather. This is as much the difficulty of the Jules Verne Trophy as the appeal".
What remains now is to find out if a favourable weather window will enable Groupama 3 to set off on her third attempt to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy: "We're giving ourselves until 5 February to set off. Beyond that date, we'll have to give up our stand-by for two reasons: the first is that it will become very risky to sail in the Southern Ocean, because the summer in the Southern Hemisphere will be over, resulting in violent winds, longer nights and numerous icebergs. The second reason is related to the fact that we have to kit Groupama 3 out for 'Solo' mode with a view to competing in the Route du Rhum. She will have to be ready from the month of June in order for me to train under good conditions," continues Cammas.
As was the case during the last attempt, it's Sylvain Mondon from Météo France who's in charge of carefully studying how the weather evolves. He exchanges information on a daily basis with Honey, the navigator, and Cammas. The big question now is how good a weather window is required for us to set off: "Obviously we're more demanding at the start of stand-by than at the end, given that it's difficult to predict the evolution in the weather for more than seven days. However, we're also aware that, in order to stand a chance of beating Bruno Peyron's record [50 days], we mustn't set out at any cost," concludes the skipper of Groupama 3 from his base in Lorient.
Find all the latest news from the Groupama trimarans at www.cammas-groupama.com
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