Groupama 3 - In the kick of the doldrums!

Groupama 3 - Jules Verne Trophy attempt 2008
Whilst Groupama 3 was skirting round the island of Santo Antao in the Cape Verdes this Monday lunchtime, the tradewinds had finally kicked in, bumping up their speed. Franck Cammas and his crew were focussed on heading to the SW prior to diving down towards the `unmissable' Doldrums. This Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone situated between 5° and 3° North, are not forecast to be very active, but will still be tricky to negotiate between the calms and squalls.

Groupama 3 has found its wings once more. Under gennaker in fine NE'ly tradewinds of 18 knots on slight seas, the giant trimaran was able to rack up average speeds of over 27 knots! This fifth day at sea has born witness to a cracking pace then, particularly as the equator was no more than 950 miles ahead of them this Monday lunchtime.

'We are working on the long term scenario: for the passage of the Doldrums we have scheduled a long tack to the SW prior to finally gybing due South afterwards. We are set to pass the equator prior to sunrise on 30th January.

We're going to hit some stronger tradewinds this Monday afternoon and we will probably save more time over Orange II. It looks like things are shaping up nicely for the Southern hemisphere too!' detailed Franck Proffit, at the radio session broadcast live on the Groupama website every lunchtime.

The end of the weekend on the other hand was less positive with 'only' 443 miles on the speedo, that is less than a twenty knot average on Sunday. This reduced pace was due to a stormy disturbance to the South of the Canaries, which caused the wind to alternate between 7 and 30 knots, preventing a very pure trajectory. Indeed Groupama 3 had to gybe twice in the middle of the day to shift over to the West so as to round Cape Verde. A double manoeuvre, which wasn't enough since at daybreak, the crew were forced to make headway at 90° to their normal heading in order to round Santo Antao, the island furthest to the NW of the archipelago. 'We are in fine, relatively flat tradewind seas, with not a cloud on the horizon. This morning we discovered the island of Santo Antao at sunrise: superb!' exclaimed Franck Cammas at noon this Monday.

Groupama 3 set off from Ouessant island - Jules Verne Trophy attempt 2008
This two hour tack to avoid the wind shadow of Tope de Coroa (1,979 m) was followed by another spot of repositioning two hours later so as to hunt down this infamous 28° West, the entry point for traversing the Doldrums. It wasn't until the end of the afternoon that Franck Cammas and his nine crew engaged in a final gybe onto a direct course, due South to the equator.

In this way Groupama 3 will remain on port tack for a fair while since on the other side of the equator some regular SE'ly and then E'ly winds await them.

Today's interview - Franck Proffit, Head of Operations, watch leader-helm on Groupama 3: 'I've just finished my watch and Steve Ravussin is replacing me on deck. It was necessary to manage the zones without wind, which was fairly tricky with the zigzag trajectories, but we haven't come out of it too badly.

We had a very good wind rotation to the left, which enabled us to get clear of Cape Verde and now we're making 28 knots: the situation is rather positive. The sailing conditions are excellent and we should make it to the equator in less than six days. Above all though, we have fine seas, which aren't putting any pressure on the boat at all.

'We're really getting on well together and the organisation onboard is very good: everyone got into their watch rhythm from the start at Ushant! You have to keep your 13m² clean and everyone is doing their bit. We're keeping an eye on the gear and the maintenance is a daily routine: everyone has a role aboard whether it be sails, rigging or sheets...

'We've only been looking at Orange II's course for the past 24 hours: Yves Parlier is monitoring it from his chart table and it gives us a fifteen hour lead this Monday lunchtime. The important thing though is to have a good weather strategy on the medium term: for the passage of Cape Verde we were expecting a little more pressure before making the archipelago, but we weren't able to slip along quite as we'd anticipated. We had to gybe to avoid the buffer zone dished up behind the island.'

Set off from Ouessant island - Jules Verne Trophy attempt 2008

Time to beat: 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes and 4 seconds - Average speed: 17.89 knots
Record held by Bruno Peyron, aboard the maxi catamaran Orange II, since March 2005.
Time to beat from Ushant to the equator: 6 days 11 hours 26 minutes (Geronimo in 2003)

Today's figures
Start on 24th January at 0750'17' UT
Arrival before Saturday 15th March 2008 at 00h09'21' UT

Day 4 at 07 45 UT
*Distance covered on the water in 24 hours: 442.7 miles
*Distance covered since the start: 2,055 miles
*Distance to the finish: 22,475 miles
*Average on day 4: 18.45 knots
*Average since the start: 21.4 noeuds
*Lead in relation to Orange II: 242.7miles

NB: The WSSRC round the world is defined as corresponding with the circumference of the Earth to the equator, or 21,600 miles. However, this is the shortest route and not achievable (Equatorial Doldrums, Antarctica...): in order to be closer to reality, the positions carried out by the latest round the world attempts (Orange II, IDEC, Groupama 3...) are based on an optimised theoretical course of 24,530 miles.

Find a detailed cartography at: