Groupama 3 - Skirting round the edge

Groupama 3 - Jules Verne Trophy 2008 attempt
The connection with the tradewinds of the Saint Helena High were timed to perfection this Thursday lunchtime, and after a reduction in the pace due to the Doldrums and the passage of the equator, Groupama 3 has kicked up her heels again and is making nearly thirty knots! The objective of Franck Cammas and his men now is to quickly make southing to catch hold of an Argentinean low.

The North-South transfer has gone rather well for the giant trimaran. Franck Cammas' crew didn't waste any time after the Doldrums, accelerating again at 4° South to over twenty knots in around fifteen knots of SE'ly. However, the change was even more radical from sunrise (7° South), when the breeze backed favourably to the East. This enabled Groupama 3 to sail with the wind on the beam (and no longer upwind) with an added intensity to the breeze, which rose to 18-20 knots. All of a sudden, the average speeds surpassed thirty knots and their lead over Orange II has shot up to over 500 miles... Given that the weather conditions are forecast to be stable for at least two days, we can expect a lot of headway to be marked out on the map as we approach the second weekend of sailing!

'In two days, we shall be quite far South to track down a front, which is shifting to the West and will enable us to 'take the corner' and close on the Cape of Good Hope. It's almost an ideal scenario even though we'll have to go quite far South, and therefore a little outside Orange II's course. We are lucky to have a front, which will traverse the Saint Helena High level with Tristan da Cunha.

We still have some leeway today to aim for the most favourable point to hook onto the low, slipping along nicely for most of the time. The moment where we hoist the gennaker to adjust the place where we will encounter the Argentinean front will be important. We're handling Groupama 3 with kid gloves by lifting the foil a little and raising the daggerboard. Since the passage of the equator, there haven't been too many manoeuvres and the crew has been able to rest, do a bit of washing, clean up the gear and tidy up a bit...' recounted Franck Cammas at the noon radio session.

This special Thursday radio session was the opportunity to visualise the living and sailing conditions of the crew on Groupama 3, thanks to a live broadcast of images films by Jacques Caraës and Steve Ravussin. It was also a chance for the whole shore crew from the Lorient Base to come to Paris and see the boat after the passage of the equator, as she negotiated a tropical squall.

'Thank you to the whole team as the boat has been well prepared and above all for the vast amount of spares that you've provided us with in the event of problems. Our lead of 480 miles over Orange II won't be easy to hang onto as they had some good conditions around Saint Helena. It will be difficult not to lose a few hours before we pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope...' detailed the skipper of Groupama 3.
Groupama 3 - Jules Verne Trophy attempt 2008

The crew showed themselves to be in great shape despite the equatorial heat and don't seem to have suffered from the repeated manoeuvres they've had to make to get to the equator. Above all else, the increase in wind under a squall clearly showed how Groupama 3 was able to accelerate effortlessly on very manageable seas and that the boat wasn't stressed after a week's sailing.

Indeed, navigator Yves Parlier will be able to bend in the trimaran's trajectory as they make southing. In fact, the boat will follow the edge of the Saint Helena High, from its NW to its SE on a single regular curve to round the centre of the high pressure. Bruno Peyron and his crew took 7 days 5 hours 22 minutes to cover the 3,500 miles separating the equator from the Cape of Good Hope: will Franck Cammas and his nine men benefit from similar conditions so as not to lose too much time?