Positioned between two fronts, Groupama 3 is alternating between accelerations and reductions in pace after a great day's sailing on Sunday. Having reconstructed their lead this weekend, Franck Cammas and his nine crew must now negotiate a depression in order to relocate some steadier wind.
Groupama 3 - Jules Verne Trophy 2008 attempt
Transition: behind a front, which is shifting eastwards and ahead of another front in the process of deteriorating, the giant trimaran is having to face up to some very fickle breeze, both in terms of strength and direction. The N'ly orientation of the wind is also limiting the boat's ability to slip along but the seas remain very manageable as the wind gods laze along 46° South! The breeze has reached just fifteen or so knots this afternoon, which has caused the average speeds to drop to less than twenty knots... However, this situation isn't set to last too long and it should be recalled that Orange II wasn't very quick during its passage to the North of the Kerguelen Islands either.
'We've had to make quite a few manoeuvres since this morning as the wind is very changeable and has switched direction whilst traversing a front: it was necessary to reduce the sail area since we were reaching in a N'ly wind. The breeze has dropped again now though so we'll have to make another manoeuvre... We had a good day and a good night under gennaker yesterday, as the seas were smooth and we were able to slip along nicely. The S'ly course appears to be difficult for the next few hours: we don't want to drop down too far as the N'ly wind would take us very low in latitude and then, we'd have to sail close-hauled. We mustn't pass to the other side of the centre of the low or we risk having to sail in headwinds' detailed Franck Cammas at today's radio session.
Unfortunately this transition is moving at the same speed towards the East as Groupama 3, which is causing this unpleasant situation of 'accelerations - reductions in pace' to continue at the mercy of the clouds and puffs of wind ... However, the weather forecasts indicate that if everything goes to plan, the phenomenon will regain a certain stability tonight, which will then enable Franck Cammas and his nine crew to quit with the old concertina effects! It isn't simply tiring on the nerves, but also wearing on the mind as you constantly have to question which sail to carry... Not to mention the compulsory periodic manoeuvres to take in or shake out a reef, switch to the staysail or the solent jib! 'The problem is that we are making faster headway than the front, which is behind us, but we're not going fast enough to get past the front which is ahead of us! We're a little bit stuck between these two fronts, which are in a transition zone with some N'ly winds. We'll have to get past it but if we can't, it could take us 48 hours to escape this unstable zone. As a result we're attempting a day with a rectilinear route towards the East. Our reasoning for this is that the wind shifts have been too strong to the North or the South and we mustn't cover too many extra miles' explained the skipper of the maxi trimaran.
In any case, this depression should carry Groupama 3 as far as Cape Leeuwin, the passage of which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Most importantly though, the giant trimaran should be able to slip along, under a fine zone of high pressure within the next couple of days. In this way, in a good N'ly air flow, backing to the NW, Franck Cammas and his men will be able to rediscover the great sensations of yesterday, downwind under gennaker, pushed by the long swell of the Deep South... This should provide the crew with the conditions they need to reconstruct a more substantial lead over the reference time. In the meantime they'll just have to be patient and front up to the adversity!
Interview with Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 3
'It's rained as a result of the front traversing our path, which has rinsed off the gear. Conditions are in the process of calming down since we had gusts of up to 48 knots early this morning... It's not been a very smooth course since this morning and we're making easting again in the shift: we've gone from gennaker and full mainsail to two reefs and solent jib! You have to anticipate these manoeuvres well as the changes are very fast in the Indian Ocean and a lot more severe than those we experience in Europe. You have to be careful, even with the grib files, so as not to get caught out and you mustn't look too far ahead but instead watch where the lows are forming. The temperature still remains acceptable as we have some N'ly wind, even though we're now sailing along 46° South. It was colder when we had the wind and the seas on the beam with a S'ly breeze at 40° South! It's rather wet and we're trying to dry off our clothes with the onboard heating.
As regards lamination, the repair of the bulkhead is complete and it hasn't worsened despite the impact of the past few days. As regards the crew, there are a few little scratches and scrapes but nothing serious: Fred has twisted his knee twice, Franck fell on his back on a bunk but hasn`t broken anything or done anything serious. We had a taste of the gliding conditions yesterday, but for the time being it's over! Yesterday, when conditions were good both in terms of the sea and the wind, we got up to 35 knots of boat speed under small gennaker: it's impressive at night and the boat picks up speed easily. When the sea and the wind are in the right direction, we go very fast...