Franck Cammas and his nine crew left their shore base in Lorient this Wednesday evening at 1600 GMT to make for the start line of this Jules Verne Trophy attempt from between Lizard Point (UK) and the Créac'h lighthouse (Ushant).
Groupama 3 should set off on their round the world record attempt between 0600 and 1000 GMT tomorrow morning, Thursday, with the aim of beating Orange II's reference time: 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes 4 seconds...
Fifteen years after the first victorious attempt by Bruno Peyron on Commodore Explorer, following the tracks left by Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout ('Round the world in eighty days' by Jules Verne), Franck Cammas and his crew will attempt to circumnavigate the globe (26,100 miles) via the three capes in less than fifty days. Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Atlantic again, in truth the voyage represents a distance on the water of between 25,000 and 27,000 miles due to the meteorological patterns and the presence of ice to the North of the Antarctic. As a result Groupama 3 is aiming for an average speed of over 23 knots, which is over 550 miles a day for over a month and a half!
A month less in twelve years!
In 1993, Bruno Peyron and his four crew just managed to go under the eighty day barrier (79d 06h 16'), then Peter Blake (Enza) in 1994, Olivier de Kersauson (Sport Elec) in 1997, Bruno Peyron (Orange) in 2002, Steve Fossett (PlayStation) in 2004 all got the reference time down further still until the most recent successful attempt made by Bruno Peyron (Orange II) in 2005. Nearly twenty nine days less than on his first attempt.
Now it is the turn of Groupama 3 to measure herself against the sands of time with, what promises to be a highly favourable weather window on Thursday 24th January, that is for the first thousand miles of the course at least: 'the aim was to find a weather forecast, which enabled us to make the equator in six days. We weren't able to go with the one in mid December due to foil problems and given the course adopted by Thomas Coville, who did take that option, it wasn't as favourable as all that in the Southern hemisphere.
This new opportunity looks good, even though it's complicated near the Canaries. There is a zone of light winds, which is still difficult to apprehend precisely. Our progress will be slowed but the theoretical time to reach the equator still looks to be around six days and we couldn't really afford to be so demanding any longer, as the period where we can be on stand-by draws to a close... We will set off from Ushant between 0600 and 1000 GMT tomorrow, Thursday. The weather window is short so we mustn't delay at the edge of a zone of high pressure in the Bay of Biscay...' indicated Franck Cammas prior to leaving Lorient.
It was at exactly 1600 GMT that Groupama 3 left the pontoon at the submarine base in Lorient, bound for Ushant in a light SW'ly breeze, clocking W tonight before the arrival of a front forecast for Thursday morning. A good situation for sailing along the coast of Finistère and positioning themselves at the entrance to the English Channel overnight in readiness for tomorrow's start off the Créac'h lighthouse. The specific time will be fined down tonight and in the early hours with Sylvain Mondon from Météo France, so as to take the best possible window to cross the Bay of Biscay.
The sequence of weather patterns should indeed be optimal for benefiting from downwind conditions as far as Cape Finisterre. They should also be ideal for negotiating a zone of light winds off the Canaries and catching up with an Argentinean low in the Southern hemisphere. This latter disturbance should enable Groupama 3 to line itself up very favourably at the Cape of Good Hope.
However, prior to the tackling the devilish surfs on the long swell of the Indian Ocean, it was an emotional departure today as the ten crew bid farewell to their wives, children, families, friends, the shore crew of the maxi-trimran as well as the people of Lorient, who had come out to wave them off in a discrete yet intense manner.
Interviews of the day
Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 3: 'I know that I have a good team around me, which enables me to set off serenely in this venture. Of course there is a little apprehension mixed in with the excitement. When you head off into the unknown, there is always a form of stress that accompanies you, but without the unknown, there is no adventure. And adventure is something we love; it is our passion!'
Sébastien Audigane, second helm and co-holder of the Jules Verne Trophy: 'You always feel a slight twinge of emotion as you're leaving your loved ones behind on land... And added to that this is a great adventure with a big A. It's an extreme sport!'
Jacques Caraës, No.1 (bowman) and co-holder of the Jules Verne Trophy: 'The crew know each other well. There is a great deal of complicity amongst us. Everything is in place for a great maritime event. From here on in it's the weather that dictates...'
Loic Le Mignon, second helm and Manager of deck fittings: 'The weather conditions are fairly mild, which is a good way to run in the boat and the crew. We are all eager to set off and see what our boat is capable of on a Jules Verne.'