Having already covered 600 miles in 24 hours in this their first day at sea, Groupama 3 is perfectly inside the time of the Jules Verne Trophy holder, even though the wind has dropped off markedly off Portugal. After a light spell on Friday afternoon, Franck Cammas and his nine crews set off again at over twenty knots towards the Canaries.
An ideal first day for this round the world record attempt, but the second day didn't start off quite so well with the boat slowed off Lisbon and several hours and several zones of light winds to negotiate before the Canary Islands. Setting off at a brisk pace from Ushant at 07h 50’ 17’’ GMT on Thursday, Groupama 3 had to perform an 'm-shaped’ trajectory across the Bay of Biscay to reach the latitude of Cape Finisterre, during its first night at sea.
A slight detour due to the rotation of the 20 knot NW’ly wind in the morning to an E'ly wind in the evening… Following this the breeze filled in at the approach to the Iberian coast, exceeding thirty knots prior to easing slightly in the middle of the night. Their lead over Orange II’s reference time rose then to over thirty miles but this was reduced as Groupama 3 headed due South and was forced to flirt with a zone of little wind off Peniche.
There iss less than ten knots of true wind but fortunately this is blowing from the ESE, enabling the giant trimaran to maintain a good pace as far as the latitude of the Straits of Gibraltar. However the situation is likely to become more complicated between Madeira and the Canaries, as a ‘snare’ of shifty, fickle winds lays in wait for them, due to a degenerating of a stormy disturbance to the West of the two archipelagos.
The difficulty of this for navigator Yves Parlier, working in collaboration with the onshore weather expert Sylvain Mondon, is to find the right passage to zigzag between these calm zones, prior to finding the NE'ly tradewinds. For the time being the air flow is rather laboured along the African coast.
However in sailing, as with chess, you have to be five moves ahead and their current preoccupations are geared towards an Argentinean front and trying to catch up with the right wagon, enabling them to make good speed towards the Cape of Good Hope once they reach the level of Rio de Janeiro.
This first day at sea has also been an opportunity for the crew to get their sea-legs and get their references on deck so as to get used to the rhythm onboard.
“We’ve had a great start! The land-sea transition has gone well and we’re concentrating on settling down for the long haul now. Even though this has been anticipated for a long time, it's a big rupture and you have to get into the skin of a man who will be spending some time at sea, even if we’re going to try and make it as short as possible.
We had wind and big seas overnight, which meant that conditions were a little reminiscent of the Deep South: a good way to get your sea-legs. Everything is falling into place; the watches, the rhythm, the meals, the storage of our personal gear… It’s still a little difficult to sleep but it is all coming together slowly” explained Frédéric Le Peutrec, during the daily radio session with HQ on Boulevard Malesherbes.
In a day and a half, the ten men on Groupama 3 have experienced almost all the different weather conditions they are going to encounter during the round the world voyage: light wind, eased sheets off Portugal, brisk wind on the beam off the tip of Spain, medium downwind conditions in the Bay of Biscay. The crew’s objective is to rapidly catch onto the African tradewinds, which will be lacking at the start of the weekend.
However, what is particularly interesting is the fact that their route is virtually identical to that of the maxi catamaran skippered by Bruno Peyron, 3 years ago to the day in the same area! Since the latitude of Lisbon, the two boats have been following exactly the same trajectory with just a few miles differential.
Everything for the circumnavigation: weather analysis by Sylvain Mondon
“The start was pretty quick as we’d expected, with a brisk passage around Cape Finisterre with the wind filling in to over thirty knots from the E to NE. This high pressure configuration is behind Groupama 3 and the crew has begun this Friday afternoon, to tackle the leftovers of a stormy depression system, situated off the Canaries.
There are several zones of light wind, one of which they passed along this morning. The more reduced speeds late this morning will increase as the afternoon wears on, reaching around 25 knots… In relation to the start forecasts, there were only slight differences on the water, with the wind angle just about ten degrees out but remaining at the said strength.
The problem lies with what's going to happen with the tradewinds up ahead, which are having difficulty established themselves…The crew will have to wait till the Canaries have been passed before they get level with some tradewinds, which are less affected by the remains of a stationary disturbance that has been lingering over the region for several days.”
The day's interviews
Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 3: “This lunchtime we are in the process of rounding a zone of light winds and we are sailing quite close to the wind (75°) with only 10-11 knots of breeze. This should enable us to make headway all the same at 20 knots… faster than the routing. We still have around twenty miles to go before we escape this light patch, but there are others skulking around the area! We’ll have to be careful.
We have shifted everything over inside the boat so as to move the weight further forward: diesel, sails, safety gear, food… Fortunately Groupama 3 is a multihull, which goes fast in these conditions! We have some appointments with some weather phenomena in the Southern hemisphere so we have no time to hang around.”