In the early hours of tomorrow morning, Groupama 3 is set to cross the longitude of the most S'ly cape of Tasmania, and thus enter into the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, the end of the Indian Ocean has been more characteristic of late, since a long W'ly swell is enabling the giant trimaran to skim thirty knot averages. If they manage to maintain this pace, Franck Cammas and his crew may be able to snatch the record for crossing the Indian Ocean, but it's going to be tight...
Groupama 3 - Jules Verne Trophy 2008 attempt
In a 30-35 knot W to NW'ly air flow with gusts, Franck Cammas and his men have been racking up the miles since midnight with an average of nearly thirty knots! As a result it's shaping up to be a great day for Groupama 3, particularly as the conditions are enabling the crew to re-establish its overall lead over the reference time: from less than 300 miles on Thursday evening, their lead has increased by 60 miles in half a day and given that Orange II wasn't very fast over this approach to Tasmania, this bonus is likely to stretch still further over the course of the weekend...
During today's radio session, Franck Proffit was exchanging a few words with Bruno Jeanjean, the bowman aboard the giant trimaran during the North Atlantic record attempt last summer. The watch leader on Groupama 3 made the most of the opportunity to give a little run-down on the state of the boat and the shape of the crew, as well as the current situation: 'It's cold at the moment but we've seen worse: we are in a stiff W'ly breeze and the water is at 6°C. We're beginning to cover ourselves up: we're entering into the Indian Ocean atmosphere, slipping along in a thirty knot breeze under two reefs and solent jib, on fairly short seas and a messy swell coming from the West and the North. We're holding off on the pace a bit as we wait for the seas to become more ordered.
Our current performance demonstrates the boat's potential, as we're still ahead of Orange II's wake and still have a twelve hour margin for error. Technically the boat is going well even though we broke a batten slide yesterday, which was immediately repaired. The crew is still in great shape, with no decline in standards, at a rhythm of three hour watches, which is enabling them to rest well and manoeuvre quickly. We're all nice and fresh!'
It is tonight then that the crew will conclude its `Indian' crossing and enter the Pacific. At this pace, Groupama 3 could improve on Orange II's time over this stretch of the course, and in this way snatch yet another new WSSRC record: the Indian Ocean in less than 9 days 11 hours 04 minutes! This would once again demonstrate that the giant trimaran is still faster than the maxi catamaran as soon as the seas are on the boat's side... In reality though, two thirds of the Indian Ocean didn't live up to their reputation, causing Groupama 3 to lose a lot of miles for nearly a week! However, the future is considerably rosier for Franck Cammas and his nine crew, who will be now be tackling a more cooperative Pacific Ocean.
'In the coming hours, we're going to make a slight inroad into the zone of high pressure, which is to the South of Tasmania, where the wind will shift round to the SW. We're going to gybe in 24 hours time and try to play the sea state to lengthen the stride, despite the weather systems, which are positioning themselves fairly North and being a little unfavourable for us... The low, which is to the E of New Zealand has stabilized a little and we're going to skirt Stewart Island, which Yves Parlier knows all too well! The weather system is forcing us onto a fairly N'ly course and we shouldn't be too bothered by icebergs. We're likely to have three to four days of good conditions for slipping along in! If the swell becomes more organised, we should exceed 700 miles a day... that will all depend on the sea state, but there's still some power under the bonnet!' enthused Franck Proffit.
Interview with Franck Proffit, watch leader and helmsman on Groupama 3:
'Everything's working well aboard: it's professional and there's a very good atmosphere! With Jacques, Steve... The choices of sail are made at a good pace and as regards repairs, everything is completed straightaway. We have a boat in perfect condition at the approach to the midway mark. Of course, the comfort is limited as the boat is very stiff with some very violent buffering and very fast acceleration. You have to hold on and be careful when you move. The living area works very well and you can really rest up in a dry zone. The next stage in the course promises to be downwind with a fine running sea... Spaghetti is on the menu today: it's varied and we have enough calories!'
Interview with Bruno Jeanjean, bowman on Groupama 3 during the 2007 records:
'I find that the performance by the boat and the crew is fantastic, given the weather conditions they've had since leaving Ushant. With these boats, it's not so much the wind as the seas, which are important: they had a difficult passage at the entry to the Indian and now it's better. I'm sure that if the situation had been more favourable, they would have amassed a much bigger lead. The trimaran has been prepared to perfection and they haven't suffered any major worries. If the weather becomes more cooperative, I think that their lead will increase quite considerably.
The onboard manoeuvres on Groupama 3 are pretty hard nevertheless: you have to lug the sails from one side to the other and they're very heavy! A gybe with the movements of the foils and the sails takes around fifteen minutes; taking in a reef requires four minutes, or more if you have to hoist the sail... All that demands energy, especially when it's beginning to get cold as it is now. Restricted in our foulies, moving about becomes more complicated and you have to wear gloves.'
Start on 24th January at 0750'17' UT
Arrival before Saturday 15th March 2008 at 00h09'21' UT
Day 22 at 0800' UT
*Distance covered on the water in 24 hours: 611.6 miles
*Distance covered since the start: 11,676 miles
*Distance to the finish: 12,854 miles
*Average on day 22: 25.48 knots
*Average since the start: 22.11 knots
*Lead in relation to Orange II: 340.6 miles
Find a detailed cartography at: http://cammas-groupama.geovoile.com/julesverne/index.asp?lg=en