Technical hitch forces two stops for Groupama 3

Groupama 3
After a little over two days at sea, Franck Cammas and his nine crew are still within the time of the Jules Verne Trophy holder, but since the latitude of Lisbon, Groupama 3 has had to deal with calm zones, which are hindering its progress.

The zone of wind off the Canaries is certainly not easy to cope with on this third day at sea! Throughout the night, the crew has had to remain very attentive to the slightest variations in the breeze, which has shifted around to the SE, constantly fluctuating between ten and fourteen knots! There is a fair amount of work on deck for the three watch systems of three men, who are relaying every three hours. The chart table is also a hive of activity as they try to define the best trajectory in this zone, the wind alternating between little puffs of air, a breathless zephyr and a progressive E'ly rotation.

In this way, once they'd passed the latitude of Cape Saint Vincent (South of Portugal), Franck Cammas and his crew opted to shift across from the direct course to pass Madeira and round to the West of the Canaries this Saturday night. A slight extension in the course is called for then to get through this rather unusual weather situation.

Last night wasn't very favourable for high speed then, especially as Groupama 3 was suffering from a slight technical hitch, forcing it to stop on two separate occasions.

'This lunchtime we had some wind on the beam, which had remained weak this morning, but began to kick back in again: we went from 20 to 30 knots! However, last night we had a slight issue with our gennaker hook (sail blocking system at the top of the mast) as this part had become twisted, but Loïc Le Mignon has been able to perform makeshift repairs. We had to come to a standstill on two separate occasions though so that he could do the necessary at the top of the mast!' indicated Yves Parlier, the onboard navigator.

Off Selvagem on Saturday lunchtime, some little islands and rocks between Madeira and the Canaries, Groupama 3 is threading its way towards the SW to increase its attacking angle in relation to the wind. This will enable her to optimise on speed, which is now oscillating between 25 and 30 knots in this fifteen knots or so of SE'ly breeze, building progressively. This situation should only last around ten hours and this evening Franck Cammas and his nine crew will be able to get back on course, due South in search of a small cloudy front with most importantly some wind in it. Sunday should thus be fairly quick in over twenty knots of E'ly. A very localised vein of wind should enable them to make the Cape Verde islands at a good lick.

However, this Saturday it's Gomera calling the shots. This island to the far West of the Canaries has inhabitants who whistle to each other to communicate between the mountains and valleys! This nicely rounded volcanic landform nevertheless culminates at 1,487 metres (Montana Garajonay) which greatly influences the E'ly wind and Groupama 3 will have to round it over 30 miles out to sea in order to avoid its whirlwinds. This 'whistling effect' is in fact due to the cutting of the breeze, which rises above the landform, dropping back down like a vibratory wave before regaining its original characteristics. It's a little like a stone in a stream, creating disturbances up to ten times its own surface behind it.

In any case, the giant trimaran is well within the record time set by Orange II since it had a lead of over 90 miles this Saturday lunchtime, even though it's well below its optimum potential due to the light winds reigning for nearly a day. Logically, the delta should dramatically increase from the end of the weekend, as Bruno Peyron and his crew weren't very fast at this stage in the course, due to the moderate downwind conditions, forcing them into a series of gybes. With already over a thousand miles covered in the past 48 hours, Groupama 3 is still maintaining sufficient pace to stand a chance of reaching the equator in less than seven days.

The day's interviews
Yves Parlier, navigator: 'We made a fair number of sail changes last night and we had an issue with the gennaker hook (sail fixation system at the top of the mast). Loïc Le Mignon, on climbing to the masthead, noticed that this part was twisted.'

Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 3: 'We will have a worry all the way around with this gennaker hook and we'll have to keep an eye on it the whole time... It's a design problem which we may be able to resolve with some carbon material, but that isn't part of today's programme. We tried to find the best time to intervene at daybreak because the problem arose at the start of the night: At daybreak, Loïc Le Mignon climbed up the mast, harnessed on and looped on, but the upper part of the wing mast isn't very practical for holding on... We remained with the wind on the stern so as he wasn't shaken about too much! The problem stems from a part which doesn't fit into its cage but we have found a way to block the hook by going onto starboard tack and then gybing, but that makes us lose time...'

Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 3: 'We accelerated upwind and then bore away this Saturday lunchtime which has enabled us to gain westing, which is good for the next stage, where we have to catch onto the NE'ly tradewinds. We have opted to pass downwind of Madeira and upwind of the Canaries. However, I think we're going to suffer the disturbances of the island of Gomera in a few hours time. The main hazard is the archipelago as we felt the wind shadow of the island of Tenerife at lunchtime and that was 150 miles away! We will have to cross this zone prior to luffing up for 5-6 hours upwind to track down the better winds to the East... We're not likely to rack up a good score today! We haven't done very well over the past 24 hours in terms of total distance, but, together with Franck Proffit, we reckon we must have got the 24 hour record with less than 12 knots of wind (laughs)!

We'll have to be very attentive in this light wind pattern as the situation can be won and lost in the space of fifteen miles. Groupama 3 is still making good headway, which has enabled us to take this window: A different boat to Groupama 3 wouldn't necessarily have been able to attempt it!'

Today's figures
Start on Thursday 24th January 2008 at 07h50'17'UT
Date limit to beat the record: Saturday 15th March 2008 at 00h09'21' UT
*Distance covered on the water in 24 hours: 489.1 miles
*Distance covered on the water since the start: 1,116 miles
*Distance to the finish: 23,414.2 miles
*Average on day 2: 20.4 knots
*Average since the start: 23.25 knots
*Lead in relation to Orange II: 62.5 miles

NB: The WSSRC round the world is defined as corresponding with the circumference of the Earth to the equator, or 21,600 miles. However, this is the shortest route and not achievable (Equatorial Doldrums, Antarctica...): in order to be closer to reality, the positions carried out by the latest round the world attempts (Orange II, IDEC, Groupama 3...) are based on an optimised theoretical course of 24,530 miles.

Find a detailed cartography at: