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Groupama 3 alongside in Dunedin

by Martin Balch and Richard Gladwell, Sail-World on 23 Feb 2008
Groupama 3 - Pacific Ocean Groupama - Franck Cammas © http://www.cammas-groupama.com

The 32 metre French multihull, Groupama 3, is alongside a wharf in Dunedin harbour.

She was towed into harbour by a Port tug, after having taken 23 hours to reach the safety of harbour after her capsize 80nm off the coast of Dunedin on Monday.

All major components have been recovered except for a small part of her mast and part of the port hull which had sheared off on Monday afternoon, causing the capsize which bought a premature ened to her Jules Verne trophy attempt.

It would seem that part of the port hull had rolled under the main hull of Groupama 3 supporting it in the water, and making the main hull float much higher that would have otherwise been the case.

This meant that there has been less ingress of water into the main hull, reducing the potential for damage.

The two into harbour began at 1100hrs and took about three hours in a 20knt breeze and against an outgoing tide. The yacht had remained under tow overnight behind the Clan MacLeod rather than attempting to anchor.

So ends a very fortuitious saga for Groupama 3, after capsizing at the closest point they had been to land in 26 days, within helicopter range and in conditions which moderated considerably soon after the capsize. The tow to shore was also undertaken in very good conditions, with a storm hitting only after she had been tied up in Dundein harbour.

Martin Balch reports from Dunedin:

At around 1430 hours this afternoon, the overturned trimaran finally reached the safety of the Dunedin harbour basin. After standing off the coast overnight, the rescue convoy was cleared to enter the harbour around 1000 this morning. The tow was transferred to the Port Otago works tug, the Kapu, and while progress was snails pace initially, once the tide turned progress was steady at 3 knots.

Within minutes of securing alongside, the crew were pumping the water from the main hull, which despite 3 days upside down was floating high with the decks almost clear of the harbour waters. The remaining section of the broken hull is firmly wedged under the rear of the main and starboard hulls, helping to keep the rear of the yacht floating high. Two large section of the main mast and some sails have been landed from the rescue boat, the Clan McLeod. The broken section of the port hull was unable to be secured and had to be abandoned at sea, as was a small section of the mast. The mainsail also didn’t survive, washing away and sinking during efforts to salvage it.

The rescue team had no trouble locating the drifting wreck, aided by the GPS left on board, and initially spotting its white and green hull glinting in the morning sunlight. Conditions were described as moderate to rough initially but improved to ideal for the difficult task of dismantling the rigging and only getting rough and sloppy at the end waiting for commercial traffic to clear the harbour and allow the rescue team to enter.

While the forecast was predicting 35 knot on shore north-easterly gales building to 50 knots storm force winds, the breeze did not exceed 20 knots until the tow was near Dunedin city, well inside the safe and protected harbour waters.
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