Volvo Ocean Race team Groupama 4 is 140 miles from the finish of the fifth leg in Itajai, Brazil. They are continuing to make headway at a good lick under jury rig. Though the watchword given to the guys taking turns at the helm is to be ‘sparing' with their steed, the seven sailors aboard the boat remain competitors through and through.
One of the latest videos sent by Yann Riou, Groupama 4's excellent media man, speaks for itself. In it we see Franck Cammas at the foot of the mast, in the process of letting out a piece of the mainsail so as to increase the luff by some… 40cm.
It has to be said that the wind, which has been very favourable thus far, both in terms of strength and direction, has lost a little of its intensity. As such it's no longer a question of limiting the power so as to preserve the jury rig, but rather to try to increase it and get to the finish as quickly as possible.
Indeed, aboard the boat, the time seems to drag sometimes for the seven crew, who have remained aboard: 'It's a bit ‘cruising'. We've been sailing downwind since we left Punta del Este. It's fine and hot and we're in T-shirts on deck so it's calm,' says Charles Caudrelier. 'We're getting a little bored now though. We're regularly checking the rig, especially Brad. We're listening to music, we're reading and we're watching films. However, let's not forget, our aim is to get to the finish. We're also making the most of the situation to rack up some sleep'.
Though the crew, as well as the shore team are surprised by Groupama 4's ability to maintain such fine average speeds with so little sail, the work on deck remains limited: 'When the wind angle allows, we add the storm jib (30m2) to the mix so as to increase the sail area a little. However, it should be recognised that the sail trimming is very limited' continues Charles. 'The mast is very sturdy. Groupama's design office knows how to reflect on a problem and nothing has been left to chance. They've even given us some power limits which we're not to exceed, particularly as regards the keel, that we're not canting fully. Naturally we're a bit frustrated at times that we have to ease off the pace, but it's better than dismasting a second time'.
Expected to reach Itajai on Tuesday or Wednesday, the crew of Groupama 4 have just one thing on their minds: getting rest to gather up their strength whilst the shore crew prepare the new mast, which is in transit between Amsterdam and Brazil: 'We've accepted our fate and we're already very happy about the prospect of taking third place and remaining in the race. We're feeling increasingly at ease. There are still a few legs where we could snatch a win, and why not the overall standing?' concludes Charles Caudrelier.
With a deficit of twenty points in relation to the leader, Telefonica, and only at the halfway point in terms of points, anything could still happen for the crew of Groupama 4. However, the immediate focus will be on making the most of the days after their arrival to get a real break and recharge their batteries in the Brazilian sunshine, without abusing the caipirinha of course!
Groupama Sailing Team website
by Franck Cammas
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4:30 PM Mon 9 Apr 2012GMT
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2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race
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