After a false alert at Christmas, a new 'weather window' has closed up again at the start of this year, preventing Groupama 3 from setting out on its circumnavigation.
Tomorrow evening, Thursday 3 January, the giant trimaran and its ten crews were likely to set off from the Créac'h lighthouse (Ushant) on its attempt to beat the Jules Verne Trophy record. However, the situation has changed over the past few hours.
On stand-by since 6 December, Franck Cammas and his crew took a final `fine tuning' sail during the Paris Boat Show to confirm Yves Parlier's installation as navigator and validate Groupama 3 one last time. And it was on this occasion that they noticed lamination problem on the foils. A week's worth of work was sufficient to resolve the problems, which were due to poor adhesion of the exterior carbon materials on the foam core.
Forced to let a possible start option pass them by (that chosen by Thomas Coville to tackle his single-handed circumnavigation), it wasn't until the approach of Christmas that a new opportunity was to present himself. A possibility which didn't prove to be suitable in the end as the objective for an attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy is initially to ensure that the descent from Ushant to the equator will enable a few hours to be won on the reference time established by Orange II in 2005 (50 days 16 hours 20 minutes).
The Southern hemisphere in five days?
With the weather analysis currently available, it is possible to predict, with very good reliability, an optimal trajectory over a week. Now Bruno Peyron and his crew took 7 days 2 hours 56 minutes to reach the equator whilst during its fruitless attempt in 2003, Géronimo crossed into the Southern hemisphere in 6 days 11 hours 26 minutes. With a good weather sequence, Groupama 3 stands every chance of going below the six day barrier!
The `window' of 3rd January offered a good opening, with the ephemeral installation of a depression centred over Biarritz creating a 15 knot E'ly over the tip of Brittany. By rounding this low pressure, Groupama 3 could very quickly catch onto a NW'ly airflow offshore in the Bay of Biscay and reach the Canaries in two days!
However the centre of the low pressure has disintegrated prior to making Europe, dispelling any chances of a beneficial situation to make rapid headway to the African tradewinds.
A situation that Franck Proffit revealed to the crew in an email this morning: 'Code red... the window on 3 January has closed up again. The centre of the depression remains in the West, off Ushant, and is expanding over the entire Bay of Biscay. This would mean an upwind start... not favourable to the record. The seas are still very big and in this configuration we would reach Saint Helena too late in the day to get past it. We are sorry for the travellers (Jan and Ronan back from South Africa and Brazil), but we didn't really have any choice. That's life for record hunters!'
Groupama 3's programme remains established for the first days of the new year: detailed study of forecasts with the onshore weather expert, Sylvain Mondon, as we wait for a new opening in the near future.
Interview with Franck Cammas: 'We have been on stand-by for nearly a month, even though it was pushed back for a week due to the foils. Everything is in order now. Leaving at the start of the year is pretty favourable for the sequencing of the weather phenomena with the Austral summer and therefore short nights: almost all the other Jules Verne Trophy attempts have set off in January or February. As a result we are still within the timing and more motivated than ever.' The `Jules Verne' crew on Groupama 3
Watch leader - helm: Franck Cammas (Skipper), Franck Proffit, Stève Ravussin
Second helm: Frédéric Le Peutrec / Loic Le Mignon / Sébastien Audigane
No.1: Ronan Le Goff / Jan Dekker / Jacques Caraës
Navigator: Yves Parlier
Onshore weather expert: Sylvain Mondon (Météo France) Key Figures
Record 5 - Jules Verne Trophy
21,760 miles, from the start of a line, which is virtually defined between the island of Ushant and Lizard Point lighthouse (UK). Crewed circumnavigation leaving the Capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn to port.
Time to beat: 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes and 4 seconds - Average speed: 17.89 knots
Record held by Bruno Peyron, aboard the maxi-catamaran Orange 2, since March 2005.