When he brought the giant 31m trimaran Groupama 3 across the finish line off Pointe-a-Piitre, Guadeloupe today (Tuesday)under perfect sunshine and light breezes Franck Cammas (FRA) won the 9th edition of the Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale, the 3542 miles transatlantic race from Saint Malo for solo skippers which takes place every four years. Cammas crossed the finish line at 16..h 16..min 47. Secs (CET paris// 15h 16 mins 47 secs GMT,// 11 hrs 16 mins 47 seconds local time) The elapsed time for the course, after starting Saint Malo at 1302hr (CET/paris) Is. 9 days 3 hours 14 mins 47 seconds The average speed over the course on the water was. 20..39 knots for the actual course sailed of 4471 miles. . The course record of 7 days17 hrs 19 mins 6 seconds was set in 2006 Cammas adds his name to the legend of the ‘Rhum’ as successor to Mike Birch, Marc Pajot, Philippe Poupon, Florence Arthaud, Laurent Bourgnon, Michel Desjoyeaux and Lionel Lemonchois
by Colin Merry
“Alarm call at 0500hrs. this morning. but as Pete’s minder last night I was up and about at 0400hrs. in order not to miss the wake up call. Quick slurp of coffee then down to the boat. The rain was easing as we slid into the lock prior to being released to the sea. Even at this hour the lock sides were lined with waving cheering people! ”
“A lot of them looked as though they had been partying all night! Slipping out through the entrance we headed seaward greeted by a magnificant sunrise, a good omen we hoped. ”
“Several hours followed where Pete and Tom got the boat set up whilst I helmed. Normally not a problem for me, but this time it was different. ”
“I have never experienced so much responsibility, and it was getting more crowded by the minute. After nearly four hours and with twelve minutes to go we wished him well and jumped into the waiting rib.”
“Sorry that most of the pics. are of Class40’s but we were intent on following DMS for several miles and naturally we were surrounded by other 40’s. “
After a studied start keeping clear of the mayhem that is a start line Pete broke out the fractional kite and settled into the race.
With the wind easing it was not long before he went up a gear and raised the masthead kite.
Before we broke off the chase he was overhauling a few boats and looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself! So 3500miles to go and a possible encounter with a hurricane. (there is a cyclone winding itself up out the West atlantic which has been upgraded to Hurricane ”Tomas).
We at C&A wish him and skippers well in their endeavour to be in Gaudalupe first.
by Colin Merry
Crowds flocked to the skippers reception last night. Even a vociferous demo by the French unions (complaining about France’s rise in pensionable age) couldn’t dampen the way in which each skipper was applauded as they mounted the stage. People crowded the whole area stretching back as for as the eye could see!
Some climbing trees and still others clinging to the lamp posts! Everyone was determined to get a glimpse of these brave men and women before they set off on the ”Route de Rhumb”. I was particularly warmed by the reception Pete Goss got as his name was announced and he mounted the stage to what was the loudest applause and cheers all night. The French still hold him in very high esteem to this day.
After the reception Team DMS, the sponsors and guests retired to a pub for some very welcome R&R. I say pub but once inside it became clear that this was a strange hostelry indeed! Dolls and weird bric a brac everywhere.
The bar seats were swings hanging from the ceiling. Oh and did I mention the three piece ensemble that entertained us? They were completely off the wall but good in a ‘different’ sort of way.
Anyway, back to the race. I walked past one tri for the best part of a week before recognising her. None other than Ellen MacArthur’s B&Q!
Gone is the familiar livery and now she is plain white. Turned into a Pizza delivery judging by the logos being applied as I watched one evening.
On DMS we have a constant stream of visitors, Media crew who want interviews. Other skippers. Sponsors and guests. Plus old friends of Pete and Tom’s that reads like a who’s who of sailing. One such visitor was Frederick Meunier, the boat builder responsible for DMS.
Fred’s Tunisia based yard ”MC Tech” has order books full until next May for the ”Akiliria” brand known as the RC2. As we sat and chatted he was looking around at the mods that Tom had made since she left his yard. A testament to Tom’s attention to detail when said he reckoned that she was the best turned out boat in the Class 40′ fleet.
As crowded as our boat was, at times it paled into insignificance compared to the crowds who by now had swelled to massive proportions! It was gridlock on the roads in and around St. Malo and it threatened to become gridlock on the pavements too. Looking out from a high vantage point it seemed that the predicted 1.2 million visitors had all arrived together today! I can’t even begin to envisage what 18,000 people on the water tomorrow are going to look like. Also add to that 100 ribs that will be inside the exclusion zone prior to the start and you begin to get some idea of the huge logistical enterprise that is the ”Route de Rhumb”.
Rookies to legends, the IMOCA class skippers are as one when it comes to being ready to go, they say.
Challenge and Adventure’s Colin Merry in his daily check-in wrote today how things were hotting up in St. Malo and he spoke of the atmosphere there. “We are now well sorted on DMS. She has now passed all her safety checks and is virtually ready to go. Not so with all the boats though. I see anxious faces on some of the Skippers as they seek to come within the scrutineers beady eye! For others it is a mad dash yet again to the Chandlers for some forgotten item. Or to replace a broken piece of equipment.
Tom (boat captain on DMS) was splicing more spare sheets and making chocks for the spare anchor to sit in yesterday. All done in almost a leisurely way. This air of calm is one that now pervades DMS. The reason being, that Pete and Tom have been working hard with a set plan of objectives for each and every day that we have been here. The hard work has paid off and we are sitting pretty. I myself was spared the job yesterday of donning wetsuit and cleaning the hull as Tom reckons we can do it nearer the start date. Instead I mounted the ‘Argos’ unit on the guard rail and attended to the sponsors flags that we are flying. Then I went food shopping! (someone has to be house mother you know!) Shopping in St. Malo can be fun, as for a short cut you can walk around the city wall when the streets get too crowded. Of course, when on the wall loads of opportunities arise for photography. So I include a few of my shopping shots!
Even on a cold day such as Wednesday the crowds are out in force. Whilst on the wall I grabbed a pic. of the 50′ tri’s lined up like dragonflys. The sheer volume of people is amazing!
Christopher Pratt (DCNS) is the rookie in the IMOCA Open 60 class is keeping up to speed with his sponsor and media commitments. After the talent search programme of his sponsors DCNS – which is one of France’s largest naval defence construction and shipbuilding companies – which he won, there are very many young students from the major colleges visiting the boat to meet the skipper here.
PRB’s visitor programme is very comprehensive. The sponsors of 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou have 300 guests most days to see the boat, and they have been running such a programme since the new boat was launched and sailed her maiden race around Spain in June. On board PRB everything is ready for the start.
Latest launched IMOCA Open 60 is of course that of Michel Desjoyeaux and his team are busy each day with the fine details, while the skipper catches up with his sleep and de-stresses after the remarkably quick six months build of his new boat.
Each afternoon the double Vendée Globe winner catches up with a two hour nap.
And Marc Guillemot, the IMOCA world champion and winner of the last Transat Jacques Vabre is also in great shape, ready for the off. He will be signing copies of the book he co-wrote with his wife after his 2008-9 Vendée Globe.
Jean-Pierre Dick will show Belgian comic actor François Damians over his new VPLP-Verdier design and then Loick Peyron, who JP will pair up with for the imminent Barcelona World Race, will be here this evening.
On Friday Arnaud Boissières will host world match racing tour leader Mathieu Richard aboard Akena Verandas, as well as Christine Janin, the first French woman to climb Everest.
Armel Le Cléac’H of Brit Air has been home with his family and will arrive this evening, whilst Roland Jourdain, the defending champion, is totally chilled out and ready with his new Veolia Environnment. Routing is of course forbidden in this class, and so preparations with external advisors is paramount leading in to Sunday.
Groupama made for a lonely looking boat as she lay all on her own in the outer harbour. This not because she has been excluded. No, they just couldn’t get her into the lock! She is sporting a much smaller rig for this race because the normal rig would be too much for one man to handle.
An indication of the attention to detail that the Groupama team approach their projects is shown in the extent of changes made to the giant trimaran in order that one man (Frank Cammas) can handle this beast. As well as the obvious switch to a lower-aspect rig the boats ergonomics have been re-evaluated and modified with the installation of a hand and leg driven system for the winches and the hydraulic system. This with many other mods. should enable one (very fit) man to manage this 103′ behemoth!
The skippers will all be at the top of their game as they head out
The Jules Verne Trophy now belongs to ten men who have sailed around the globe at an average of 18.76 knots along the optimum course, beating the reference time set by Orange 2 in 2005 by 2 days 08 hours 35 minutes. Franck Cammas and his men crossed the finish line off the Créac’h lighthouse at Ushant (Finistère) at 21h40’45” UTC Saturday 20th March. They are due to make the Port du Château in Brest at around 0900 UTC tomorrow.
The skipper Franck Cammas, navigator Stan Honey, watch leaders Fred Le Peutrec and Steve Ravussin, helmsmen/trimmers Loïc Le Mignon, Thomas Coville and Lionel Lemonchois, and the three bowmen Bruno Jeanjean, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës, supported on shore by router Sylvain Mondon, have pulled it off: they have beaten the round the world record under sail via the three capes!
In 48 days 07 hours 44 minutes, Groupama 3 has certainly had her highs and lows, as she hasn’t always been ahead of the reference time set by Bruno Peyron and his crew in 2005. On the contrary! The giant trimaran had a deficit of just over 500 miles in relation to Orange 2 and was only able to beat the Jules Verne Trophy record thanks to a dazzling final sprint from the equator. At that stage they had a deficit of one day and two hours, but by devouring the North Atlantic in 6 days 10 h 35′, Groupama 3 quite simply pulverised the reference time over this section of the course.
Setting out on 31st January 2010 whilst the weather `window’ was not particularly favourable, Franck Cammas and his men have alternated between some extremely fast sequences and some very slow ones. Indeed, the conditions were very varied on this round the world, and even the wind rarely exceeded 40 knots. It has to be said that the chosen trajectory sought to avoid the heavy seas and the overly strong breezes, which considerably increased the distance to travel: in fact Groupama 3 sailed 28,523 miles whilst the official optimum course amounts to 21,760 miles. As such, in terms of actual speed across the ground, the giant trimaran maintained an average speed of 24.6 knots! The trickiest zone, both on the outward journey and the return proved to be the South Atlantic. During the descent problems arose due to the calms and on the ascent due to the headwinds.
Tonight Groupama 3 is remaining offshore of Ushant to await daybreak: she will enter the channel into the harbour of Brest at around 0830 UTC under sail, then a parade around the harbour will culminate with her tying up in the Port du Château at around 1000 hours UTC. A number of France’s top sailors, including Bruno Peyron, previous Jules Verne Trophy holder since 2005, have made the trip to Brest to welcome in the victorious crew and the locals are planning to come out in force to welcome home the ten round the world sailors on Sunday morning.
In the disturbed air flow spread all over the Atlantic, Groupama 3 carries on its rapid progress towards the finish line and substantially increases its lead over the reference time. The arrival at the Créac’h’s lighthouse is still scheduled for Saturday, but the time frame remains open all day as the low pressure area could slow down the giant trimaran.
If the departure’s weather window was narrow, the gates of arrival are now wide open! But 1 500 miles away from Ushant, Franck Cammas and his men are not done yet with changing conditions: by having to approach the center of low pressure which is currently pushing the giant trimaran, the wind will become more unstable and should suddenly change from South-West to North-West. The wind will also strengthen to over thirty knots with gusts in the squalls and the crew will therefore have many maneuvers to undertake until the entry of the Gulf of Biscay.
“The sea is short, the wind is not very stable: it does not slide that much. But the sky is very clear unlike yesterday. On Wednesday night, we got it all: the wind went from six to thirty knots! With a flood of rain on top of that. Since we went through the front, everything is going much better, from wind to sea. However it will evolve as we get closer to the center of the low pressure area.” Franck Cammas indicated during the videoconference from 1230 with the Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris in the presence of culinary presenter Jean-Luc Petitrenaud.
After 46 days at sea, the crew is starting to get impatient and although the distance between land and the sailors is reduced by great surfs; we felt during the video conference with Franck Cammas that the crew was eager to return to their family … and to normal food!
“We’re going to have a good steak because dried food looks more like dog food! Eating is not a pleasure every day: luckily we got fish dishes and sauces prepared by Philippe Rochat to get some taste … We are sailing too fast to fish and we have only raised a small flying fish out of this world tour, so small that we returned it to the sea ”
The finish meal will still wait until Saturday as, by then, the crew will have to be fit and ready for the tough, but also irregular finish: the front will force men to reduce the sail and during those nights with almost no moon, navigation is always a bit stressful, especially when they have to maneuver. Without counting the shipping traffic which will intensify towards the approach of Cape Finisterre and a sea state to be degraded on arrival on the Continental Plateau.
And front swells…
“We’ll have a rough night coming as it is always difficult to touch a low pressure center: the wind is very irregular and the sea becomes chaotic as the waves mingle with the West great swell! These phases are unpleasant and risky for the equipment. We still have 24 hours a bit tricky … We’ll have to navigate carefully, but quickly because we must not be overtaken by the low pressure or we may have to negotiate even more difficult conditions! We do not hesitate in giving a hand to the guys on watch for the maneuvers and for sails changes, to avoid fatigue and constantly adapt to this changing wind. ”
Groupama’s Race HQ moves this Thursday evening in Brest to prepare the arrival of the giant trimaran which should see the Brittany coast on Saturday. Once this low pressure area is passed tomorrow night, ETA (estimated time of arrival) can be refined to one or two hours. However, so far, the opening is between 8:00 and 20:00 (French time) depending on sea conditions and the wind regularity, as if the clock of the Jules Verne Trophy shells minutes, the yo-yo effect of the weather can change the “cooee” time !
Day 45 (17th March 1400 UTC): 441 miles (lead = 412 miles)
Day 46 (18th March 1300 UTC): 579 miles (lead = 828 miles)
On the 44th day at sea, Groupama 3 has made up the ground on Orange 2 very quickly and is now ahead of the reference time. However Franck Cammas and his men have yet to traverse a ridge of high pressure. At that point the giant trimaran is bound to slow down in the lighter breeze, where it will be necessary to put in a gybe before hooking onto a low which will propel her as far as Brest.
Twenty-two days behind, twenty-two days in front! This round the world course, now less than 2,500 miles from completion, marks an important phase: the reversal of the trend. Amassing a lead of up to 620 miles (6th day) and a 492 mile deficit (40th day) off Brazil, Groupama 3’s progress has often been thwarted by rather unfavourable weather. This Tuesday comes as a great relief then for all the crew aboard Groupama 3, who can now view the next stage of the programme in a slightly more relaxed manner and with more clarity, as the forecasts are encouraging for this Atlantic sprint.
“We have some good conditions, we’re going fast and there’s a great atmosphere on deck, but we’re going to have a battle on our hands with the ridge of high pressure that’s lying across our path. Nevertheless, we can really smell home now! We’ve been waiting for this moment to get ahead again… At times recently, it’s been possible to read a bit of doubt on our faces. However, our routing was right and we’re beginning to make gains now. We remain humble because we’ve still got a way to go yet and there may be some obstacles across our path, such as containers or the like… Nevertheless, the strategy that’s taking shape is giving the crew something to be enthusiastic about! In principle, we shouldn’t be lacking in wind at the end and we’re still envisaging a finish this weekend” indicated Jacques Caraës during the 1130 UTC radio session with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris.
In time for spring…
Suspense continues to reign today though as the completion of the course will depend on the time Groupama 3 takes to traverse the ridge of high pressure: if the wind is greater than ten knots, the giant trimaran could hook onto a front the minute she escapes the high pressure. However, if the zone of high pressure shifts across at the same time as the boat, the time frame may be considerably longer and Franck Cammas and his men might have to bide their time until they can hook onto another disturbed system… The least favourable routing gives an arrival on Sunday morning.
“The last few days will be pretty tough and we’re going to have to stay on our guard, because we’ve certainly accumulated some fatigue along the way. Some of us have lost weight and all of us have weaker legs due to not moving round much aboard Groupama 3. We’ve had a balanced diet, even though it’s not excellent everyday! The boat has also lost weight and you can feel that she’s lighter… Five years ago on Orange 2, we weren’t spoilt after the equator with a very W’ly course and two ridges of high pressure to traverse. We didn’t really get going again until we were level with the Azores. We’ve certainly got an advantage today, especially as Groupama 3 has a superior speed capacity when sailing close-hauled. We’re also driving the boat a bit harder because Bruno Peyron had a bit more room for manoeuvre to beat the Jules Verne Trophy in 2005: he always remained below the maxi-catamaran’s potential.”
The final high pressure trap
“A ridge of high pressure is a barrier of light winds. However, that’s not the only difficulty before the finish as there will be some fronts to negotiate. Groupama 3 has been well positioned since exiting the Doldrums, by shifting across to 40°W. Indeed the trajectory will be able to bend northwards and as the wind eases, the giant trimaran will accompany the rotation to the SE, then the S, gybing once the breeze has clocked round to the SW. The axis of the ridge of high pressure, where the winds are lighter, should be reached early this Tuesday evening. The zone which contains wind of less than fifteen knots stretches around 400 miles, with a particularly sensitive phase of around fifty miles with just ten knots or so of breeze…” says Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.
Once through this tricky zone, the wind is set to pick up considerably from Wednesday afternoon: an initial low is passing across the Azores to join up with Europe, whilst a second is due to follow suit. As such the wind will be established over this final section of the course through until the middle of next week, which means we can be fairly optimistic about the finish off Ushant. “The probabilities on a round the world in winter indicate that the strongest winds are in the Bay of Biscay: there will be waves of up to four to five metres and forty knots of breeze or more…”
Offshore of Cape Verde, Groupama 3 is powering back into contention in relation to her virtual rival. Indeed she has made up nearly 200 miles in the past 24 hours and her deficit is set to diminish still further over the coming hours! On her 43rd day at sea, Orange 2 was the slowest she’d been along the entire course of the round the world…
Hope coloured proceedings today and Frédéric Le Peutrec’s voice spoke volumes during the 1130 UTC radio session with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris. The Doldrums was virtually non-existent last night, though Franck Cammas had been rather wary of approaching the zone at dusk. Ultimately, not only was there little to worry about, but added to that the tradewinds are well established in the NE and the fifteen knots or so of breeze is enabling the giant trimaran to make an average speed close to, and even at times greater than thirty knots! At around this same time five years ago, Bruno Peyron and his crew were so tangled up in a ridge of high pressure that they only covered 180 miles on the 43rd day…
End of the week?
“We’re going to bring rain, with the sky full of contrasts… and we’re envisaging an arrival this coming weekend. We set out from Brest (also during a weekend) with a narrow weather window and it was at the back of our minds that it was possible the attempt would come to nothing at Cape Finisterre. As such we’re very happy to have got this far, still within the timing and still full of hope! We’ve managed to remain concentrated on our pace, on preserving the boat and with a pretty decent course in relation to the weather conditions we’ve experienced. The results are positive, even though it’s not over yet. Groupama 3 is a boat which really goes well in the light airs and into the wind, which is something we’ve really been able to make use of, as much in the descent and the ascent of the South Atlantic… We really believe we can do it! We’re eager to see you again.”
There will nevertheless be a ridge of high pressure to negotiate from Tuesday evening, before joining up with a low which will bring with it SW’ly breezes… It’s also possible that these winds may accompany them all the way to the finish off Ushant! As such the wind will ease temporarily, which is why navigator Stan Honey has opted to let them run on a little, by getting a little bit of West into their N’ly course. This will be the final weather barrier then before the sprint to the finish, on a virtually direct course towards Brittany. They have just 2,000 miles to cover now!
Doldrum free… almost
“Last night went well in the end, with just a short calm spell: as such we’re already in the tradewinds, on smooth seas making fast headway without any violence for the boat and the crew! On Sunday we were still in squalls without a lot of wind and Franck was feeling a little doubtful… It’s the end of the voyage though and the nerves are always a tad more frayed! We’re really keen to get to the finish because our nerves are a little worn and, though all’s well with the boat, she is a little fatigued herself. We’re still relishing the sailing but it’s nice that it will come to an end soon too. 24/ 7 in a confined space with the other guys on a boat which is going fast and is sometimes stressful, means that you can’t always be good humoured. All’s well though and right now we’re sailing on a single hull in perfect conditions…”
The final system of breeze should be a little less steady than the current tradewinds so Groupama 3 is likely to make headway in fits and starts at the end of this week. However, the road home is clear and the lights are on green without any major obstacles between here and Ushant, with the exception of a slight reduction in pace in the ridge of high pressure…
Groupama 3’s log (departure on 31st January at 13h 55′ 53” UTC)
Day 1 (1st February 1400 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2 (2nd February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3 (3rd February 1400 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4 (4th February 1400 UTC): 565 miles (lead = 245 miles)
Day 5 (5th February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 562 miles)
Day 6 (6th February 1400 UTC): 456 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Day 7 (7th February 1400 UTC): 430 miles (lead = 539 miles)
Day 8 (8th February 1400 UTC): 305 miles (lead = 456 miles)
Day 9 (9th February 1400 UTC): 436 miles (lead = 393 miles)
Day 10 (10th February 1400 UTC): 355 miles (lead = 272 miles)
Day 11 (11th February 1400 UTC): 267 miles (deficit = 30 miles)
Day 12 (12th February 1400 UTC): 247 miles (deficit = 385 miles)
Day 13 (13th February 1400 UTC): 719 miles (deficit = 347 miles)
Day 14 (14th February 1400 UTC): 680 miles (deficit = 288 miles)
Day 15 (15th February 1400 UTC): 651 miles (deficit = 203 miles)
Day 16 (16th February 1400 UTC): 322 miles (deficit = 376 miles)
Day 17 (17th February 1400 UTC): 425 miles (deficit = 338 miles)
Day 18 (18th February 1400 UTC): 362 miles (deficit = 433 miles)
Day 19 (19th February 1400 UTC): 726 miles (deficit = 234 miles)
Day 20 (20th February 1400 UTC): 672 miles (deficit = 211 miles)
Day 21 (21th February 1400 UTC): 584 miles (deficit = 124 miles)
Day 22 (22nd February 1400 UTC): 607 miles (deficit = 137 miles)
Day 23 (23rd February 1400 UTC): 702 miles (lead = 60 miles)
Day 24 (24th February 1400 UTC): 638 miles (lead = 208 miles)
Day 25 (25th February 1400 UTC): 712 miles (lead = 371 miles)
Day 26 (26th February 1400 UTC): 687 miles (lead = 430 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 797 miles (lead = 560 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 517 miles)
Day 29 (1st March 1400 UTC): 434 miles (lead = 268 miles)
Day 30 (2nd March 1400 UTC): 575 miles (lead = 184 miles)
Day 31 (3rd March 1400 UTC): 617 miles (lead = 291 miles)
Day 32 (4th March 1400 UTC): 492 miles (lead = 248 miles)
Day 33 (5th March 1400 UTC): 445 miles (lead = 150 miles)
Day 34 (6th March 1400 UTC): 461 miles (lead = 58 miles)
Day 35 (7th March 1400 UTC): 382 miles (deficit = 100 miles)
Day 36 (8th March 1400 UTC): 317 miles (deficit = 326 miles)
Day 37 (9th March 1400 UTC): 506 miles (deficit = 331 miles)
Day 38 (10th March 1400 UTC): 321 miles (deficit = 384 miles)
Day 39 (11th March 1400 UTC): 255 miles (deficit = 309 miles)
Day 40 (12th March 1400 UTC): 288 miles (deficit = 473 miles)
Day 41 (13th March 1400 UTC): 503 miles (deficit = 483 miles)
Day 42 (14th March 1400 UTC): 445 miles (deficit = 403 miles)
Day 43 (15th March 1400 UTC): 482 miles (deficit = 216 miles)
The record to beat
Currently held by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 since 2005 with a time of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes at an average of 17.89 knots. Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës were aboard at the time.