08/02/2015, Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Onboard One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton with Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa, Clothing equipment for the Southern ocean ( Photo ©  Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa)

08/02/2015, Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Onboard One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton with Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa, Clothing equipment for the Southern ocean ( Photo © Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa)

  • Ice Monitoring for the race plays a unique role in research
  • Round the World Races commision 90 per cent of ice tracking research
  • Neutrogena pit stopped

The Barcelona World Race and the competing skippers are playing an important role in one aspect of the monitoring of climate change.
Ice is now seen more frequently and more accurately when it breaks away from the Antarctic ice cap and as it drifts into the areas which have been the traditional southern oceans routes for round the world races.

As a consequence it is vital for the absolute safety of the crews that the positions and movement of ice is tracked and the racing area restricted to avoid danger to the crews.

In fact this comprehensive, accurate level of tracking is done almost exclusively for the Barcelona World Race – and other round the world races – but over time this level of tracking will deliver a direct benefit to scientific research.
Proof of climate change is hard to measure, but even in the Furious 50s and Roaring 40s latitudes Barcelona World Race duos have recently been experiencing warm, sunny interludes.

We are enjoying our summer holiday in the Southern Ocean” quipped Spirit of Hungary’s Conrad Colman a couple of days ago, basking in sunshine and temperatures akin to summer in northern Europe.
At 50 degrees south today Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos today reflected on a sunny, almost warm respite from the usual cold weather. Renault Captur’s Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane were sailing in short and t-shirts in the Roaring 40s a few days ago.

Such intermissions become part of anecdotal evidence but it is the round the world race’s safety requirement for in-depth study of iceberg detection and the circulation and drift patterns that will help scientists understand the evolution of climate change.

Ice Day in BCN
It was Ice Day at the Barcelona World Race HQ today. In the media studio were Franck Mercier (FRA) of CLS, the organisation which is charged with the actual ice tracking, and Marcel van Triest (NED) who coordinates the safety zone in collaboration with Race Direction. He serves as the race meteorolgist.

Van Triest explained: “Now we know there are large pieces of ice floating in the ocean as it warms up and Antarctic ice is melting and breaking”.
The most immediate recent example are the icebergs which are near the Crozet Islands, quite north of usual expectations. A few days ago One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton were sailing within 70 miles of three or four big icebergs. They were alerted to the exact positions by Race Direction. Aleix Gelabert recalled:

“We had a warning last night from race management about this situation, that there may be a possible growlers in our route and so we changed our course a little bit just in case. There is no need to put ourselves at any additional risk. We are in contact with race management and are very confident about this. There is no problem.”

This race has opted for an exclusion zone rather than ice gates. Speaking today he highlighted how difficult it can be to avoid ice van Triest said:

” If you sail at 10 m/s speed and see an iceberg 200 m away from you, you have only 20 seconds to maneuver, that’s nothing. That’s why we have an exclusion zone, a prohibited zone. It’s better than ice gates. In my first round the world race there were no ice limits, we went down to latitudes 60ºS and 61ºS. Today the technology to detect the ice exists, so we control it, we just can’t send people down there knowing what we know. ”
” With the exclusion zone it gives more control and security. We can go closer to where we know there is ice, like we have done with the icebergs which were at the north of Crozet islands. And the limit can be set more to the South than with the ice gates. Down there there is of course more wind and the route is shorter.”

It may seem remarkable that ocean races like the Barcelona World Race are almost alone in pushing forwards the study of floating ice detection and its tracking.
Van Triest highlights:
“Ocean racing commissions do 90% of ice detection work. And this work has really only been going on for 15 years.”

Franck Mercier of CLS: ” Because of this, round-the-world races like BWR help to work on understanding the climatic change. It’s very expensive to study the ice detection, nobody does it except round-the-world races because it’s very expensive, although it’s very interesting for the understanding of climate change. ”

Also as part of the Barcelona World Race’s drive to propagate scientific understanding, the Argo beacons which were launched recently are already providing interesting information. The one which Neutrogena launched is at 44 deg S and shows a surface sea temperature of 12 Deg. Cheminées Poujoulat’s is at 43 Deg South showing a sea temp of 17 Deg.

Meantime, asked if this is a year of moderate conditions in the Big South for the fleet, both Van Triest and Mercier chorused:
“….for the moment….”

In the Dock, In The Race
In Bluff by Invercargill, South Island New Zealand, repairs to Neutrogena’s failed charging system are reported to be on schedule. Skippers Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz are described as having a good night’s sleep in readiness for their departure which the team believe will be at 0522hrs UTC Saturday morning as per the mandatory minimum 24 hours duration.
Race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat were taking some brief respite in lighter airs today and expect more of the same tomorrow. Jean Le Cam and Bernard Stamm are now nearly 800 miles ahead of the pit-stopped Neutrogena. In turn GAES Centros Auditivos have reduced their deficit to Neutrogena from 1100 miles to 657 miles.

Skippers’ quotes:
Anna Corbella (ESP) GAES Centros Auditivos: ” We are pushing as hard as we can. It is not easy to push harder. But if we have any opportunity to catch Neutrogena then we take it.  
At the moment we feel safe. We did not see any ice. I hope it will continue like this. I think it is safe. I feel confident with the people in the people working on it and I think it is working. I don’t know which system I would prefer, I dont know whether ice gates or the exclusion zone is better. For the moment the exclusion zone for us is not very good. We had some problems in the Indian Ocean because of it. I dont know which I prefer.”

Jean Le Cam, FRA, Cheminées Poujoulat:“The atmosphere on board has changed a bit. After a week when it was hard to do anything less than 19kts average it is quieter again and we are under spinnaker. It is not really that nice but at least the boat is going forwards and it is not slamming. You can drink a coffee quietly and rest. We will make the big general check of the boat tomorrow. It is good.

Stop for Neutrogena
We go as fast and best we can. We are in the rhythym and try not to break it. We route by our weather options and so nothing changes for us. Yes we are comfortable now, that is clear. And it is good. But you still have to stay on it all the time, because no one is immune to a technical problem. Tomorrow we will take full advantage of a little time to make a general check of everything. Neutrogena will get going and it is true we will have a little advance, you can say we are comfortably off. But, hey, we are not immune to shit happening.”

Friday the 13th superstition?
“Yes, pfff, no … On Friday 13 you can take it both ways. So I will take it in the right way. Friday the 13th is called a lucky day. It always reminds me of the boat Yvon Fauconnier, Friday 13. Come on, let’s say it’s a lucky day! »

Antimériden
“For me, it’s a real border. The numbers are decreasing now and that means we are closer. You see, I’m at 173 ° 29 West, and the numbers decrease more, so the closer you get. It is a sign of reconciliation and not a sign of remoteness. It is in the phase of the course when you really start to feel you are going towards the finish.»
Standings Friday 13th February 1400hrs UTC
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm – J. Le Cam) at 10.756,7 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz) + 796,0 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella – G. Marín) + 1.453,9 miles to leader
4 Renault Captur (J. Riechers – S. Audigane) + 1.729,9 miles to leader
5 We Are Water (B. Garcia – W. Garcia) + 2.605,0 miles to leader
6 One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert – D. Costa) + 3.503,3 millas del líde
7 Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa – C. Colman) + 4.176,9 miles to leader
ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

Bernard Stamm (SUI) and Cheminées Poujopulat (Photo  copyright Cheminées Poujopulat / Barcelona World Race)

Bernard Stamm (SUI) and Cheminées Poujopulat (Photo copyright Cheminées Poujopulat / Barcelona World Race)

 

  • Kerguelens tomorrow for Cheminees Poujoulat
  • We Are Water break Cape of Good Hope
  • GAES Centros Auditivos stem their losses

Another landmark will be ticked off tomorrow for Barcelona World Race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat when they sail north of the lonely Kerguelen Islands.
Coralled north by the race’s Antarctic Exclusion Zone, Bernard Stamm and Jean La Cam will pass 300 miles north of the island archipelago which are in every sense one of the most isolated, lonely spots on planet earth, over 2000 miles from the nearest significantly populated area.

The Kerguelen or Desolation Islands were discoveed 240 years ago by the Breton navigator Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen Trémerec and claimed as French.  There are hundreds of small islands but the only inhabitants are between 45 and 100 French scientists, researchers and engineers stationed there.

As such they are important point on the race course, almost exactly half way from the Cape Good Hope to Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, 2300 miles from the South African cape, 2100 to Leeuwin. They are in effect equidistant from somewhere but quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
They are also the only possible haven for the race fleets when they are crossing this inhospitable stretch of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, just as Jean LeCam was pleased to have passed the Cape Verde islands where his Barcelona World Race ended prematurely, so co-skipper Stamm will subconsciously be pleased to check off the Kerguelens, passing at good speeds with their IMOCA 60 in good shape and with a lead of more than 270 miles. Stamm lost a previous Cheminées Poujoulat when it was grounded in December 2008 during the solo Vendèe Globe. Ironically fellow Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre was also stopped there with a keel problem.

Stamm was not making his memories obv ious indeed he was on good form today when he summed up the Barcelona World Race so far for himself and co-skipper Jean Le Cam.

” A lot has gone on. But all in all the boat performs well , it goes well. Now we had some small technical problems that don’y exactly make our lives easier even now, but nothing is insurmountable. Apart from a passage a little close to the Azores high where we got light winds  we have sailed the course we wanted.”

Cheminées Poujoulat is now lined up 275 miles directly in front of second placed Neutrogena, benefiting from more wind which is more consistent than that of the pursuing duo Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz.
The biggest problem on the horizon for the two leading IMOCA 60s is the former tropical cyclone Diamondra which was more of a threat but which looks to be dissipating now after winds peaking at around 55kts. These storms lose their energy quickly when they pass over the colder water. Nonetheless it remains a concern for Cheminées Poujoulat and for Neutrogena and will certainly alter their relatively straightforwards regime in about three days time.
Their passage of the Cape of Good Hope this morning at 1106hrs UTC is the first Great Cape for the Garcia brothers Bruno and Willy on We Are Water. Considering how little preparation time they had prior to the start, and how both were carrying on their day jobs, Bruno as a heart doctor and Willy as a jewellery retailer until days before the start, their success to date is commendable. Indeed of the fleet they are the first genuine ‘amateurs’  in this race, sailors who make their li ving from outside of the sport.

Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin have meantime stemmed some of their worst losses on GAES Centros Auditivos and have been making double digit boat speeds for much of the day after being badly stuck in a high pressure system, although the light winds are moving east with them. In fact their nearest pursuers, fourth placed Renault Captur are now 416 miles behind when two days ago they were 602 miles astern, but the Spanish duo are now quicker again than Renault Captur’sJorg Riechers and Seb Audigane.

Skippers quotes:

Anna Corbella (ESP) GAES Centros Auditivos:” In fact at the moment we are looking backwards because the meteo we have just now is dangerous for us because the boats in front are gone and the boats in the back are catching us, so at the moment we are looking back. It is our concern. I think after this high pressure we will look forwards again and try to catch some miles again on Neutrogena.
Right now we are going out and have 14kts of wind, downwind sailing now and sailing faster – at 12 kts – in the coming hours we will probably stop again and the wind will got to the front and we are going to have another problem with the high pressure. For the moment the night was not so bad we were sailing slowly but we it was not so bad.
From my side, I don’t know what Gerard thinks, it’s a different race from last time. I don’t know if it is harder. Maybe harder is not the word… but it is a little bit more  intense because since the first days we’ve been sailing with the head of the fleet and we’ve had more pressure and we’ve had to sail as fast as possible. And this makes the race more demanding but not harder. For the moment the weather is the same (as the last edition) and we are doing pretty much the same.
To us, particularly in our case, it is hurting us (the exclusion zone) because it really gives us absolutely no choice. With the ice gates we could have gone up and down a bit, and now all we do is go straight along the line of the exclusion zone. I think for other boats it will be different, I guess in every way it is better or worst. That’s it. I guess it depends on the case.

Bernard Stamm (SUI) Cheminées Poujopulat: “From the beginning we have been O K, we passed a little close to the high and had light winds but since then we have been able to do what we want with no problems, and we were doing everything we can to go as fast as we can, safely as possible. It has been a good first month.”

A month of racing , what conclusions do you draw ?
A lot has gone on. But all in all the boat performs well , it goes well. Now we had some small technical problems that did not make our lives easier even now, but nothing is surmountable . Apart from a passage a little close to the Azores high  we have sailed the course we wanted.
The gaps widen
It is more obvious now that GAES are caught by the anticyclone. With Neutrogena , maybe it will be a bit of concertina effect, I do not know. We make our way according to the the wind not really compared to other competitors.

Things are different from solo?
This is much more serene, sleeping much better. It is good proper slee. Frequently you sleep for three or four hours. Very rarely , much more. Evenother things it is much better . The maneuvers are two , the stacking is with two , it is much simpler.

Life with Jean
Normally , there is no problem. It’s always easier said before , we are not sphinxes , but for many reasons  it has to work. The bottom line is it work for many reasons . Jean said before  said that the biggest concern was the ego. If it was one of us that had this ego problem , but this is not the case, we are tools to make the boat go, so it ‘s going pretty well.

Course to Cape Leeuwin
In front of us on the east coast of Australia , there are two small tropical lows that will come down to us. And our course and strategy will be dicated by how we deal with them. We will have some bad weather, you just have to not push too hard and try and sail in the best, most normal conditions.

The gaps widen
It is more obvious now that GAES are caught by the anticyclone. With Neutrogena , maybe it will be a bit of concertina effect, I do not know. We make our way according to the the wind not really compared to other competitors .

Things are different from solo?
This is much more serene, sleeping much better. It is good proper slee. Frequently you sleep for three or four hours. Very rarely , much more. Evenother things it is much better . The maneuvers are two , the stacking is with two , it is much simpler.

Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Friday 30th January 2015
1. Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm – J. Le Cam) at 15.736,5 miles to the finish
2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz) + 272,9 miles to the leader
3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella – G. Marín) + 889,8 miles to the leader
4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers – S. Audigane) + 1.305,2 miles to the leader
5. We Are Water (B. Garcia – W. Garcia) + 1.889,4 miles to the leader
6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert – D. Costa) + 2.444,7 miles to the leader
7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa – C. Colman) + 2.955,8 miles to the leader
ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings, We Are Water (Bruno Garcia, Willy Garcia)(Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/Barcelona World Race)

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings, We Are Water (Bruno Garcia, Willy Garcia)(Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/Barcelona World Race)

 

 

 Thomas Coville sets off for his solo round-the-world record attempt. Brest, 17 January 2014. Photo by  Yvan Zedda-Sodebo

Under a southerly-southwesterly breeze of 15-20 knots and a swell at Ushant, Thomas Coville crossed the start line of his round-the-world solo record attempt this morning at 7h42’44” (French time). To beat the record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, held by Francis Joyon since 2008, the Sodebo maxi- trimaran should be back before March 15th at 21h15’50” (French time).

Being in the right place at the right time. This is the challenge of the start of this round-the-world record attempt, much-expected and desired by the solitary skipper, that has been looming three months for favorable conditions to get out of the Bay of Biscay, swept by successive storms. The skipper was also forced last night to postpone for a few hours his dockout to let pass a new gust of wind which made maneuvering in the port difficult .

Late-night goodbyes
It is at 3:00 in the morning, under the light of an almost full moon, that the trimaran left the port of Château. Meanwhile on the dark dock in Brest, one could see the shadows of some irreducible including Thomas’ wife and their two children, but also the managers of Sodebo that have been supporting the skipper for 15 years. Despite the rain and wind, everybody tried to greet a more determined than ever skipper, very focused on his goal. It didn’t take long for Thomas to head towards Ushant. Three of his teammates helped him hoist the mainsail before switching to a tender off the port of Camaret, located at the exit of the harbor of Brest.

 

Without transition
The first objective of the skipper was to cross the line before the breeze weakened too much off the tip of Brittany. The maxi-trimaran sailed upwind facing a wind of 15-20 knots which is never easy near the coast. After tacking to get clear off Ushant, Thomas will head south on starboard tack to cross the thalweg (area of ​​light breeze) as low as possible in the Bay. He will then, finally, catch westerly-northwesterly downwind conditions. He will be able to accelerate but must remain vigilant because of squalls forecast on his way.

Around the world via the three capes
After the descent of the Atlantic, the record-chasing skipper must pass the Cape of Good Hope (Southern tip of Africa) and Cape Leeuwin (southwestern tip of Australia) and finally the legendary Cape Horn (South America) before returning back to the Atlantic to cross the finish line off Ushant. It’s race against the clock of 21,600 miles considered to be the most demanding of singlehanded sailing. Only Ellen MacArthur, Francis Joyon and Thomas Coville have already completed it nonstop.

Windy Day For Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

Windy Day For Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

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. 

groupama-3-crew-after-arrival-at-lizard-point-by-benoit-stichelbaut-seaco

 

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.

Fred Le Peutrec At The Helm Of Groupama 3 and Loic Le Mignon At His Side (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Fred Le Peutrec At The Helm Of Groupama 3 and Loic Le Mignon At His Side (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

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. 

Sunset From Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy of Groupama 3)

Sunset From Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy of Groupama 3)

 

Front Canvas…
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. 

 

Loic Le Mignon (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Loic Le Mignon (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

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 ! 

Thomas Coville (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Thomas Coville (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

 Day 45 (17th March 1400 UTC): 441 miles (lead = 412 miles)
Day 46 (18th March 1300 UTC): 579 miles (lead = 828 miles) 

 

.

Groupama 3 Deck (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Groupama 3 Deck (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

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…”

 

Groupama 3 From Top Of Mast (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

Groupama 3 From Top Of Mast (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

 

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.

 

Lionel Lemonchois (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Lionel Lemonchois (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

At the beginning of her forty-first day at sea in her bid to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy, Groupama 3 is finally benefiting from some favourable weather conditions. However, God knows that the crew has had to be patient before they could once again make the kind of speeds worthy of a 32 metre maxi trimaran. Indeed they are now in a position to begin making up the ground on the current Round the World record holder. In its guise as the final geographical reference of this record, the equator is just a little ahead of them now as Cammas and his crew prepare to take on their final week at sea. 

Blue seas and heat, a mild E’ly wind and tropical sunshine, such is the weather Groupama 3 has been enjoying offshore of Recife, beam onto the wind: “We’ve been slipping along nicely since late yesterday and we’re back in slightly more favourable conditions to make good speed. We’re in a good phase now with 15 knots of breeze and the boat is making 28 to 30 knots of boat speed. The sailing conditions are very mild. When we’re all on deck at the same time, we have some very enjoyable moments together” admitted Thomas Coville, during the daily radio link-up with the Paris HQ for the Jules Verne Trophy. 

 

Positioned 430 miles from the line separating the South Atlantic and the North early this afternoon, the maxi trimaran is now performing as she should now that she’s done with the rather unfavourable tack changes, which she’d been linking together since rounding Cape Horn on 4th March. Benefiting from her power (22.5 metre beam) and her large sail area (550 m2) in relation to a weight of just 18 tonnes, Groupama 3 is sailing twice as fast as the wind strength. At this pace, she has made up 54 miles on Orange 2 in the space of 13 hours, that is over 4 miles gained every hour.

Not surprisingly such a performance is giving this very top level crew a good boost: “We’re in great spirits and we’re going to give it our all until we cross the finish line. From a physical point of view, we’re feeling fairly rested and Groupama 3 is in tip-top condition, sailing at 100% of her potential. For the time being we’re still taking things step by step, as you would a hurdle race where you have to get over various obstacles. Today is coloured by the tradewinds. The next stage will be the equator then the Doldrums… We’re not thinking too far ahead as that just puts unnecessary pressure on us.” 

 

As such we can’t count on Thomas Coville to give us his prognosis of Groupama 3’s chances of crossing the finish line off the island of Ushant before Tuesday 23rd March at 0714 hours. Hardened long-distance racers, the ten crew are respecting the plan of action set by Franck Cammas to the letter: “Since setting out on this Jules Verne Trophy, we have always been sparing of our steed, even if it means not choosing the fastest course. At times that was frustrating but the upshot of that is that the boat is in perfect condition.”

Still highly attentive to developments in the weather, the group coming on watch always start out by visiting navigator Stan Honey to get instructions for the next two or three hours they’ll spend on deck: “This exchange is essential to performance because, in contrast to what you may think, there is a great deal to be won or lost according to the way in which you helm and trim the sails. We’re highly concentrated” concluded Thomas Coville.