The crew of Leg 4 Marc Lagesse, Mohammed al Ghailani, Mohsin Al Busaidi, Paul Standbridge, Sidney Gavignet, Yann Regniau (Photo by Mark Covell / Majan / Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race)

The crew of Leg 4 Marc Lagesse, Mohammed al Ghailani, Mohsin Al Busaidi, Paul Standbridge, Sidney Gavignet, Yann Regniau (Photo by Mark Covell / Majan / Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race)

 

  

Majan .

The international crew on board Oman Sail’s A100 trimaran ‘Majan’ have celebrated their arrival in Singapore on the penultimate leg of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race. Majan left Fremantle (Australia) on the 9th April for the 2,700-mile leg to Singapore which has proved to be a ‘mild affair’ compared to the storm-fuelled leg from Cape Town to Fremantle with Majan surviving 70-knot winds in the Southern Ocean. The high-performance A100 trimaran crossed the finish line off Cape Piai, the fourth great Cape of the course, at 14:47 GMT on Sunday (18th April) completing the fourth leg that started from the Fremantle ‘city’ start line in 9 days and 10 hours and a Cape Leeuwin-Cape Piai reference time of 8 days, 15 hours, 12 minutes, then reached Keppel Bay Marina late evening.

As Majan has traced out this inaugural Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race course via the Maldives, Cape Town, Fremantle and now Singapore – the first race to link together the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia – the 105-ft multihull has generated a huge amount of interest. Every effort has been made by the crew to share the stopover and promote this new race, ahead of the official edition in spring 2012, with the media, VIPs, school children and local government. The Majan crew have engaged with the locals at every stopover giving talks at the local yacht club, opening up Majan to the public with some enjoying the privilege of sailing on board.

Singapore in particular has close maritime ties with Oman and shortly after Majan departs, a second Oman ship will be arriving. The Jewel of Muscat is a recreation of a 9th century AD 60-ft trading vessel that was hand-built with 70,000 stitches and without one nail on a beach near Oman’s capital Muscat. Launched into the Oman Sea for the first time last November, the ship was named at a special ceremony in Muscat attended by an official delegation from the Republic of Singapore before setting sail on 16th February. The Jewel of Muscat has already stopped in India and will now stop in Sri Lanka and Malaysia before arriving in Singapore in July. As part of Oman’s programme to reignite its maritime eminence, the Sultanate will be giving the Jewel of Muscat to the People of Singapore as a gift to heighten the awareness of the old trading routes between the two countries.

 

Back on the high speed trimaran, Majan’s crew got off to good, albeit upwind, start to Leg 4 as they headed south to Cape Leeuwin – not easy when you’re next destination lies to the north! Omani crew, Mohammed al Ghailani, wrote: “I always find the first 48 hours at sea very hard. As soon as my body and sleep clock has become accustomed to the timing, I am happy again. When you have your sea legs you have stopped feeling sick. We had an upwind start again, and yes I was very ill!” After Cape Leeuwin the ride got easier as Majan pushed northwards, however, four days into the leg drama struck.

 

Media crew, Mark Covell, takes up the story: “Mohsin [Al Busaidi] was steering in around 15 knots of breeze and we were sailing downwind off the north-west corner of Australia, under our huge cuban-fibre gennaker, the G1. Suddenly, the halyard snapped about a foot below the top of the mast sending the sail tumbling over the side in the dark. Mohsin, Marc [Lagesse] and Sidney [Gavignet] were on watch at the time. Quick thinking by Mohsin, meant little damage was done as he turned the boat down, slowing us right down, and shouted for Paul to come up on deck. This was quickly followed by a call for ‘all hands on deck’. It took about twenty minutes to haul the sail back on board.”

Thankfully no lasting damage was done and two days later the cry of ‘Land Ahoy’ went out as Majan came within sight of Jawa and Sumatra: “We have sailed in open ocean most of the time since we left Oman so this feels a bit strange for us,” wrote Mohsin. “Now we are having to navigate round obstacles, instead of sailing for days on one heading. No more long and open ocean swells and weather systems. This is flat water, island-hopping, coastal racing!”

 

Close to land and getting ever closer to the Equator, the wind dissipated in the soaring temperatures but with the bad comes the good: “A multihull can handle very big waves but give Majan flat water and she purrs along like a happy cat stretched out in the sun.

So far, we have made better progress than expected. The forecast has been for very little wind by day and a touch more by night. We did have a hot and painful 4 hour stretch of under 3 knots – but last night we fed off the updraft of a large thunderstorm about 10 miles away. As the hot are was sucked up into the system, it drew air past us giving us a solid 15 knots for most of the night,” reported Ghailani.

Now the Majan crew can relax for a while ahead of their scheduled departure from Singapore on the 27th April on the final leg of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race, homeward bound to Oman.

About Cape Piai:

Marking the southernmost point of mainland Asia, Tanjung Piai (or Cape Piai) is located in the Johor district of Malaysia, that opens on the eponymous Strait, and across which the Singapore skyline is visible. The Cape itself, set in the preserved environment of the Johor Regional Park, is surrounded by spectacular mangrove forests and has become a touristic destination. Piai is also the point at which the Johor Strait joins the famous Strait of Malacca, which has made the headlines over the past decade due to piracy. Coordinates: 1°15’ N – 103°30’ E.

 Article Photos Courtesy Mark Covell / Majan / Oman Sail

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) 

 

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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.

Spray of Deck of Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

Spray on Deck of Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy Of Team Groupama)

Franck Cammas and his nine crew are navigating through a difficult zone between a stormy low and the tradewinds of the Saint Helena High. In fact Groupama 3 will have to continue northward for another 36 hours before she can escape this meteorological minefield and pick up the thread of this Jules Verne Trophy again… Each puff of breeze translates as a gain or loss in relation to the reference time! 

There are still another 4,500 miles to go before they can get a glimpse of Finistère on the horizon! A sight Franck Cammas and his crew hope to see in eleven days if they are to stand a chance of beating the round the world record! Before all that though, they will have to escape the meteorological minefield, which has held Groupama 3 captive for over a day in shifty and rather unfavourable winds… Fortunately the 10-man crew are 100% focused on doing just that, though it is still tricky to cast one’s mind forward some ten days when you’re at sea. Whatever happens, the energy and atmosphere aboard the giant trimaran is so positive that the obstacles along the route are but trivial…

“We had some difficulties last night and since then we’ve had to deal with squalls every ten minutes, but we’re now beginning to escape this unstable zone! We’re not yet into the tradewinds, but it’s reminiscent of such conditions, even though we’re not yet reaching great speeds. Everyone is on watch in the rather pleasant conditions in order to build up their strength again. After 39 days at sea, we’re no longer having any problems in adapting to the weather conditions, but we have lost some weight and we’re longing to eat fresh food!” indicated Franck Cammas at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris, in the presence of Frédéric Courant, co-host of a French science programme. 

 

Constant adaptation
The unstable zone of wind isn’t yet astern of Groupama 3 as they must not only leave behind them the stormy low, which has dramatically slowed their progress over the past two days, but also traverse a ridge of high pressure, which will be a tricky transition phase taking them on to the E’ly tradewinds of Saint Helena… For now then, the crew is constantly having to adapt with these changeable conditions!

“In the space of a minute we were able to have a wash in a squall! However, we’re trying to avoid being under the influence of a cumulonimbus where there isn’t a lot of wind… We can clearly see that the tradewinds aren’t far off now. We’ve pretty much had it with upwind sailing as the time goes slowly in these kinds of conditions. However, we’re going to have to be patient for another 36 hours before we find ourselves in a steadier and more favourable system. The passage of the equator is set for Sunday morning and in the meantime we’re going to flirt with the light airs. We’re going to have to make as rapid headway as we can to hold onto our chances of beating the Jules Verne Trophy record.” 

 

Tradewind instructions for use
“Groupama 3 has been sailing into the wind since Cape Horn and they’re going to have to wait till Friday night or early on Saturday before they track down more favourable winds… As such the next 36 hours will continue to be difficult, as they’ll have to traverse a ridge of high pressure. After the Doldrums, the NE’ly tradewinds are well installed in the North Atlantic and, following on from that, a depression will need to be created over the North American continent so as to propel the giant trimaran towards Ushant at high speed. There’s a strong likelihood of this happening too!” explained Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.

In the meantime, the giant trimaran is still managing to maintain a stable separation in relation to the reference time as Orange 2 didn’t have the wind gods on her side at this point in 2005 either. Whilst Groupama 3 is having to put in a series of tacks to make northing, her predecessor had to wait a while before they made it through to the tradewinds associated with the Saint Helena High. Currently with a deficit of around 300 miles, Franck Cammas and his men still have everything to play for as the ascent of the North Atlantic wasn’t very fast for Bruno Peyron and his crew… However, now more than ever before, every hour counts.

 

Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Groupama 3 (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

The current phase offshore of the Brazilian coast isn’t the easiest section on this round the world, with a mass of storm squalls making it difficult to anticipate the trajectory. Navigator Stan Honey, in collaboration with the onshore router Sylvain Mondon, is constantly having to adapt Groupama 3’s course in order to extract her from this zone and finally make it through to the tradewinds to the North of the 22° parallel… 

The forecast wind report isn’t yet tallying up with the current situation on the water… The atmospheric sounding didn’t predict the gale which ripped through the navigation zone to the SE of Rio de Janeiro at 40 knots with very choppy seas last night. The fatigue related to this round the world is beginning to weigh on them now and the crew has lost weight since leaving Ushant. Furthermore this transition around 300 miles to the North, at the mercy of the wind, may well prove to be the key to this Jules Verne Trophy…

“We didn’t expect this phase of strong winds to be so long! The bad weather with 35-37 knots of breeze was only set to last from 0400 to 1000 hours on Tuesday. In reality it lasted four extra hours and increased to 42 knots with heavy seas… We had two watch systems on deck at the same time for a while because it was impossible to sleep in any case and you couldn’t even stand upright down below. We’ve reduced the sail area to three reefs in the mainsail without a jib up forward! The platform is holding up well but the deck fittings are beginning to suffer from wear. This lunchtime, the wind has really dropped away, to as little as 10-17 knots according to the squalls, with a very changeable breeze. It’s been three hours now that we’ve had a big cumulonimbus on our tail… The sea is flat at the moment, the water temperature is 25°C, there’s a sticky heat as well as a stifling atmosphere” indicated Loïc Le Mignon at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris. 

Groupama 3 In Whitecaps (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

Groupama 3 In Whitecaps (Photo Courtesy of Team Groupama)

 

No way out to the right, nor the left…
Right now there are zones of high pressure to the left and to the right. Indeed the calm zones have got Groupama 3 surrounded and she is having to zigzag her way between the squalls, which are causing massive changes in both the strength and direction of the wind, with shifts of over 60° and a breeze oscillating between 10 and 20 knots… As such Franck Cammas and his men are having to constantly be on the alert for the incessant shifts, linking together a series of tack changes to optimise the course. Fortunately the giant trimaran is very at ease in these conditions and has been able to rack up twenty-eight knots of boatspeed with just twelve knots of breeze on the nose. Rather less encouraging news for the crew of Groupama 3 is that this situation will last until the latitude of Vitoria, some 300 miles to their North…

“We hope to make it into the tradewinds during the course of Thursday night. However, for the time being, our progress northward is really being hampered. When we head to the left towards the Brazilian coast, the wind heads us as it switches round to the NW and we stumble in a line of squalls. And when we head to the right, the wind veers to the NE as it eases! We’re forced to tack on a constant basis to remain in the centre… weaving our way along in line with the breeze. Fortunately, given that Groupama 3 makes such great headway in light winds, we’re managing to manoeuvre well. Orange 2 wouldn’t have made such good progress in winds like this!” 

 

An uncertain outcome
We won’t have to wait till the weekend to know the outcome of this “Brazilian ejection”: in this region, the wind is either stormy and inconsistent due to a neo-tropical low, otherwise it’s steady and on the beam along the northern edge of the Saint Helena High! Heckled by the squalls, the crew of Groupama 3 is scanning the horizon and still stands a good chance of winning on this giant trimaran’s first circumnavigation of the globe. However, there’s just a week and a half to go to `carry the day’!

“Groupama 3 is an extraordinary boat! This trimaran can be manoeuvred very easily and we can put in a tack very quickly. The speeds obtained with slightly eased sheets and in the downwind conditions of the Deep South are incredible! Furthermore, after nearly a complete loop of the world, she’s in perfect condition, though we’re really looking after her… Personally it’s a very enriching experience to sail with this French crew: we eat well, there’s a very pleasant atmosphere and the average speeds are amazing. Right now it’s not proving very easy with the squalls, but we hope to make it through into the tradewinds as quickly as we can. Franck, Sylvain and I are working very well together and the exchanges between us are proving very fruitful. I remain confident about the next stage of this Jules Verne Trophy as the whole crew is extremely motivated to get to the finish within the time limit…” indicated Stan Honey, the American navigator onboard. 

 

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

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