Jules Verne Trophy: Groupama 3 switches to code green
Less than a day since Groupama’s announcement that it is renewing its partnership with the French sailor Franck Cammas until 2015, the skipper is announcing the switch to code green. This colour means that Groupama 3, on stand-by in Brest since 1st November, will set off on Thursday 5th November on her bid to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy, a round the world record attempt under sail.
50 days and 16 hours: this is the time to beat in order to snatch the record for the fastest yacht to circumnavigate the globe. Since 2005 the record has been in the hands of Bruno Peyron aboard the maxi catamaran Orange 2.
For his second attempt at the record, Franck Cammas has put together the perfect team to steer Groupama 3 through what is a hostile yet fascinating universe: “The time to beat is very quick. In order to succeed, besides an excellent boat, you need a crew which blends experience, performance and solidarity. As such a loyal and ambitious partner is required, which has been the case with Groupama for over twelve years. The renewal of our partnership until 2015 is an additional source of motivation in paying Groupama back for the trust they’ve shown in me” says the French skipper.
Accompanying him in this round the world adventure via the three capes are the loyal members of the Groupama team: Swiss sailor Stève Ravussin with whom Franck has already won two Transat Jacques Vabres, Fred Le Peutrec, Loïc Le Mignon, Ronan Le Goff as well as Jacques Caraës. Alongside them are some newcomers to the team in the form of Lionel Lemonchois, reigning champion of the Route du Rhum, Thomas Coville, solo Transatlantic recordman, Stan Honey, winning American navigator from the Volvo Ocean Race as well as Bruno Jeanjean, World Champion Match Racer.
This dream team has been preparing for the attempt in earnest since the start of the year, covering 15,000 miles or two thirds of a circumnavigation of the globe since that time: “We know each other well, we get on well and we’re eager to go, even though we know it will be difficult. Circumnavigating the globe under sail as fast as we can isn’t something you do everyday. We’ll have to be quick without causing Groupama 3 to suffer and by manoeuvring her well. Added to that we’ll have to choose the best course” adds the skipper.
Watching the weather for the past week, Franck Cammas, Stan Honey and Sylvain Mondon from Météo France appreciate the quality of the window opening up on Thursday: “There’s going to be strong winds and big seas off Brest with 30 knots of breeze and five metre waves. We’re going to be shaken about at the start but, from Cape Finisterre, the wind will become more favourable. We should then be able to smoothly hook onto the trade winds” wrote the skipper of skipper of Groupama 3 in an email to his nine crew yesterday.
This analysis is confirmed by Sylvain Mondon who will be accompanying Groupama 3 throughout his attempt from his office at Météo France in Toulouse: “The weather window expected for Groupama 3’s Jules Verne Trophy attempt isn’t exactly classic for this type of attempt. Indeed, by choosing to set off on Thursday 5th November, just after the passage of an active zone with numerous squalls and strong gusts in what are still big seas, Franck Cammas and his men haven’t taken the easy option. This is evident in the strong NW’lies which are set to blow across the Bay of Biscay until Thursday morning, picking up big seas (waves in excess of 6m), calling for the crew to be prudent.
Though Groupama 3 is setting off in such conditions for the first 24 hours at sea, things are likely to be much more favourable for the next stage in the proceedings. The NE’ly tradewinds will notably be established and steady as far as the Cape Verde archipelago. This tradewind configuration is very different from the conditions Groupama 3 experienced in 2007 during the previous attempt with numerous remnants from recent storms originating from a low between the Canaries and the Azores.
As far as the Southern Atlantic is concerned, it is still too early to have an accurate idea of what awaits Franck Cammas and his crew. Nevertheless, the overall conditions can be described as favourable with established SE’ly tradewinds to the South of the equator and the Saint Helena High is expected to be a little closer to Africa rather than South America”.
In Brest this evening for a final crew supper, the ten men on Groupama 3 intend to leave the quayside at the port of Le Château on Thursday at 1100 hours, in order to present themselves on the start line for the Jules Verne Trophy between 1600 and 1700 hours local time, in front of the Créac’h lighthouse on the island of Ushant.
The organisation aboard Groupama 3
Three watches of three people:
Franck Cammas, Loïc Le Mignon, Jacques Caraës
Stève Ravussin, Thomas Coville, Bruno Jeanjean
Fred Le Peutrec, Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff
Stan Honey, navigator, off watch
15h 50’ 22’’: Groupama 3 set off from off the Créac’h lighthouse (Ushant Finistère) in a good NW’ly breeze and big seas. Franck Cammas and his nine crew will have to be back from their circumnavigation of the globe spanning over 24,000 miles, prior to the morning of 26th December…
A granulated sky, gusts, intermittent showers, setting sun, big Atlantic swell, squalls, breaking waves: here we have the setting for this latest departure to gain a new reference time in the Jules Verne Trophy, the round the world record held by Bruno Peyron and his crew since 2005 (50d 16h 20m). Groupama 3 left the pontoon of the port of Le Château in Brest, NW France this Thursday 5th November at 1300 hours before a warm crowd of locals and the crew’s families, which came out as far as the Petit Minou lighthouse to bid them farewell. Under two-reefed mainsail and a small jib, Groupama 3 then released her tow at 1400 hours and headed out to sea in a building swell… As such the giant trimaran had to put in a few tacks to get to the North of Ushant before setting the clock running at 15h 50’ 22’’ UT.
A muscly introduction
The NW’ly wind associated with the low, which passed over Brittany on Wednesday, was still very active: the stormy sky with its cumulonimbus was generating a twenty to twenty-five knot breeze, gusting to over thirty-five knots… Above all though, the seas were hard at the exit from the English Channel with waves of nearly seven metres offshore! As such conditions weren’t ideal for the start, but the next stage in the programme is highly favourable, once the crew reaches the Portuguese coast. As a result, for half a day, Franck Cammas and his nine crew are likely to be tackling beam winds and may even have to sail close-hauled for a few hours…
“We’re going to set off under reduced sail to get free of the continental shelf. After that this NW’ly wind will shift round to the West for three hours at which point we’ll have to sail close-hauled. It’s not the ideal scenario for starting out, however the weather window is pretty favourable after that. In fact, from tomorrow lunchtime, Friday, Groupama 3 should already be sailing along the coast of Portugal. At that stage we’ll hit some N’ly and then NE’ly winds, which are set to accompany us to the archipelago of Cape Verde” indicated Franck Cammas a few minutes after leaving the pontoon.
The crew didn’t appear to be concerned about this choppy introduction to proceedings: being in a position to head out early in the season, not to have to hang around waiting for a favourable “firing window”, just after a preparation session in the mountains at the end of October, and knowing that the aim of the record is for the crew to be back before Christmas, all makes for a serene departure. “We’re going to be shaken about at the exit from the English Channel because the seas are big, but that makes for a good introduction before we slip southwards. It’ll be hot from this weekend, we’ll be at the equator in the middle of next week and the Southern Atlantic appears to be willing to enable us a swift passage” explained Lionel Lemonchois.
As such Groupama 3 must cross the finish line off Ushant before 26th December at 08h 09’ 26’’ (UT)…
A tour of the weather
“Groupama 3 is setting off as the NW’ly wind is easing slightly to 25 knots with gusts at 35 knots and a reduction in the number of squalls: the storms have dissipated. Nevertheless, it is important to remain prudent as the big seas are set to last for a few more hours yet, due largely to a big NW’ly swell. The crew will have to deal with these tricky conditions right the way across the Bay of Biscay, because although the wind will continue to ease and it will be less gusty, there will still be big seas until Friday morning. As such the exit from the Bay of Biscay will be all the trickier as a result of a cold front moving in from the West, which will come face to face with Franck Cammas and his crew in the second part of the night. The approach of this front will cause the wind to shift round to the West as it becomes less steady, before clocking back round to the NW again on Friday morning. The main reason that Franck Cammas and his crew have opted to tackle such conditions is in order to be in a position to exploit some much more favourable conditions further along the track, in particular those level with the NE’ly tradewinds off Portugal and further to the South”. Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.
Already off Spain
Groupama 3 had reached Cape Finisterre this Friday lunchtime. As such Franck Cammas and his nine crew were set to rack up over 500 miles in 24 hours midway through the afternoon, which remains a good average speed for this first day in predominantly beam winds and close-hauled conditions. The downwind conditions along the Portuguese coast should enable them to quickly make up their deficit in relation to the reference time.
In 2005, Bruno Peyron and his crew set out from Ushant on their successful Jules Verne Trophy campaign with some highly favourable conditions to escape the Bay of Biscay and benefit from the Portuguese tradewinds. In this way, the giant catamaran was able to cover nearly 600 miles on its first day. This won't be the case for Groupama 3, but this was already part of the plan on leaving Brest. Indeed, by setting out in a strong NW'ly breeze and, most strikingly, pitted against big, highly chaotic seas with waves in excess of 6 metres, the giant trimaran didn't have a hope of reaching an average of more than twenty knots.
"The wind frequently switched direction on this first night at sea, which meant that we weren't constantly able to carry the optimum amount of sail area on Groupama 3. We thought we were free of this phenomenon this morning, but right now the wind still has a tendency to shift 40 degrees. The true NW'ly wind should return soon at which point we'll be able to pick up speed over the course of the afternoon. In any case, we couldn't take any risks with the start and for the time being all's well! We've just broken a helmsman's helmet, but it's already been repaired." indicated Franck Cammas during the radio link-up this Friday lunchtime.
The giant trimaran had regained a more favourable pace this afternoon, with the return of a more stable and better established NW'ly wind, with the sea becoming increasingly regulated. With the arrival of a cold front tonight, the wind is set to clock round to the N and then the NE as it builds. As a result Franck Cammas and his crew will have to put in a gybe over the coming hours, probably offshore of Lisbon.
"Since daybreak, we've been passing a lot of cargo ships and fishing boats, but as we're sailing a course which is parallel to the shipping lanes, this isn't complicating maneuvers. Everyone is into their stride now: we began the watch system two hours out of Ushant. It wasn't easy to sleep last night though as the boat was really getting shaken about with a residual swell preventing us from slipping along smoothly. Yesterday evening it wasn't easy to prepare something to eat so we snacked on sandwiches" explained the skipper of Groupama 3.
With downwind breezes, the gennaker will enable the boat to make the most of the waves to pick up speed and the 115 mile deficit in relation to the reference time should be recovered by noon on Saturday. "The first eighteen hours were the hardest in this first week at sea using this weather window," confirmed Sylvain Mondon from Météo France. Moreover, with this considerable improvement in the sailing conditions, Groupama 3 is still in a position to envisage a switch of hemispheres in less than a week.
Saturday 7th November
In a N-NEly breeze of around twenty knots, Groupama 3 is able to hurtle along with all her sail aloft at an average speed of nearly thirty knots. With the wind set to continue to shift round this Saturday evening, Franck Cammas and his nine crew will gybe onto a tack taking them due South towards the equator.
A good night for rest and a fine day for this start to the weekend: Groupama 3 is maintaining average speeds of around 28 knots and at noon this Saturday she was sailing about a hundred miles to the NW of Madeira. Since Friday evening, the deficit in relation to 2005?s reference time has stabilised at about thirty miles or so. However, as Franck Cammas and his crew have curved a course out to the West with the NE?ly wind rotation, they?re set to lose a little more ground until the point where they gybe.
?This evening we?re going to gybe onto a direct course towards the equator and hence accelerate! The man?uvre is scheduled at least two hundred and fifty miles from Madeira so as to avoid the wind shadow from the archipelago?s land mass. For now, we have all the sail aloft with an average of sixteen knots of breeze. We?re going to remain in downwind conditions out to the West to avoid further gybes and benefit from more wind. As such we?ll be able to luff once the wind eases prior to the Doldrums? confirmed Franck Cammas at the midday radio link-up.
Unfortunately, though the sailing conditions have become almost perfect, the skipper reported that navigator Stan Honey has been suffering from a persistent headache since the start. ?The only problem is with Stan, our navigator, who has had a headache since we left? I hope it will pass: we?ve given him aspirin. He?s managing to do his job at the chart table, but he?s suffering a bit. It may be the engine fumes: we?ve checked there aren?t any leaks? Fred and Thomas are taking care of him as they?re in charge of medical matters onboard. They?ve been trained, they know the medication we have in the first aid kit and they have their contacts onshore if a more thorough intervention is required.? We hope this shooting pain subsides but already, with more sun and the rising temperatures, the atmosphere aboard is serene, though we?re having to remain on our guard against squalls.
?We?re into the downwind conditions we were after so that?s nice. Since we rounded Cape Finisterre, the seas have become more organised so we were able to enjoy a good night slipping along towards Madeira. The temperatures are increasing dramatically with every hour that passes? And we?ve been able to sleep soundly! There are still some thirty knot squalls around with the cold front which is beginning to fall away: as such you have to keep your hands on the sheets?? explained Franck Cammas.
An evening gybe
In view of Bruno Peyron?s trajectories in 2005 and that of Groupama 3?s at the moment, there is a big discrepancy due to the different weather conditions. Orange 2 opted for a route taking them closer to the direct course through the Canaries, while Franck Cammas and his men are slipping along to the West to get free of the effects of the volcanic land masses. The catamaran didn?t have a very good third day at sea as a result of the islands, which entailed a large number of man?uvres, whilst the giant trimaran will have just a single gybe to perform this weekend. With the wind gradually shifting round to the NE, Groupama 3?s wake will take the form of a gull?s wing outline with a very pure course taking them straight down towards the equator. The change of hemispheres is scheduled for the sixth day?
?The planned time slot for crossing the equator is around six days: it?s a good average, as it was two year ago (6d 6h 24?, best passage time). However, it will all depend on how long it takes to traverse the Doldrums, which don?t appear to be nasty at the moment. If everything goes to plan we should be faster after our first gybe than we were during our first attempt??
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Sunday 8th November
In a single day, Groupama 3 has succeeded not only in making up yesterday's deficit on the reference time, but also gaining almost a day on the course adopted by Bruno Peyron in 2005! It?s been an excellent weekend for all Franck Cammas? crew with over 700 miles covered over the past 24 hours.
First of all, Stan Honey is a lot better. Groupama 3?s navigator has been taken in hand by the crew and thanks to dried Swiss meat and a highly favourable weather situation, the American has been able to get on with his work at the chart table in the best possible conditions. The trimaran is also on a favourable course for tackling the Doldrums from Monday evening? In fact, this is the latest objective for Franck Cammas? crew, who haven?t had as easy a day as all that despite the supersonic speeds this Sunday: the trimaran has managed to rack up nearly 708 miles in 24 hours! ?Stan is resting, but fortunately he?s feeling a lot better. I think it was partly due to the exhaust fumes from the engine but he also has a problem with one ear: he?s taken some Swiss potions and he?s doing well?? indicated Stève Ravussin at the midday radio link-up this Sunday.
Point of contact
Since gybing on Saturday evening, Groupama 3 has been able to trace a straight course towards the S-SE at a regular speed, pushed along by tradewinds varying in strength between 22 and 35 knots beneath the squalls. These weather conditions necessitated a lot of effort from the crew who constantly had to adapt the sail area to make good speed in safety: ?it?s very wet but it?s nice! Nevertheless, we did have to carry out a fair number of man?uvres last night with squalls and gusts up to 36 knots? Added to that the short seas made for an exciting ride: we went down to two reefs in the mainsail and Solent! We clocked up some top speeds of 42 knots, but it wasn?t our aim to go very fast; our main focus is making good headway?? confirmed the watch leader.
In fact, the trajectory is very pure with a course of 210° enabling them to retain some distance from the Cape Verde archipelago so as not to suffer from the wind shadow caused by these volcanic islands. Sylvain Mondon from Météo France has explained that the tradewinds are much in evidence as far as 20° North and that the trimaran?s trajectory is likely to bend southwards slightly once they?re around the archipelago. On the approach to the Doldrums, the NE?ly wind is set to ease and the difficulty for the skipper, the navigator and the onshore router lies in correctly defining the optimum zone for traversing this magma of shifty winds? Logically, a way through is likely to be located between 24° and 27° West, but from Monday morning the crew are going to need to choose the exact point of contact as any change of course in the light airs can be highly disadvantageous?
After three days at sea Groupama 3, which had racked up a deficit on the Jules Verne reference time of some 115 miles at most, has turned the whole situation around! Since gybing off Madeira on Saturday after two days? sailing, the crew have been devouring the miles and it?s with a lead of nearly a day that the trimaran is now tackling Cape Verde? It should be highlighted that Orange 2 didn?t have a very good day as they exited the Canaries and they even strayed off course in the Cape Verde archipelago the following day. As such, Franck Cammas and his nine crew had a lead of over 270 miles this Sunday afternoon in relation to Bruno Peyron?s course in 2005; that is a margin of nearly a day! For Monday, it is highly likely that they will be ahead by a day and a half, so at this rate, the equator may well be crossed in less than six days this coming Wednesday.
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