Sunday, November 4, 2007

Groupama 2: Battle Ready

Whilst the monohulls are relishing their first hours at sea in this Transat Jacques Vabre, departure time is fast approaching for the multihulls. Tomorrow, Sunday 4th November, Groupama 2 will leave the Paul Vatine basin shortly before 1000 hours to make the start zone of this 8th edition of the race. It is at the foot of the Cap de la Hève that the five participating Orma trimarans will put the pedal to the metal at 1302 hours local time in theory. Franck Cammas and Stève Ravussin, who will be setting off on their third Jacques Vabre together, are clearly itching to go for yet another gold so that they can repeat their 2001 performance.
Half the `guests' left the Paul Vatine basin in Le Havre this morning, with forty-eight monohulls hoisting their sails at 1400 hours, bound for Salvador de Bahia. The skipper of Groupama 2 had a ringside seat to watch the start aboard one of the French Navy vessels.

Back on shore, Franck got together with Stève for the umpteenth weather analysis in what promises to be a tactical race. Clearly no two editions of the Jacques Vabre are the same as two years ago the trimarans endured one of their roughest race introductions, with a 25 to 30 knot wind at the start. Tomorrow, Groupama 2 and her fellow competitors will benefit from a much milder forecast to bid farewell to Le Havre: "According to the latest forecasts, we should set off with around fifteen knots of ENE'ly, easing slightly as it clocks round to the East at the passage of the Raz Blanchard. These fair conditions should enable Groupama 2 and Banque Populaire to really show what they're made of! Our exit from the Channel is likely to be fairly quick as a result" raved Franck. "In the Bay of Biscay we'll maintain an ENE'ly air flow but the wind will fill in a little, with the possibility of a fairly rough passage off Cape Finisterre with between 25 and 30 knots. This is only set to last for a few hours however. Reaching conditions will then be the order of the day, giving Gitana 11 a slight advantage."

As soon as the Bay of Biscay is in their wake, the competitors in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2007 will be faced with a more complicated scenario, as Franck explains: "After the Bay of Biscay the weather situation gets more complicated! The files show the presence of a depression to the West of the direct course, level with the Azores. This depression will cause the wind to be particularly shifty between Madeira and Cape Verde. This will be a big transition zone. Today this depression is a problem since it disrupts or even cancels out the trade winds.
Given the situation, the first big option to be had will be at Cape Finisterre. In essence, two possibilities will present themselves to us. The first: to close in on the depression and tack through steady winds leading us to a rather interesting Westerly position for the Doldrums. Otherwise, we can hug the African coast in search of the trade winds which are currently in evidence at the latitude of Cape Verde, that is to say a long way South" concluded the skipper of Groupama 2.