Monday, November 23, 2009

Head down but an unfailing morale

Jules Verne Trophy
Tied up alongside in the port of Cape Town since Saturday, Groupama 3 certainly isn't being left in peace, far from it in fact. Barely had she reached the dock, then the shore crew managed by Yann Mérour, all of whom had made the trip down from Lorient, had taken control of matters with the assistance of the sailors. Structural analysis of the damage and observations made on site by composite specialists, confirm that it will indeed take a week's work before Groupama 3 can head out to sea again, bound for Brest, for a new stand-by period set to begin on 1st January 2010.

Benefiting from the technical means available in the Shosholoza base (a team which participated in the 32nd edition of the America's Cup), Pierre Tissier, Sandy Blanalt, Sarah Lynch and Eric Beylot are all working on Groupama 3's port float. In a dry, oppressive heat, which is favourable for working on carbon, they have begun by cutting out the faulty bulkhead and then constructing its replacement: "It's never easy to work in such a confined space. Luckily this bulkhead is very close to the access hatch though. This enables us to poke our heads out into the fresh air on a regular basis. It certainly is hot though!" says Eric Beylot, who is almost missing the gloomy weather reigning back home in Brittany.

Having made the journey down from Johannesburg, three infra-red analysis specialists have inspected the affected zone without finding any side-effects. This is a good thing according to the skipper of Groupama 3, who only rarely leaves his telephone, as he's in regular contact with his design office, the architects from the VPLP and HDS: "By running the data through their computers again, they've realised that the load case which concerns us today was not intended to exceed six tonnes. The sailing conditions we endured very certainly produced greater stresses than that. This is why we're also going to reinforce the equivalent bulkhead on the starboard float" explains Franck.

As far as the rest of Groupama 3 is concerned though, she's in perfect condition, ready to head back out to sea and set off once again to tackle this famous Jules Verne Trophy record, the value of which can now be appreciated even more: "It's clear that in order to stand a chance of beating it, we're going to have to go fast. We're also going to have to go far, which we haven't managed to do to date. It's now down to us to prove we're capable of that. From the moment the damage occurred, the whole crew have expressed their commitment to this. I'm proud of them and also proud of Groupama 3, which is an excellent boat. The same goes for my loyal partner, Groupama who, once again, are giving us their support in what is a difficult time" concludes Franck Cammas.

During this time, the rest of the crew are rinsing off the deck fittings and foulies, tidying up their `home' and inspecting the deck from top to toe. Certain lines, such as those which control the descent and rise of the foils, are worn and have been replaced. When it's time for lunch, conversations regularly revolve around the anecdotes experienced during the first 11 days of this Jules Verne Trophy attempt. These are always coloured by laughter which demonstrates, if there were a need, the extent of the bond between the ten crew, who together form a great team.

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