Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In line of sight

The rounding of the low off the Canaries last night went well and Groupama 3 was crossing a transition zone this Wednesday afternoon in order to tackle the tradewinds off Cape Verde. With a lead of nearly half a day over the reference time, Franck Cammas and his nine crew are now aiming for a suitable point of entry to enable them to rapidly traverse the Doldrums.

One, two, three: after the archipelagos of Madeira and the Canaries, it’s Cape Verde’s turn to be the primary focus. Indeed, when you have to make your way down the Northern Atlantic as quickly as possible, it is necessary not only to follow the optimum trajectory in terms of miles covered, but also to take into account the obstacles which punctuate the course. In fact, avoiding traversing the islands is always a safe option as the effect of land is considerable when there are volcanoes culminating at over 2,000 metres!

“We’ve just hoisted the large gennaker as there’s only thirteen knots of wind right now: all’s going well and the boat is as good as new! We’re sailing along the edge of a zone of high pressure and there are no waves at all: we’re slipping along effortlessly… We’re pretty happy with the way things are going because on Saturday morning it really didn’t look like we were going to be able to set off on the Jules Verne Trophy at all. There are no more decent weather windows in which to set off over the coming days and we’re already ahead of the reference time…” indicated Steve Ravussin at the radio link-up with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris at 1130 UTC.

Less than six days?

“This Wednesday afternoon, we have some very good conditions: we’ve already been able to strip off several layers of fleece! The weather’s good; not too hot, smooth seas and clear skies. At this pace we’re likely to be in the Southern hemisphere in a little over six days, which would be the second fastest time ever along this section of the course… And the Southern Atlantic seems to be improving day by day: it’s quite pleasant after all the problems we’ve endured over previous attempts.”

A last gybe is scheduled this Wednesday evening to take the crew right around the outside of the Cape Verde archipelago and above all conserve an optimum angle in this descent towards the equator: indeed the point of entry for traversing the Doldrums is situated between 25° and 30° West. As Groupama 3’s speed potential is at its best with 135° true wind in tradewinds forecast to reach around twenty knots, the decision to change course is an important one, so as to avoid deviating from a very direct course.

“We’re going to trace a long straight line towards the equator from this evening. If everything goes to plan, the wind should ease a little this afternoon, but the tradewinds will then increase to 17-20 knots before nightfall. We’re going to be able to hold onto a good average speed on this last downwind section before entering the Doldrums... Oh! We’ve just hit a sunfish! It’s nothing too serious though…” said a Stève Ravussin in fine fettle.

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)

Best passage time to the equator from Ushant

Groupama 3: 5d 15h 23’ (November 2009)
Jules Verne Trophy reference time to the equator
Orange 2: 7d 02h 56’ (January 2005)

The crew aboard Groupama 3:

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 -