Friday, February 26, 2010

Peaceful and Pacific

Jules Verne Trophy
Sixty miles better in 24 hours: Groupama 3 is continuing to extend her lead in relation to Orange 2's course in 2005. The weather conditions remain excellent for making fast and effortless headway towards Cape Horn, around 3,000 miles ahead on the same latitude...

This is beginning to become a habit. Indeed it's been a week now that Groupama 3 has been accumulating 650 to 750 mile days! 5,650 miles in eight days, that is almost twice the distance of an Atlantic crossing... It just goes to show then that the situation is also favourable for devouring the Pacific, since Franck Cammas and his crew are now ahead of a front, which is pursuing them, as was the case in the Indian Ocean. And should the phenomenon continue as far as the tip of South America, this will give them an added bonus to the 430 miles that the giant trimaran has already amassed since Tasmania!

The days follow on...
"It's dark but there is a beautiful moon. There's a clear sky and it's nice to be able to see the stars... We hope to see the reflection of Antarctica in the early hours as the moon falls below the horizon. We may even see the aurora australis! We have between 22 and 25 knots of NW'ly wind and we're sailing under one reef mainsail and medium gennaker. It's not overly cold, we're not wet and the water is still at 8°C: all's well! The weather's superb... And we still have a rather pleasant sea state which is easy to negotiate. We're not going crazy!" said Ronan Le Goff at the 1130 UTC radio session with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

This is certainly the case but looking at their progress from land, this pace seems incredibly fast along what has been an amazingly straight course over the past eight days! Tracking along at 55° South, Groupama 3 is ensuring that she's keeping a long way away from the ice and, at that same time, is able to reduce the distance to make Cape Horn. After Auckland Island, which they just skirted on Thursday, there is no more land before Drake's Passage... similar fashion
"We saw another island yesterday so we don't really feel all alone in the world. In addition, it's not taking as long as all that! In five days time we're going to see land again... As regards icebergs, our navigator Stan Honey has told us that we're not going to pass through any zones of `ill repute'. Of course the sky will soon become overcast since the front is catching up with us, but that will enable us to stay in a stable NW'ly breeze for a good while... There will be one to three gybes in store, but after that we'll be on a straight track towards Cape Horn."

Life goes on and the ten men on Groupama 3 are punctuating their days with hours spent on watch, sleeping or on stand-by, eating or talking in the "gas corner"... Indeed the kitchen is the place to be for all the different communities onboard who want to exchange thoughts and discuss all manner of topics that are a far cry from the preoccupations of landlubbers. After 26 days at sea, the separation between those on the water and those on land is perceptible and the day's questions are more geared around the composition of lunch or the recognition of seabirds than paying the electric bill...

"Life onboard is different on Groupama 3 in relation to Orange 2: for sure there were two habitable hulls and it was more spacious and more comfortable on Orange. However, despite there being less privacy on the trimaran, it's going very well. It really is a fine voyage, but we've seen fewer birds like petrels, cape petrels and albatrosses over the past few days..." -