Sunday, March 14, 2010

Equator: 41d 21h 09'

Jules Verne Trophy
The final marker before the finish off the Créac'h lighthouse, the equator was traversed this Sunday at 11h 04' 53'' UTC, after 41 days 21 hours 09 minutes at sea. This equates to a deficit of 1d 02h 04' in relation to the reference time. Such a separation might seem sizeable, but it should quickly be reduced in the tradewinds of the northern hemisphere.

Full of energy for the ascent, the crew of Groupama 3 is still just as concentrated in this final phase between the switch of hemispheres and the island of Ushant some 3,350 miles ahead. The last mission for Franck Cammas and his nine crew is to set a minimum time of 8 days and 19 hours to devour the North Atlantic, which amounts to an average speed of 15.9 knots along the optimum course... Such a speed is totally within the grasp of the giant trimaran, which is likely to enjoy some favourable weather conditions for this final sprint, since the NE'ly tradewinds are in position after the Doldrums, the latter of which is situated at around 4°N.

High pressure shift
"Last night was laborious with some squalls developing incredibly quickly and following what was already a light tradewind. We endured some long spells with just 7 to 8 knots of breeze, which was lighter than forecast by the weather models. At night, without a moon to accompany us, we fire up the radar, which enables us to see any rain squalls that may kill the wind. We did suffer a little bit as we couldn't really do what we wanted in relation to our weather forecast" indicated Franck Cammas at the radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ.

Reasonably worried by this transition of hemispheres, the skipper of Groupama 3 should soon find something to smile about again as the zone of high pressure, which had stabilised over France, is curling up on itself as it shifts across towards the Mediterranean. As such Groupama 3's trajectory towards Ushant could well be very pure: "It's true that the forecasts are rather encouraging for the end of our trip. However, it's also true that there is sometimes a discrepancy between the forecasts and the reality. The past few hours have been proof of that" continued Franck, who was preparing for a tricky night ahead: "I'd have preferred to traverse the Doldrums by day rather than night as it would have been less active. However, fortunately Groupama 3 is at ease in the light airs."

Clearly disappointed, the skipper of Groupama 3 is sure of one thing: the quality of his crew, whose fighting spirit and determination are stronger than ever. "The watches are pretty active. When there are manoeuvres to be performed, there are always seven of us on deck, and then just three are required for trimming: we spend our time racing between the sheets, the coffee grinder and looking at the shape of the sails with a torch. We're trying to claw back a very important few tenths of a knot and, in addition to that, this boat is very sensitive to the slightest trim adjustment: there is quite a lot to do and so we're playing with all that whilst trying to react as quickly as possible to the elements." -