Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hundreds and thousands

Jules Verne Trophy
With a little over 5,000 miles left before reaching Ushant, the virtual separation between Groupama 3 and Orange 2 has been yo-yoing for the past three days. The giant trimaran has picked up her average speed since escaping the zone of high pressure, whilst five years ago the maxi-catamaran was just beginning to make laboured headway close to the Brazilian coast...

The crew had a hundred mile lead on rounding Cape Horn, a 190 mile deficit off Uruguay as Franck Cammas and his men began their beat in the high pressure, and finally were 360 miles off the pace at 0700 UTC this Tuesday... Yet since Groupama 3 has made it back into some powerful E'ly winds, the deficit has been decreasing slowly but surely with 30 miles made up in the space of seven hours.

"It was a rough night, with heavy seas, even though the wind was less violent than forecast. We had thirty knots of E to NE'ly with some good four metre waves... We're all anxious about the idea of breaking gear, so we're being very careful. We've got two reefs in the mainsail and I think they've just dumped the heavy airs jib on deck! Down below we're finding it hard to hang on. It's more testing for the men rather than the boat, as she's seen conditions such as these before!" indicated Fred Le Peutrec at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris.

Staying in the corridor of breeze...
These conditions have had an effect on the downtime for the crew, who haven't really been able to sleep over the past few hours, to the extent that Bruno Jeanjean has gone all night without sleep... Furthermore, the heat is becoming a little suffocating down below with 28° and a tepid shower up top.
However, the weather situation is in the process of changing with the wind set to switch back round to the N before nightfall. As such a series of tacks will be on the menu again...

"We're in a squall and it's very stormy! We're going to make it through to some N'ly winds again soon as we hit a Brazilian depression: the seas shouldn't be too heavy there as the air flow has only just kicked in, but we're going to have to keep an eye out for squalls... It's likely we'll be on a beat in this N'ly system so as we don't distance ourselves too much from the direct course and escape these headwinds as quickly as possible. There isn't too much breeze to our West and it's very unstable. As a result we're going to avoid getting tangled up in these erratic airs, but we will have to climb as far as 25°S to find the steadier wind."

...so as not to get stuck
Therefore the strategy will comprise remaining in a corridor of breeze about a hundred miles wide, to get as far as the latitude of Rio de Janeiro where the E'ly tradewinds will kick in again. If she were to get too close to the Brazilian coast, Groupama 3 would fall into a barometric swamp without a lot of breeze, whilst the offshore option would put Franck Cammas and his nine crew back into a rather unfavourable NE'ly air flow. The tropical stage of this trip is still a good day away then! Following on from that though, the giant trimaran will once again be able to lengthen her stride and will very likely make up part of her deficit on Orange 2, which wasn't very quick during her climb along the Brazilian coast.

"Physically we're really worn out: the environment is constantly drawing on our energies at the moment and I can barely talk due to the extent to which we've been bracing ourselves... We're less talkative and highly concentrated on ourselves and on the noises the boat makes, which are very familiar to us now. We'll only be able to relax once we've reached the SE'ly tradewinds! We're on the same latitude as the Canaries and though the temperatures are already milder, the colours are more reminiscent of Ushant with a grey sky and rain! We're going to wait a little longer before we have a wash but it's beginning to smell quite ripe around here..."

Find all the latest about the Groupama trimarans on: http://www.cammas-groupama.com