Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sombrero climes…

Around 1,000 miles from Cape Horn, the sailing conditions are fairly sporty with over thirty knots of NW’ly wind and, most importantly, fairly chaotic seas. The obligation to deviate from the direct course by carving out a curved wake which has seen Groupama 3 climb to 47° S, has caused her to lose a large part of the lead she’d acquired in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Nearly 750 miles across the ground over the past 24 hours, but just 575 miles of those on a direct course: the detour above a rather angry low, is proving to be highly disadvantageous, to the extent that close to 350 miles have been lost from Groupama 3’s lead over the past three days! If all goes to plan, the loss will subside over the coming hours as Orange 2 also had to make a detour the day before she rounded Cape Horn. However, given that the wind will ease as they approach Chile, in what will still be very messy seas, it will be difficult for Franck Cammas and his men to hold onto even a small cushion of a lead after this third cape of the round the world.

“The sun is in the process of rising: however, we’ve covered a fair amount of ground to the East so the day is beginning earlier. Over the past five hours, the front has crept right up with us and the wind is very shifty in terms of strength. As such we’ve reduced the sails to three reefs in the mainsail and staysail… The wind is gusting to forty knots and we’re being forced to make headway underpowered. Fortunately the sea state isn’t too bad and the boat isn’t under too much pressure” indicated Franck Cammas at the 1130 radio link-up with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris.

Less cold, less choppy

Even on a thirty metre long trimaran, the sea state can make life onboard hard to bear: permanent dampness, violent sprays, crashing halts in waves, leaden skies, rain and squalls, the whole lot wrapped up in a layer of cold. This is all par for the course for a Cape Horner though. Over the past few hours, Franck Cammas and his nine crew have nevertheless benefited from a short moment of respite by climbing up to 47° S where the temperature is bordering on 12°C… However, the cross swells due to the combination of SW and NW’ly wind has made the trajectory parabolic and hence less effective in making towards Drake’s Passage… Furthermore the pyramid-shaped waves have forced a reduction in pace to prevent Groupama 3 from slamming into the great walls of water.

“The front will roll over the top of us soon and we’re going to gybe onto a SE’ly course towards Cape Horn. The wind will then ease gradually and we’ll have to hoist more sail aloft, so that is what’s on the menu later today… We’re becoming increasingly slick with the manœuvres, but we’re still remaining very prudent so as to avoid breaking any gear. In fact it was the first time we’ve put in the third reef since leaving Ushant! We’ve never had so much wind on this round the world… It’s rather deserted here at the moment: there were still a few albatrosses around yesterday, but today there’s nothing. It’s a big ocean the Pacific! This is especially true for us because we’ve covered a lot of ground: time is going slowly by. It hasn’t been an easy ocean either, in contrast to the Indian.”

Two possible routes

Cape Horn may not mark any real change in the sailing conditions for Franck Cammas and his men. Though the wind will streak ahead of them, Groupama 3 will still have to make a big detour a long way offshore of the Falkland Islands… As such, a northbound course and a big turn to the left isn’t on the cards just yet.

“The wind we’re trying to keep to our stern behind this low is going to try to get ahead of us. As a result we’re likely to have to adopt a rather atypical course, which will take us a very long way South of Cape Horn and continue eastwards across the Southern Ocean for an extra 24 hours. There’s a zone of high pressure between Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands we’ll have to get round… There is another possibility though. We could hug the coast of South America, but we’d have to brave strong headwinds! We’ll make our decision tomorrow, Wednesday… It’s possible we won’t be able to take any photos of Cape Horn.” - http://www.cammas-groupama.com/