Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Attacking the ocean

Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale 2010
From Saint Malo to Pointe-a-Pitre
Leading the fleet of 84 competitors still racing since the skipper of Côte d'Or had to be airlifted to hospital, Franck Cammas is continuing to extend his lead aboard Groupama 3. Never dipping below an average of 20 knots, the maxi-trimaran is now positioning her bows westward in a NE'ly breeze of around twenty knots, which is highly reminiscent of the tradewinds.

Decidedly Franck Cammas likes challenges. Not only has he set off on this ninth edition of the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale aboard the largest and most powerful trimaran ever to be raced single-handed, but he has also opted for a S'ly option which a fair number of his rivals didn't believe would pay off.

By making headway along a tiny vein of air along the Spanish coast in the same way as he did during his third and victorious attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy back in the winter, the skipper of Groupama 3 forced the pace so as to make it through before the gateway to the favourable winds closed behind him.

Determined but also confident about the capacity for speed that his giant trimaran has displayed since leaving Saint Malo, Franck has really set a furious pace in this race: "It's true that sailing aboard Groupama 3, which is less flighty than the others thanks to her wide beam, enabled me to keep more sail aloft on traversing the Bay of Biscay".

As such the skipper of Groupama 3 is confidently carving out his course towards the West Indies, without being overly concerned about his rivals. Some of these, like Idec and Gitana 11 are behind him on the same course, while others like Sodebo and Oman Air Majan are also behind but on a completely different course, further to the North, the outcome of which may or may not be relevant: "It's not easy to know if they're right. It'll come down to very little in my view. One thing for sure is that I couldn't see myself taking the N'ly option with Groupama 3".

2,700 miles from the goal, don't expect Franck Cammas to shout victory though, despite this great start to the race: "We still have a long way to go and it's not going to be a clear run. I'm going to have to traverse some zones with light airs, but it's true that for now I'm pretty much ahead of my routing whilst those on a N'ly option are behind".

On a physical level, the skipper of Groupama isn't sparing any effort with the frequent, exhausting manoeuvres. However, thanks to Groupama 3's stability, he's managing to relax and even sleep in small 20 minute chunks when he gets the chance.

This is no longer a constraint Bertrand Quentin will have to deal with and he is sure to be very disappointed to have had to retire his Côte d'Or from the race, but he will also be happy to know that physically he is completely safe tonight.

Position report at 1500 GMT on Tuesday 2nd November
1/ Groupama 3 some 2,731 miles from the finish
2/ Sodebo 65 miles behind the leader
3/ Oman Air Majan 106 miles astern
4/ Idec 160 miles astern
5/ Gitana 11 some 208 miles astern

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