On stopover in Cape Town, South Africa since 21st November, after suffering damage during her Jules Verne Trophy attempt, the trimaran Groupama 3 will head back out to sea again this morning, Friday, bound for Brest. Having been repaired and reinforced by the team's shore crew, the maxi trimaran is likely to take two to three weeks to cover the 6,000 miles (11,500 km) separating her from Brittany.
Of the ten men making up the Jules Verne Trophy crew four will be onboard to deliver Groupama 3 to Brest, where she will begin a new period of stand-by to tackle the Round the World record on 1st January: “The presence aboard of the entire Jules Verne crew wasn't justified. As such, together with Lionel Lemonchois, Jacques Caraës, Ronan Le Goff and six new crew, we'll be in a position to validate the reliability of the repairs carried out in Cape Town” explains Fred Le Peutrec, who will be shouldering the role of skipper during this climb up the Atlantic.
“We're going to make the most of this delivery trip to give some members of the shore crew a chance to sail, as they know Groupama 3 very well. They will include Eric Lamy, Clément Surtel as well as François Salabert. We will also be playing host to some other multihull specialists: Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, Ludovic Aglaor as well as a South African who notably sailed aboard Cheyenne, Nick Legatt” adds Fred Le Peutrec.
In all, Groupama's stopover in Cape Town will have lasted nearly two weeks: “Once we'd worked out where the damage was, it was necessary to bring in the architects and engineers to determine the cause so that we could be sure about what repairs and reinforcement were required on the beam-float joints. There was great understanding in the collaboration between the Groupama Team's research department and the architects from VPLP and HDS. As such we'll be setting off with complete trust in what is a more solid boat in tip-top condition. It was very important for the whole team to take the time to do things properly, without being overly hasty” continues Fred.
Determined to set off on a fresh attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy from 1st January 2010, the crew of Groupama 3 has managed to find the energy necessary for this new challenge, despite the inevitable disappointment caused by this damage: “We were really on the pace. Despite our retirement, we monitored the evolution of the weather system we'd been sailing in. It was excellent as far as Australia. That goes to prove the quality of the work carried out by Stan Honey, our navigator, as well as Sylvain Mondon, the weather adviser at Météo France. This augurs well for the next stage and the five weeks of stand-by we'll have at our disposal between 1st January and 6th February for our new attempt” comments Franck Cammas.
Returning to France a few days ago with Bruno Jeanjean, Thomas Coville, Stève Ravussin and soon to be joined by Loïc Le Mignon, the skipper of Groupama 3 will be monitoring the return delivery trip very closely: “We chose to repair Groupama 3 in Cape Town in order to validate her reliability at sea. Calculations have their limitations. Nothing can beat offshore trials for testing the structure and I have complete trust in the crew onboard to achieve this”.
As regards the weather, conditions will be favourable for getting back into the Northern hemisphere: “We'll be setting off in 15 to 20 knots of SSE'ly. As such we'll be on a reach along the coast until Sunday and then we'll put in some westing to cross the equator at around 25° West. The next stage of the passage will depend on the depressions sweeping across the North Atlantic, but whatever happens we should make it into Brest before Christmas and hence spend the festive period with our families” concludes Fred Le Peutrec.
The organisation of Groupama 3's crew between Cape Town and Brest:
Watch No.1: Fred Le Peutrec, Eric Lamy, Nick Legatt
Watch No.2: Lionel Lemonchois, Ludovic Aglaor, Clément Surtel
Watch No.3: Ronan Le Goff, Thierry Duprey du Vordent, Jacques Caraës
Off-watch navigator: François Salabert
Land-based weather adviser: Sylvain Mondon