Grouparama is approaching the Doldrums on Jules Verne attempt

Past the Cape Verde archipelago with a considerable lead over the reference time, Groupama 3 is now preparing to negotiate the Doldrums, a very cloudy, turbulent zone which announces the entrance to the Southern hemisphere. Navigator Stan Honey is fighting fit again and is working relentlessly to find a favourable ‘tunnel' through…

Groupama 3 is ahead of schedule! The weekend proved to be a positive one with nearly 1,200 miles covered in 44 hours… As such, this average speed of 27 knots has reversed the trend: 115 miles behind at Cape Finisterre in relation to Bruno Peyron's record, the separation has switched to nearly 450 miles this Monday afternoon, in favour of Franck Cammas and his men. A lead of over a day! Added to that, the next stage of the course also promises to be positive since the Doldrums is already practically within sight. Indeed it seems to be positioned at 8° North without being overly active, with the exception of some big clouds spanning less than a hundred miles. Furthermore the E'ly wind of around a dozen knots isn't likely to drop off dramatically, other than for brief periods beneath the clouds.

Running smoothly

The harsh, headwinds from the first day at sea are already a distant memory: tropical heat, downwind conditions and smoother seas on which to slip along nicely, have this Monday enabled the crew a short spell of recuperation after the weekend's supersonic speeds and prior to attacking the Doldrums. However, they are going to have to remain on their guard against variations in the wind and squalls…

“This lunchtime, we're just a stone's throw away from a squall which is about to hit… We're sailing under large gennaker, staysail and full mainsail. We've performed a fair number of manœuvres since gybing off Madeira. We're staying on the same heading but constantly adjusting the sail area. Six or seven of us at a time are carrying out all the manœuvres according to which sails need changing ; that way the resting watch can conserve their energy. The preparation we've been doing since the spring is bearing fruit: the manœuvres are smooth and quick. Things are going really well amidst an atmosphere of total mutual trust. The only relative difficulty is getting to sleep in the intense heat” indicated Frédéric Le Peutrec at the midday radio session.

Flying fish

Since passing offshore of the Cape Verde archipelago, the NE'ly wind has eased slightly (around 16-20 knots), but Groupama 3's average speed remains locked above 25 knots. This is set to continue as far as 8° North, which translates as the end of the night on the water, as the tradewinds back (become more E'ly than NE'ly). The upshot of this will be a beam wind enabling the giant trimaran to maintain her current speed before tackling the tradewinds of the Southern hemisphere which will shift round to the SE.

“Our navigator is a lot better this morning and has a lot on his plate monitoring developments in the weather: it's reassuring to see that he's better as he really wasn't very well at all for the first few hours. We thought it was due to the violent introduction, but it was something else: after suffering with migraines and a fever, he's fighting fit now… The point of impact with the Doldrums is something he's been working on for what has already been two days, with Sylvain Mondon, our onshore router, but we're having to adapt to the direction and strength of the wind. We hope it'll be virtually inexistent!” added Groupama 3's watch leader. In the meantime, a ‘plague' of flying fish have been landing on the multihull's trampolines: “However, they're too small to even consider preparing them with lemon juice and a dribble of olive oil” concluded Fred.

The crew and organisation aboard Groupama 3:

Watch No.1: Franck Cammas / Loïc Le Mignon / Jacques Caraës
Watch No.2: Stève Ravussin / Thomas Coville / Bruno Jeanjean
Watch No.3: Fred Le Peutrec / Lionel Lemonchois / Ronan Le Goff
Off watch navigator: Stan Honey goes up on deck for manoeuvres
Each watch lasts three hours
One watch system on deck, one watch on stand-by ready to help manœuvre, one watch totally resting

The record to beat

Currently held by Bruno Peyron on Orange 2 since 2005 with a time of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes at an average of 17.89 knots. Lionel Lemonchois, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës were aboard at the time.


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