After intending to sail directly for the technical base in Lorient, Franck Cammas and his crew have finally decided to make for South Africa to carry out repairs under good conditions. Cape Town is around five days away and Groupama 3 could be ready to head for France at the start of December… for a new attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy record in January!
Lionel Lemonchois, the designated ‘foreman' in effecting temporary repairs to the beam bulkhead, explains the conditions required to totally resolve this structural problem that Groupama 3 suffered on the tenth day of this Jules Verne Trophy attempt.
“Yesterday, there was still a chance that we could find a calmer zone of sea in which we could work on the breakage and then head straight back to Brittany. However, given that the boat is constantly in motion, we wouldn't be able to do a good job. We're still on the edge of the Deep South, in a grey seascape and messy seas, with birds gliding about and chilly temperatures…
It was necessary to work in a rate of humidity bordering on 100%, on our knees inside the float: it's not ideal for composite work! This has enabled us to make a good repair, but it's not sufficient to get the boat sailing at her full potential in complete safety: the wisest thing is to repair her properly in South Africa, as it's imperative that the float and the beam are immobile. We're 1,400 miles from Cape Town and, according to the weather forecasts, there isn't a zone which is sufficiently calm to resolve the problem at sea…
Groupama's shore crew is going to join us, but if all goes to plan it shouldn't be necessary to lift the trimaran onto the hard or unstep her mast. We're also going to reinforce the corresponding starboard bulkhead in the same way, all of which is likely to take around a week.
I made sure we were carrying a carbon brace, which we've bolted and stuck to keep the pieces to be repaired in place: we also have several resin and glue kits to intervene in each of the sectors. The real cause isn't very easy to assess: the engineers are studying the matter as this sort of damage has never occurred before… It's likely to be a series of factors at the root of the problem, as there's no obvious fault and the adhesion was good… We've opened all the inspection hatches to check the structure and we didn't find anything suspect. The trimaran looks to be in perfect condition otherwise.
After all this it was immediately obvious to everyone concerned: we're going to head off again! This record is no trifling matter… It didn't work this time, but as we're at the start of the season, it's still possible.”
Bruno Jeanjean also took up the opportunity to give his account of his first big oceanic experience, since the number one aboard Groupama 3 was making his longest ever sea trip…
“It was in the afternoon, the day before yesterday: we heard a sharp snapping sound around the aft beam, like a gun shot. We always pay attention to the noises we hear on a daily basis, and just then, it became pretty clear that this was something different. The immediate sense of disappointment was massive because we'd invested a huge amount into this project… We lost the first half, but you have to look to the future as we wait to get going on our second attempt. We're not going to give up because we failed the first time!
During the ten days at sea, I've learnt a hell of a lot. The start was pretty full-on! We started off well and once we'd seen how fast we'd sailed across the North Atlantic, we were very excited at the idea of entering the Southern Ocean… It was a first for me: we were beginning to ‘slam into the tough stuff'! Just now we're planning to have a good tidy-up to make it easier to work on her: we're not in the least bit demotivated…”
A fine example then of the determination of the crew, the shore crew as well as the Groupama Group, a committed partner through success and adversity alike.