In a north-northeasterly breeze of around twenty knots, Groupama 3 is able to hurtle along with all her sail aloft at an average speed of nearly thirty knots. With the wind set to continue to shift round this Saturday evening, Franck Cammas and his nine crew will gybe onto a tack taking them due south towards the equator.
A good night for rest and a fine day for this start to the weekend: Groupama 3 is maintaining average speeds of around 28 knots and at noon this Saturday she was sailing about a hundred miles to the NW of Madeira. Since Friday evening, the deficit in relation to 2005's reference time has stabilised at about thirty miles or so. However, as Franck Cammas and his crew have curved a course out to the West with the northeasterly wind rotation, they're set to lose a little more ground until the point where they gybe.
” This evening we're going to gybe onto a direct course towards the equator and hence accelerate! The manœuvre is scheduled at least two hundred and fifty miles from Madeira so as to avoid the wind shadow from the archipelago's land mass. For now, we have all the sail aloft with an average of sixteen knots of breeze. We're going to remain in downwind conditions out to the West to avoid further gybes and benefit from more wind. As such we'll be able to luff once the wind eases prior to the Doldrums” confirmed Franck Cammas at the midday radio link-up.
Unfortunately, though the sailing conditions have become almost perfect, the skipper reported that navigator Stan Honey has been suffering from a persistent headache since the start. ” The only problem is with Stan, our navigator, who has had a headache since we left… I hope it will pass: we've given him aspirin. He's managing to do his job at the chart table, but he's suffering a bit. It may be the engine fumes: we've checked there aren't any leaks… Fred and Thomas are taking care of him as they're in charge of medical matters onboard. They've been trained, they know the medication we have in the first aid kit and they have their contacts onshore if a more thorough intervention is required.” We hope this shooting pain subsides but already, with more sun and the rising temperatures, the atmosphere aboard is serene, though we're having to remain on our guard against squalls.
” We're into the downwind conditions we were after so that's nice. Since we rounded Cape Finisterre, the seas have become more organised so we were able to enjoy a good night slipping along towards Madeira. The temperatures are increasing dramatically with every hour that passes… And we've been able to sleep soundly! There are still some thirty knot squalls around with the cold front which is beginning to fall away: as such you have to keep your hands on the sheets…” explained Franck Cammas.
An evening gybe
In view of Bruno Peyron's trajectories in 2005 and that of Groupama 3's at the moment, there is a big discrepancy due to the different weather conditions. Orange 2 opted for a route taking them closer to the direct course through the Canaries, while Franck Cammas and his men are slipping along to the West to get free of the effects of the volcanic land masses. The catamaran didn't have a very good third day at sea as a result of the islands, which entailed a large number of manœuvres, whilst the giant trimaran will have just a single gybe to perform this weekend. With the wind gradually shifting round to the NE, Groupama 3's wake will take the form of a gull's wing outline with a very pure course taking them straight down towards the equator. The change of hemispheres is scheduled for the sixth day…
” The planned time slot for crossing the equator is around six days: it's a good average, as it was two year ago (6d 6h 24', best passage time). However, it will all depend on how long it takes to traverse the Doldrums, which don't appear to be nasty at the moment. If everything goes to plan we should be faster after our first gybe than we were during our first attempt…”
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.