Grouparama under way again after frustrating winds slowed progress

The calm conditions colouring the past 48 hours are definitively over: with the arrival of a Brazilian depression system the acceleration has been instant and is set to last for several days. Evidence of this comes with the 70 miles gained on Orange 2 in the space of seven hours this Sunday morning.

The wait has been long and the change of pace brutal: blocked at times making less than five knots until last night, Groupama 3 has found her wings again and is powering away at an average of thirty knots this Sunday afternoon! This is all thanks to a gust of tropical heat originating in Rio de Janeiro, which is dropping down to the Furious Fifties, passing beneath South Africa, before continuing its voyage at least as far as the Kerguelen archipelago, if not further…

“Before the start we identified the fact that between 14th and 16th November, two depression systems were going to form over Brazil. As such we knew we had to hook onto one or the other because after that there was no possible way through. We had to be on time for the encounter… For the next 24 hours, it's going to be the same wind accompanying them, a N to NE'ly breeze of 15 to 20 knots, which will enable them to power up with open sails. There will just be a small SE'ly swell, which will subside as the skies become more overcast and the bad weather seeks to catch up with them… Some very high speeds will be on the programme over the next two days!” explained Sylvain Mondon from Météo France.

Ahead of the warm front

“We've had a hard time psychologically because five knots of breeze for such a long period wasn't easy to bear… It wasn't easy to escape this zone of calm and then, this morning, things began to accelerate. We're going to have to get our skates on to stay with this breeze though! We're concentrated and above all happy to be making good speed again. We felt totally powerless as we waited for this depression system, but we're going to have to stay with it now as we're not particularly far forward in terms of its position. It's going to be a race against the clock now with the warm front rather than a race against Orange 2!” stated the skipper of Groupama 3

As this young depression gets bigger by feeding on the cold polar air as it traverses the Southern Atlantic, it is moving fairly quickly (around thirty knots). Franck Cammas and his crew intend to keep just ahead of the cold front, which is generating steady N'ly winds on fairly small seas. Added to this, the current disturbance is also set to fill out over the next few days and will push back the high pressure, which has been stagnating offshore of Cape Town for several days. Its very straight trajectory is good news for Groupama 3, however it will drop quite far South, as far as 50° S! At this time of year, there is still ice around originating in Antarctica, which is drifting quite high up… As such the crew will have to curve out their course after going around the Southern edge of this African anticyclone.

An important meeting

“At the moment, Groupama 3 is making close to thirty knots of boat speed under one reef and solent in beam winds of 17-18 knots, 135° off the true wind, beneath a grey sky with a few patches of blue and cumulus. However, the swell is coming at them head on, which is making things bouncy at times… We're going to have to try to follow the routing, which has us making very high speeds. We're targeting a point quite far to the South in relation to the Cape of Good Hope, as there's a zone of high pressure under South Africa. That will cause us a few problems as regards icebergs, but it's highly favourable in terms of wind. The next 24 hours are important for remaining in a N'ly wind (the ideal point of sail for us), without getting devoured by what is a pretty violent depression! It will be a completely straight trajectory with a few manœuvres centred around reducing the sail area as the wind is likely to increase. From Tuesday onwards we'll be in the Roaring Forties…”

After patience comes impatience! Indeed, it's going to be important that the depression system doesn't accelerate too fast leaving Groupama 3 behind the front: a W'ly shift in the wind wouldn't be favourable as Franck Cammas and his men would then be forced into a series of gybes and hence a longer and slower zigzag course. In a beam wind, the giant trimaran can slip along effortlessly, without putting the crew under too much pressure. There will be enough manœuvres to make in the Indian Ocean! As such, if everything falls into place as forecast, Groupama 3 will once again extend her lead over the reference time and be able to tackle the Deep South with a very positive margin of time.

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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