Friday, November 06, 2009

Groupama 3 is already off Spain

Groupama 3 had reached Cape Finisterre this Friday lunchtime. As such Franck Cammas and his nine crew were set to rack up over 500 miles in 24 hours midway through the afternoon, which remains a good average speed for this first day in predominantly beam winds and close-hauled conditions. The downwind conditions along the Portuguese coast should enable them to quickly make up their deficit in relation to the reference time.

In 2005, Bruno Peyron and his crew set out from Ushant on their successful Jules Verne Trophy campaign with some highly favourable conditions to escape the Bay of Biscay and benefit from the Portuguese tradewinds. In this way, the giant catamaran was able to cover nearly 600 miles on its first day. This won't be the case for Groupama 3, but this was already part of the plan on leaving Brest. Indeed, by setting out in a strong NW'ly breeze and, most strikingly, pitted against big, highly chaotic seas with waves in excess of 6 metres, the giant trimaran didn't have a hope of reaching an average of more than twenty knots.

"The wind frequently switched direction on this first night at sea, which meant that we weren't constantly able to carry the optimum amount of sail area on Groupama 3. We thought we were free of this phenomenon this morning, but right now the wind still has a tendency to shift 40°... The true NW'ly wind should return soon at which point we'll be able to pick up speed over the course of the afternoon. In any case, we couldn't take any risks with the start and for the time being all's well! We've just broken a helmsman's helmet, but it's already been repaired..." indicated Franck Cammas during the radio link-up this Friday lunchtime.

Iberian acceleration
The giant trimaran had regained a more favourable pace this afternoon, with the return of a more stable and better established NW'ly wind, with the sea becoming increasingly regulated. With the arrival of a cold front tonight, the wind is set to clock round to the N and then the NE as it builds. As a result Franck Cammas and his crew will have to put in a gybe over the coming hours, probably offshore of Lisbon.

"Since daybreak, we've been passing a lot of cargo ships and fishing boats, but as we're sailing a course which is parallel to the shipping lanes, this isn't complicating manoeuvres. Everyone is into their stride now: we began the watch system two hours out of Ushant. It wasn't easy to sleep last night though as the boat was really getting shaken about with a residual swell preventing us from slipping along smoothly. Yesterday evening it wasn't easy to prepare something to eat so we snacked on sandwiches..." explained the skipper of Groupama 3.

With downwind breezes, the gennaker will enable the boat to make the most of the waves to pick up speed and the 115 mile deficit in relation to the reference time should be recovered by noon on Saturday... "The first eighteen hours were the hardest in this first week at sea using this weather window..." confirmed Sylvain Mondon from Météo France. Moreover, with this considerable improvement in the sailing conditions, Groupama 3 is still in a position to envisage a switch of hemispheres in less than a week...

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