Groupama 3: Atlantic Roll

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The current phase offshore of the Brazilian coast isn’t the easiest section on this round the world, with a mass of storm squalls making it difficult to anticipate the trajectory. Navigator Stan Honey, in collaboration with the onshore router Sylvain Mondon, is constantly having to adapt Groupama 3’s course in order to extract her from this zone and finally make it through to the tradewinds to the North of the 22° parallel…

Info Groupama 3

  The forecast wind report isn’t yet tallying up with the current situation on the water… The atmospheric sounding didn’t predict the gale which ripped through the navigation zone to the SE of Rio de Janeiro at 40 knots with very choppy seas last night. The fatigue related to this round the world is beginning to weigh on them now and the crew has lost weight since leaving Ushant. Furthermore this transition around 300 miles to the North, at the mercy of the wind, may well prove to be the key to this Jules Verne Trophy… “We didn’t expect this phase of strong winds to be so long! The bad weather with 35-37 knots of breeze was only set to last from 0400 to 1000 hours on Tuesday. In reality it lasted four extra hours and increased to 42 knots with heavy seas… We had two watch systems on deck at the same time for a while because it was impossible to sleep in any case and you couldn’t even stand upright down below. We’ve reduced the sail area to three reefs in the mainsail without a jib up forward! The platform is holding up well but the deck fittings are beginning to suffer from wear. This lunchtime, the wind has really dropped away, to as little as 10-17 knots according to the squalls, with a very changeable breeze. It’s been three hours now that we’ve had a big cumulonimbus on our tail… The sea is flat at the moment, the water temperature is 25°C, there’s a sticky heat as well as a stifling atmosphere” indicated Loïc Le Mignon at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris.    No way out to the right, nor the left… Right now there are zones of high pressure to the left and to the right. Indeed the calm zones have got Groupama 3 surrounded and she is having to zigzag her way between the squalls, which are causing massive changes in both the strength and direction of the wind, with shifts of over 60° and a breeze oscillating between 10 and 20 knots… As such Franck Cammas and his men are having to constantly be on the alert for the incessant shifts, linking together a series of tack changes to optimise the course. Fortunately the giant trimaran is very at ease in these conditions and has been able to rack up twenty-eight knots of boatspeed with just twelve knots of breeze on the nose. Rather less encouraging news for the crew of Groupama 3 is that this situation will last until the latitude of Vitoria, some 300 miles to their North…

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“We hope to make it into the tradewinds during the course of Thursday night. However, for the time being, our progress northward is really being hampered. When we head to the left towards the Brazilian coast, the wind heads us as it switches round to the NW and we stumble in a line of squalls. And when we head to the right, the wind veers to the NE as it eases! We’re forced to tack on a constant basis to remain in the centre… weaving our way along in line with the breeze. Fortunately, given that Groupama 3 makes such great headway in light winds, we’re managing to manoeuvre well. Orange 2 wouldn’t have made such good progress in winds like this!”    An uncertain outcome 

We won’t have to wait till the weekend to know the outcome of this “Brazilian ejection”: in this region, the wind is either stormy and inconsistent due to a neo-tropical low, otherwise it’s steady and on the beam along the northern edge of the Saint Helena High! Heckled by the squalls, the crew of Groupama 3 is scanning the horizon and still stands a good chance of winning on this giant trimaran’s first circumnavigation of the globe. However, there’s just a week and a half to go to `carry the day’! “Groupama 3 is an extraordinary boat! This trimaran can be manoeuvred very easily and we can put in a tack very quickly. The speeds obtained with slightly eased sheets and in the downwind conditions of the Deep South are incredible! Furthermore, after nearly a complete loop of the world, she’s in perfect condition, though we’re really looking after her… Personally it’s a very enriching experience to sail with this French crew: we eat well, there’s a very pleasant atmosphere and the average speeds are amazing. Right now it’s not proving very easy with the squalls, but we hope to make it through into the tradewinds as quickly as we can. Franck, Sylvain and I are working very well together and the exchanges between us are proving very fruitful. I remain confident about the next stage of this Jules Verne Trophy as the whole crew is extremely motivated to get to the finish within the time limit…” indicated Stan Honey, the American navigator onboard.

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