Friday, 5 March 2010

JVT: Land Ahoy! for Groupama 3

Groupama 3 passing Cape Horn. Image copyright Team Groupama.

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Just hours now from the third of the round the world capes, Groupama 3 should have a lead of over 200 miles in relation to the reference time on rounding Cape Horn. However, the next stage of the programme is less encouraging...

The Horn certainly deserves its reputation, though the situation offshore of this boundary today doesn't quite measure up to its legend! Indeed, Franck Cammas and his nine crew are coming into sight of the coast of Chile with just a dozen knots or so of N'ly breeze after 32 days at sea. However, with the sea and wind conditions drastically calmer than recent days, Groupama 3 has been forced to pass a long way offshore of the extreme tip of South America. Furthermore, the headwinds, which have settled over Drake's Passage, have dramatically slowed the giant trimaran's progress.

"We're quite a long way offshore so we aren't likely to see the cape. The N'ly wind is forcing us to make headway quite a long way off the coast of Chile and the breeze has dropped right away as we pass through a transition system. It will be a fine deliverance because this is always a complicated sector: difficult for the boat, difficult for the men and a little dangerous too... It's the end of the Southern Ocean and the start of the Atlantic. It's the realisation of a childhood dream for me" indicated Franck Cammas at the 1130 UTC radio link-up with Groupama's Race HQ in Paris, in the presence of a familiar face from evening TV in France, Marc-Olivier Fogiel.

A slight lead...

Groupama 3 has nevertheless maintained her lead over the reference time, but this advantage won't increase over the coming hours. In fact, with the high pressure settling in behind Tierra del Fuego, the breeze has become a headwind and Franck Cammas and his men will have to make for the Falkland Islands in close-hauled configuration. As such, despite the giant trimaran scheduled to be a little over 200 miles ahead of Orange 2's course in 2005 as she rounds Cape Horn at around 1900 UTC, she will see her lead just melt away in the South Atlantic. Indeed Bruno Peyron and his crew enjoyed some exceptional conditions after Drake's Passage.

"The colours here are exceptional thanks to the proximity of Antarctica. This morning we saw a rorqual measuring around fifteen metres. It was fantastic to see it surfing behind us across the swell. Seeing this mass covering such speeds was truly impressive! It was the first mammal we'd seen since the start... We're going to round Cape Horn at a very lowly pace, the slowest speed we've made for several weeks! After that we'll have some upwind conditions and we're going to lose a fair amount of time in relation to Orange 2's course. I hope we'll be able to make it up later on. You really get the sense that you're attacking the final third of the course now and it's a pretty exciting feeling for the competitors that we are. It really is game on. We're going to lose our advantage over the coming hours, but I sure hope we can come back quickly. There's going to be a great air of suspense all the way to the finish!"

A logical legend

There it is: Cape Horn! Image copyright Team Groupama.

Above all, Cape Horn marks the end of the fear. Indeed, once around it the crew can head North, towards the heat, far from the nasty swells, far from the uncertainty of encountering ice, far from the burdensome headway. The Deep South isn't just a strange, sublime, magical, amazing, vivid environment. It is also a close world of innermost reaches, survival, instability and doubt. It is something essential for a sailor, but something profoundly weighty, whoever you have supporting you. The problem doesn't lie in entering the zone, the concern is not in remaining there, the question is knowing how long it's going to last... And at sea, the weather isn't something we decide.

"It's always stressful in the Southern Ocean: the boat is bound to be roughed up by the sea because you have to go fast despite the messy, pyramid-shaped waves. The upshot of that is some violent impacting with violent gusts thrown in, which means we're always in an unstable equilibrium! You wonder how it's all going to end: it's certainly one less fear for us to get around this final cape, not to mention escaping the cold which has taken hold over the past few days."

Groupama 3's log (departure on 31st January at 13h 55' 53'' UTC)
Day 1 (1st February 1400 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2 (2nd February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3 (3rd February 1400 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4 (4th February 1400 UTC): 565 miles (lead = 245 miles)
Day 5 (5th February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 562 miles)
Day 6 (6th February 1400 UTC): 456 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Day 7 (7th February 1400 UTC): 430 miles (lead = 539 miles)
Day 8 (8th February 1400 UTC): 305 miles (lead = 456 miles)
Day 9 (9th February 1400 UTC): 436 miles (lead = 393 miles)
Day 10 (10th February 1400 UTC): 355 miles (lead = 272 miles)
Day 11 (11th February 1400 UTC): 267 miles (deficit = 30 miles)
Day 12 (12th February 1400 UTC): 247 miles (deficit = 385 miles)
Day 13 (13th February 1400 UTC): 719 miles (deficit = 347 miles)
Day 14 (14th February 1400 UTC): 680 miles (deficit = 288 miles)
Day 15 (15th February 1400 UTC): 651 miles (deficit = 203 miles)
Day 16 (16th February 1400 UTC): 322 miles (deficit = 376 miles)
Day 17 (17th February 1400 UTC): 425 miles (deficit = 338 miles)
Day 18 (18th February 1400 UTC): 362 miles (deficit = 433 miles)
Day 19 (19th February 1400 UTC): 726 miles (deficit = 234 miles)
Day 20 (20th February 1400 UTC): 672 miles (deficit = 211 miles)
Day 21 (21th February 1400 UTC): 584 miles (deficit = 124 miles)
Day 22 (22nd February 1400 UTC): 607 miles (deficit = 137 miles)
Day 23 (23rd February 1400 UTC): 702 miles (lead = 60 miles)
Day 24 (24th February 1400 UTC): 638 miles (lead = 208 miles)
Day 25 (25th February 1400 UTC): 712 miles (lead = 371 miles)
Day 26 (26th February 1400 UTC): 687 miles (lead = 430 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 797 miles (lead = 560 miles)
Day 27 (27th February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 517 miles)
Day 29 (1st March 1400 UTC): 434 miles (lead = 268 miles)
Day 30 (2nd March 1400 UTC): 575 miles (lead = 184 miles)
Day 31 (3rd March 1400 UTC): 617 miles (lead = 291 miles)
Day 32 (4th March 1400 UTC): 492 miles (lead = 248 miles)

WSSRC record for the Pacific Ocean crossing (from the South of Tasmania to Cape Horn)
Orange 2 (2005): 8d 18h 08'

Cammas - Groupama

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