When he brought the giant 31m trimaran Groupama 3 across the finish line off Pointe-a-Piitre, Guadeloupe today (Tuesday)under perfect sunshine and light breezes Franck Cammas (FRA) won the 9th edition of the Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale, the 3542 miles transatlantic race from Saint Malo for solo skippers which takes place every four years. Cammas crossed the finish line at 16..h 16..min 47. Secs (CET paris// 15h 16 mins 47 secs GMT,// 11 hrs 16 mins 47 seconds local time) The elapsed time for the course, after starting Saint Malo at 1302hr (CET/paris) Is. 9 days 3 hours 14 mins 47 seconds The average speed over the course on the water was. 20..39 knots for the actual course sailed of 4471 miles. . The course record of 7 days17 hrs 19 mins 6 seconds was set in 2006 Cammas adds his name to the legend of the ‘Rhum’ as successor to Mike Birch, Marc Pajot, Philippe Poupon, Florence Arthaud, Laurent Bourgnon, Michel Desjoyeaux and Lionel Lemonchois
Normally, during this time of year, the tradewinds are generally nice and steady, yet it has to be said that this doesn’t appear to be the case for the competitors in the Ultimate Class competing in the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale.
Positioned 300 miles to the North of Groupama 3, Thomas Coville’s Sodebo is enjoying stronger wind from a better direction to maintain a high average speed. In this way, the skipper has been able to make up 86 miles on the leader over the past 24 hours.
Similarly, Francis Joyon, who is positioned to the East of Groupama 3, has made up 60 miles of his deficit, whilst Yann Guichard has lost around a hundred miles.
On the Atlantic race zone then, things aren’t exactly sticking to the usual routine. Variable both in terms of strength and direction, the wind is imposing a fast physical rhythm on the sailors, who not only have to keep watch for sudden surges of breeze to avoid capsizing, but also wind holes, so as they don’t lose ground on their rivals by keeping an unsuitable sail configuration up for too long.
To spice things up a bit, you have no prior warning about how long this phase will last: you think it’s going to last a good while so you manoeuvre by hoisting or reducing the sail area. Lots of physical effort is involved at that point, as well as a drop in speed as you perform the manoeuvres. If your forecast proves to be right then it’s BINGO. There you are carrying the correct sail configuration, happy with the efforts you’ve made to get where you are. Where the opposite is true, it’s hell. You’re stuck fast or forced to go up on deck to avoid the risk of capsizing.
Such is the life of the multihull skipper, who only sleeps in 20 minute chunks.
Suffice to say that as the skippers begin to tackle the sixth day at sea, just 1,338 miles from the finish, the fatigue must be seriously beginning to make its presence felt. There’s no question of easing off the pace though: you have to earn a Rhum!
Positions at 1500 hours on Friday 5th November
1/ Groupama 3 some 1,338 miles from the finish
2/ Sodebo 260.6 miles from the leader
3/ Idec 309.4 miles astern
4/ Gitana 11 some 453 miles astern
5/ La Boite à Pizza 905.2 miles astern
To the South of the Azores archipelago, Groupama 3 is benefiting from a favourable breeze to slip along at pace on flat seas. Seven degrees to her NE, on the other side of the same archipelago, Thomas Coville is briskly driving his steed through headwinds and big seas.
Suffice to say that the two competitors, who shared the same boat during the Jules Verne Trophy, are certainly not in the same boat now, in any sense of the term! And yet, despite being positioned over 300 miles behind in relation to the finish, Thomas’ Sodebo is proving to be a concern for Franck’s Groupama.
In fact, between the two men, two proud vessels are also in the thick of the action and they certainly won’t be intending to play a bit part. This duo are formed of Idec, helmed by the colossus Joyon, holder of the solo round the world record under sail, and Gitana 11, which is none other than the revamped winner of the last edition of the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale. However, this time the latter is being helmed by Guichard who Franck is very familiar with, having often seen the stern of his Extreme 40 this season.
With a deficit of 249 and 251 miles respectively in relation to Groupama 3, these two boats are in fact sailing in the same weather system as the leader. Logically then they are currently involved in a drag race, which for now isn’t often proving favourable.
To go back to Coville, fairly close to him on a route which could be described as West, is the skipper of Oman Air Majan, Sidney Gavignet. These two men will have to traverse a front tomorrow morning and behind this technical term is hidden a fairly brutal change of wind direction which, in the space of a few minutes, is likely to switch from SW to NW. Moving from an upwind point of sail, close-hauled to a quartering wind, breeze on the back, the two sailors will be able to lengthen their stride. Paying a good deal of attention to the sea state all the same, which will involve the boats driving head on into heavy seas, it will be a while before the wind and seas are aligned again. The strength of the wind will also change, making conditions pretty full-on in the forecast 30-35 knots of breeze.
For the skipper of Groupama 3, he will have to endure this same pattern a few hours later. On the programme at that point will be a few changes of sail area aboard a boat whose performance in breezy conditions is celebrated.
Right now it’s down to these three sailors to prepare their steeds well, to stow everything away and lash everything down. As the French saying goes: “It’s in the squall that we see the sailors’ talents all”.
Positions at 1500 hours on Wednesday 3rd November
1/ Groupama 3 some 2,258 miles from the finish
2/ Idec 249 miles from the leader
3/ Gitana 11 some 251 miles astern
4/ Sodebo 306 miles astern
5/ Oman Air Majan 326 miles astern
by Colin Merry
“Alarm call at 0500hrs. this morning. but as Pete’s minder last night I was up and about at 0400hrs. in order not to miss the wake up call. Quick slurp of coffee then down to the boat. The rain was easing as we slid into the lock prior to being released to the sea. Even at this hour the lock sides were lined with waving cheering people! ”
”A lot of them looked as though they had been partying all night! Slipping out through the entrance we headed seaward greeted by a magnificant sunrise, a good omen we hoped. ”
“Several hours followed where Pete and Tom got the boat set up whilst I helmed. Normally not a problem for me, but this time it was different. ”
“I have never experienced so much responsibility, and it was getting more crowded by the minute. After nearly four hours and with twelve minutes to go we wished him well and jumped into the waiting rib.”
“Sorry that most of the pics. are of Class40′s but we were intent on following DMS for several miles and naturally we were surrounded by other 40′s. “
After a studied start keeping clear of the mayhem that is a start line Pete broke out the fractional kite and settled into the race.
With the wind easing it was not long before he went up a gear and raised the masthead kite.
Before we broke off the chase he was overhauling a few boats and looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself! So 3500miles to go and a possible encounter with a hurricane. (there is a cyclone winding itself up out the West atlantic which has been upgraded to Hurricane ”Tomas).
We at C&A wish him and skippers well in their endeavour to be in Gaudalupe first.
by Colin Merry
Crowds flocked to the skippers reception last night. Even a vociferous demo by the French unions (complaining about France’s rise in pensionable age) couldn’t dampen the way in which each skipper was applauded as they mounted the stage. People crowded the whole area stretching back as for as the eye could see!
Some climbing trees and still others clinging to the lamp posts! Everyone was determined to get a glimpse of these brave men and women before they set off on the ”Route de Rhumb”. I was particularly warmed by the reception Pete Goss got as his name was announced and he mounted the stage to what was the loudest applause and cheers all night. The French still hold him in very high esteem to this day.
After the reception Team DMS, the sponsors and guests retired to a pub for some very welcome R&R. I say pub but once inside it became clear that this was a strange hostelry indeed! Dolls and weird bric a brac everywhere.
The bar seats were swings hanging from the ceiling. Oh and did I mention the three piece ensemble that entertained us? They were completely off the wall but good in a ‘different’ sort of way.
Anyway, back to the race. I walked past one tri for the best part of a week before recognising her. None other than Ellen MacArthur’s B&Q!
Gone is the familiar livery and now she is plain white. Turned into a Pizza delivery judging by the logos being applied as I watched one evening.
On DMS we have a constant stream of visitors, Media crew who want interviews. Other skippers. Sponsors and guests. Plus old friends of Pete and Tom’s that reads like a who’s who of sailing. One such visitor was Frederick Meunier, the boat builder responsible for DMS.
Fred’s Tunisia based yard ”MC Tech” has order books full until next May for the ”Akiliria” brand known as the RC2. As we sat and chatted he was looking around at the mods that Tom had made since she left his yard. A testament to Tom’s attention to detail when said he reckoned that she was the best turned out boat in the Class 40′ fleet.
As crowded as our boat was, at times it paled into insignificance compared to the crowds who by now had swelled to massive proportions! It was gridlock on the roads in and around St. Malo and it threatened to become gridlock on the pavements too. Looking out from a high vantage point it seemed that the predicted 1.2 million visitors had all arrived together today! I can’t even begin to envisage what 18,000 people on the water tomorrow are going to look like. Also add to that 100 ribs that will be inside the exclusion zone prior to the start and you begin to get some idea of the huge logistical enterprise that is the ”Route de Rhumb”.
Rookies to legends, the IMOCA class skippers are as one when it comes to being ready to go, they say.
Challenge and Adventure’s Colin Merry in his daily check-in wrote today how things were hotting up in St. Malo and he spoke of the atmosphere there. “We are now well sorted on DMS. She has now passed all her safety checks and is virtually ready to go. Not so with all the boats though. I see anxious faces on some of the Skippers as they seek to come within the scrutineers beady eye! For others it is a mad dash yet again to the Chandlers for some forgotten item. Or to replace a broken piece of equipment.
Tom (boat captain on DMS) was splicing more spare sheets and making chocks for the spare anchor to sit in yesterday. All done in almost a leisurely way. This air of calm is one that now pervades DMS. The reason being, that Pete and Tom have been working hard with a set plan of objectives for each and every day that we have been here. The hard work has paid off and we are sitting pretty. I myself was spared the job yesterday of donning wetsuit and cleaning the hull as Tom reckons we can do it nearer the start date. Instead I mounted the ‘Argos’ unit on the guard rail and attended to the sponsors flags that we are flying. Then I went food shopping! (someone has to be house mother you know!) Shopping in St. Malo can be fun, as for a short cut you can walk around the city wall when the streets get too crowded. Of course, when on the wall loads of opportunities arise for photography. So I include a few of my shopping shots!
Even on a cold day such as Wednesday the crowds are out in force. Whilst on the wall I grabbed a pic. of the 50′ tri’s lined up like dragonflys. The sheer volume of people is amazing!
Christopher Pratt (DCNS) is the rookie in the IMOCA Open 60 class is keeping up to speed with his sponsor and media commitments. After the talent search programme of his sponsors DCNS – which is one of France’s largest naval defence construction and shipbuilding companies – which he won, there are very many young students from the major colleges visiting the boat to meet the skipper here.
PRB’s visitor programme is very comprehensive. The sponsors of 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou have 300 guests most days to see the boat, and they have been running such a programme since the new boat was launched and sailed her maiden race around Spain in June. On board PRB everything is ready for the start.
Latest launched IMOCA Open 60 is of course that of Michel Desjoyeaux and his team are busy each day with the fine details, while the skipper catches up with his sleep and de-stresses after the remarkably quick six months build of his new boat.
Each afternoon the double Vendée Globe winner catches up with a two hour nap.
And Marc Guillemot, the IMOCA world champion and winner of the last Transat Jacques Vabre is also in great shape, ready for the off. He will be signing copies of the book he co-wrote with his wife after his 2008-9 Vendée Globe.
Jean-Pierre Dick will show Belgian comic actor François Damians over his new VPLP-Verdier design and then Loick Peyron, who JP will pair up with for the imminent Barcelona World Race, will be here this evening.
On Friday Arnaud Boissières will host world match racing tour leader Mathieu Richard aboard Akena Verandas, as well as Christine Janin, the first French woman to climb Everest.
Armel Le Cléac’H of Brit Air has been home with his family and will arrive this evening, whilst Roland Jourdain, the defending champion, is totally chilled out and ready with his new Veolia Environnment. Routing is of course forbidden in this class, and so preparations with external advisors is paramount leading in to Sunday.
Groupama made for a lonely looking boat as she lay all on her own in the outer harbour. This not because she has been excluded. No, they just couldn’t get her into the lock! She is sporting a much smaller rig for this race because the normal rig would be too much for one man to handle.
An indication of the attention to detail that the Groupama team approach their projects is shown in the extent of changes made to the giant trimaran in order that one man (Frank Cammas) can handle this beast. As well as the obvious switch to a lower-aspect rig the boats ergonomics have been re-evaluated and modified with the installation of a hand and leg driven system for the winches and the hydraulic system. This with many other mods. should enable one (very fit) man to manage this 103′ behemoth!
The skippers will all be at the top of their game as they head out
The Jules Verne Trophy now belongs to ten men who have sailed around the globe at an average of 18.76 knots along the optimum course, beating the reference time set by Orange 2 in 2005 by 2 days 08 hours 35 minutes. Franck Cammas and his men crossed the finish line off the Créac’h lighthouse at Ushant (Finistère) at 21h40’45″ UTC Saturday 20th March. They are due to make the Port du Château in Brest at around 0900 UTC tomorrow.
The skipper Franck Cammas, navigator Stan Honey, watch leaders Fred Le Peutrec and Steve Ravussin, helmsmen/trimmers Loïc Le Mignon, Thomas Coville and Lionel Lemonchois, and the three bowmen Bruno Jeanjean, Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës, supported on shore by router Sylvain Mondon, have pulled it off: they have beaten the round the world record under sail via the three capes!
In 48 days 07 hours 44 minutes, Groupama 3 has certainly had her highs and lows, as she hasn’t always been ahead of the reference time set by Bruno Peyron and his crew in 2005. On the contrary! The giant trimaran had a deficit of just over 500 miles in relation to Orange 2 and was only able to beat the Jules Verne Trophy record thanks to a dazzling final sprint from the equator. At that stage they had a deficit of one day and two hours, but by devouring the North Atlantic in 6 days 10 h 35′, Groupama 3 quite simply pulverised the reference time over this section of the course.
Setting out on 31st January 2010 whilst the weather `window’ was not particularly favourable, Franck Cammas and his men have alternated between some extremely fast sequences and some very slow ones. Indeed, the conditions were very varied on this round the world, and even the wind rarely exceeded 40 knots. It has to be said that the chosen trajectory sought to avoid the heavy seas and the overly strong breezes, which considerably increased the distance to travel: in fact Groupama 3 sailed 28,523 miles whilst the official optimum course amounts to 21,760 miles. As such, in terms of actual speed across the ground, the giant trimaran maintained an average speed of 24.6 knots! The trickiest zone, both on the outward journey and the return proved to be the South Atlantic. During the descent problems arose due to the calms and on the ascent due to the headwinds.
Tonight Groupama 3 is remaining offshore of Ushant to await daybreak: she will enter the channel into the harbour of Brest at around 0830 UTC under sail, then a parade around the harbour will culminate with her tying up in the Port du Château at around 1000 hours UTC. A number of France’s top sailors, including Bruno Peyron, previous Jules Verne Trophy holder since 2005, have made the trip to Brest to welcome in the victorious crew and the locals are planning to come out in force to welcome home the ten round the world sailors on Sunday morning.
In the disturbed air flow spread all over the Atlantic, Groupama 3 carries on its rapid progress towards the finish line and substantially increases its lead over the reference time. The arrival at the Créac’h's lighthouse is still scheduled for Saturday, but the time frame remains open all day as the low pressure area could slow down the giant trimaran.
If the departure’s weather window was narrow, the gates of arrival are now wide open! But 1 500 miles away from Ushant, Franck Cammas and his men are not done yet with changing conditions: by having to approach the center of low pressure which is currently pushing the giant trimaran, the wind will become more unstable and should suddenly change from South-West to North-West. The wind will also strengthen to over thirty knots with gusts in the squalls and the crew will therefore have many maneuvers to undertake until the entry of the Gulf of Biscay.
“The sea is short, the wind is not very stable: it does not slide that much. But the sky is very clear unlike yesterday. On Wednesday night, we got it all: the wind went from six to thirty knots! With a flood of rain on top of that. Since we went through the front, everything is going much better, from wind to sea. However it will evolve as we get closer to the center of the low pressure area.” Franck Cammas indicated during the videoconference from 1230 with the Groupama’s Race HQ in Paris in the presence of culinary presenter Jean-Luc Petitrenaud.
After 46 days at sea, the crew is starting to get impatient and although the distance between land and the sailors is reduced by great surfs; we felt during the video conference with Franck Cammas that the crew was eager to return to their family … and to normal food!
“We’re going to have a good steak because dried food looks more like dog food! Eating is not a pleasure every day: luckily we got fish dishes and sauces prepared by Philippe Rochat to get some taste … We are sailing too fast to fish and we have only raised a small flying fish out of this world tour, so small that we returned it to the sea ”
The finish meal will still wait until Saturday as, by then, the crew will have to be fit and ready for the tough, but also irregular finish: the front will force men to reduce the sail and during those nights with almost no moon, navigation is always a bit stressful, especially when they have to maneuver. Without counting the shipping traffic which will intensify towards the approach of Cape Finisterre and a sea state to be degraded on arrival on the Continental Plateau.
And front swells…
“We’ll have a rough night coming as it is always difficult to touch a low pressure center: the wind is very irregular and the sea becomes chaotic as the waves mingle with the West great swell! These phases are unpleasant and risky for the equipment. We still have 24 hours a bit tricky … We’ll have to navigate carefully, but quickly because we must not be overtaken by the low pressure or we may have to negotiate even more difficult conditions! We do not hesitate in giving a hand to the guys on watch for the maneuvers and for sails changes, to avoid fatigue and constantly adapt to this changing wind. ”
Groupama’s Race HQ moves this Thursday evening in Brest to prepare the arrival of the giant trimaran which should see the Brittany coast on Saturday. Once this low pressure area is passed tomorrow night, ETA (estimated time of arrival) can be refined to one or two hours. However, so far, the opening is between 8:00 and 20:00 (French time) depending on sea conditions and the wind regularity, as if the clock of the Jules Verne Trophy shells minutes, the yo-yo effect of the weather can change the “cooee” time !
Day 45 (17th March 1400 UTC): 441 miles (lead = 412 miles)
Day 46 (18th March 1300 UTC): 579 miles (lead = 828 miles)