Expected to make landfall in Lorient early yesterday evening, in the end it took Groupama 3 until 2330 hours to tie up in her home port in an absolute downpour. Soaked to the skin but happy, the crew of the maxi trimaran took 16 and a half days to make it back from Cape Town, South Africa. Welcomed home by Franck Cammas and his team, the ten crew will now be able to enjoy a much deserved break as the technicians take over to prepare Groupama 3 for a fresh attempt to conquer the Jules Verne Trophy the minute the weather conditions are favourable at the start of 2010.
Wearing a beard, the features slightly drawn despite a big, telling smile of pleasure on making landfall, Fred Le Peutrec is a fulfilled skipper: “The delivery trip went very smoothly with a crew made up of some excellent sailors, half of which were on Groupama 3 for the first time. We’ve sailed well and I really appreciated the role of skipper, which requires you to shoulder a large amount of responsibility and to make decisions in view of what were difficult weather forecasts at times, particularly over recent days”. However, Fred is also a happy man: “We’re all delighted about making it home and seeing our families and children again to celebrate Christmas, which will certainly be joyful albeit a little late”.
Seated at the table despite the late hour (thank you to the team at La Base restaurant), the sailors and landlubbers didn’t waste any time exchanging their impressions of the voyage, giving their opinion about Groupama 3 and about the work which will ensue: “It really is a superb boat, that is very pleasant to helm. She never stops but she does require a great deal of attention” says Ludovic Aglaor, the current holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, who came along especially to see his friends Jacques Caraës and Ronan Le Goff.
Alongside him, Clément Surtel continues: “Each time it was my turn at the helm, the first ten minutes were stressful as I was only just finding my feet on Groupama 3, which is very sensitive. The following fifty minutes were a pure delight, to the extent that I found it hard to give up my position to the next person. I really appreciated the atmosphere onboard too. It was fantastic”.
As for Eric Lamy, a full-time member of the Groupama team for a number of years, he will shoulder the role of Boat Captain at the end of the Jules Verne Trophy. The pleasure he experienced when sailing was only equalled by seeing his two daughters and his wife again: “The climb up the Atlantic was really great and I now know my way around Groupama 3 really well. She goes very quickly. When you’re helming and you see the number 37 indicating the boat speed, you tell yourself how lucky you are to be where you are. It’s magical” concludes the very talented sailor and cook.
Passing from group to group, Franck Cammas thanks the crew which have returned Groupama 3 safely back to port. Already the list of work to be carried out over the next few days is taking shape in the skipper’s mind: “We’re going to change the standing rigging as it’s already covered over half a circumnavigation of the globe and it would be risky to keep it. We’re also going to reinforce the centreline on the aft edge of the floats where the engineers have identified a weak point. The rest of the work will now focus on the smaller details due to the normal wear and tear after 16,000 miles on the water”.
Happy to see his men and his trimaran again, Cammas hasn’t lost sight of his objective, the Jules Verne Trophy: “We’re closely monitoring the evolution in the weather with Sylvain Mondon from Météo France. For the time being there is no weather window. As such Fred (Le Peutrec), Ronan (Le Goff) and Jacco (Caraës), who all made the delivery trip aboard Groupama 3, will be able to get some rest before setting off around the world with the same crew as during our last attempt”.
With the lateness of the hour, the crew gradually leave La Base to get home to a dry, motionless bed. On the pontoon, it’s now over to the technicians to be on watch.
The crew of Groupama 3 for this delivery trip were:
1. Fred Le Peutrec
2. Ronan Le Goff
3. Jacques Caraës
4. Eric Lamy
5. François Salabert
6. Clément Surtel
7. Ludovic Aglaor
8. Thierry Duprés du Vorsent
9. Mayeul Riflet
10. Nick Legatt
It was this Saturday morning at 0600 UTC that the trimaran Groupama 3 cast off from the port of Cape Town, South Africa, bound for Brest some 6,000 miles (11,000 kms) away, where she will begin her second period of stand-by for the Jules Verne Trophy.
Skippered by Fred Le Peutrec and sailed by a total crew of 10, Groupama 3 has thus completed her South Africa stopover. In all it has taken no less than three weeks for the maxi trimaran to be operational once again after suffering damage in the Southern Atlantic, at a point where the crew were ahead of the reference time for the Jules Verne Trophy set by Orange in 2005.
Indeed once the float bulkhead was repaired and then reinforced by the Groupama team’s shore crew, with the assistance of a handful of South African’s from Team Shosholoza, it was the generator which was to give up the ghost. Forced to order a new unit from France and have it transported down to Cape Town by plane, the crew of Groupama 3 had no option but to wait patiently in Cape Town and attend the live draw for the World Cup football.
“All that is behind us today and all ten of us are delighted to be at sea again. We had to get free of the coast to find the wind, which has enabled us to retension the rig. We’ve done that and we’re now sailing under two reef mainsail and staysail in a 25 to 28 knot SE’ly making the equivalent boat speed” explains Fred Le Peutrec, who in the absence of Franck Cammas, has taken on responsibility for Groupama 3.
Of the ten crew who were aboard for the Jules Verne Trophy attempt, three are onboard for this delivery trip with Ronan Le Goff and Jacques Caraës accompanying Fred: “At the moment Ludovic Aglaor is at the helm with Ronan and Clément Surtel alongside. He’s just finding his way around Groupama 3 after a successful Jules Verne back in 2005 on Orange 2. We also have some new faces aboard including Mayeul Rifflet, who is replacing Lionel Lemonchois, as well as Nick Legatt and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent. The others are already familiar with Groupama 3 having been responsible for preparing her: Eric Lamy and François Salabert, who is in charge of the navigation” adds Fred.
“We’re going to be sailing in fairly strong downwind conditions for 36 hours. After that, the wind should ease to around fifteen knots, enabling us to make the equator in nine days. As such we won’t be back in time for the Christmas festivities, but no matter, we’re here to get Groupama 3 safely back into port. Today the boat is more solid than ever. We’ll just have to watch out for whales. On leaving Cape Town this morning we came across seven or eight, which was fantastic” concludes Fred Le Peutrec.