[Source: Groupama] Twenty four hours after a spectacular start, Franck Cammas is continuing his course at a hellish pace. Heading southward, the skipper of Groupama has already passed Cape Finisterre and is beginning his descent along the Spanish coast. Accredited with fourth place due to her SE’ly position, in reality Groupama 3′s position is doubtless much envied by her rivals.
“We’re trying to pick our way along the eastern edge of the zone of high pressure. For this, it was necessary to go fast and drop down the coast at full pelt by keeping the gennaker aloft. The sailing was borderline at times but we came out of it just fine” said Franck during a quick radio link-up with Press HQ for the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale at midday.
An attacker through and through, the skipper of Groupama 3 benefited from a powerful, fast boat to traverse the Bay of Biscay at high speed despite a sizeable swell and a dark night.
Contacted via telephone at 1600 hours, Jean-Luc Nélias, one of Franck Cammas’ weather advisors gave his view of the situation: “The tricky section is in Groupama 3′s wake now. It was important not to get caught up by the ridge of high pressure. Franck is carrying everything aloft, as he was at the start, namely full mainsail, staysail and gennaker. He’s in good shape and managing to sleep in 20 minute chunks”.
By sailing at an average of 23 knots, Groupama 3 is making up nearly 7 miles an hour on the leader of the ranking, Thomas Coville. Positioned further North and West, his Sodebo is logically closer to the finish, but has less pace. This trend could continue over the next few hours, that is unless Thomas decides to strike right out to the West.
Even further to the North and further West, Sydney Gavignet has definitively opted for the great circle route. This is synonymous with the shortest route but also the most testing as the bulk of it will be raced in headwinds. Skippering a trimaran which is theoretically a little less speedy than the other favourites, he’s trying his luck by typically committing himself to an option.
Astern but practically following the same line as Groupama 3, Francis Joyon and Yann Guichard are also seeking to make headway to the south. In a less well established wind, they’re just a few knots off the pace.
So the daggers are drawn then and it’s a fairly uniform fleet in terms of performance, despite the disparity of the trimarans. Once again it’s the sailors who will make the difference on what is a demanding course, where the weather may well have a few surprises up its sleeve…