Indeed it wasn't the most favourable weather window for setting off on the Jules Verne Trophy, but skipper Franck Cammas, navigator Stan Honey and onshore router Sylvain Mondon nevertheless decided to set off with Brittany in the grips of winter. After her second failed attempt in November 2009 and a return to Lorient to reinforce Groupama 3's structure, the stand-by period was drawing to a close: a gap in the weather, albeit it narrow, was enough to inspire them to go for the record. The Bay of Biscay was peaceful, too peaceful even, and the first goal was to get round Cape Finisterre safely and then decide whether to persevere or throw in the towel.
Equator: 1d 02h 04m deficit
It's a long old slog to make headway in the South Atlantic! The ascent begins with some close-hauled sailing whilst Bruno Peyron and his crew enjoyed downwind conditions as far as Brazil in 2005. Next on the menu, the stormy front causes the wind to shift round to the N, right on their nose. Thanks to a beat in a narrow corridor of breeze between two windless zones, Groupama 3 comes off pretty well as she's been designed for these variable, light airs, but there's a haemorrhage of miles all the same! The result is a deficit of over 500 miles but there are still 4,000 miles to make up the 12% deficit for the 17% of the remaining course around the world. The penalty is severe as they switch hemispheres: 41d 21h 09m on crossing the equator a second time.
Agulhas Cape: 7h 30m deficit
The southeasterly tradewinds are very much in evidence offshore of Brazil and Groupama 3 opts for a trajectory fairly close to the coast to avoid the Saint Helena High. The situation becomes more complicated as from the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, Franck Cammas and his men have to wait for the wind to shift before it dies out completely. After eleven days at sea, the whole of their lead over the reference time has melted away! In fact the giant trimaran is awaiting the arrival of a Brazilian low so they can get going again at speed. However, the breeze only really becomes established once they're into the Roaring Forties. At that point they make an extremely fast comeback at an average of over thirty knots for two days, until such time as Groupama 3 stumbles into a front which breaks her momentum. 14d 15h 48m: the passage of the longitude of the Agulhas Cape heralds the start of two difficult days before they can hook onto the next low...
South Tasmania: 9h 56m lead
Whilst Bruno Peyron and his crew had to perform a series of gybes in the Indian Ocean, Franck Cammas and his men manage to make headway along the southern edge of a large anticyclone for several days. The average speeds are staggering and despite a very northern trajectory along 45°S, Groupama 3 comes back on the reference time like a bullet: in the space of five days, she makes up over 550 miles and passes ahead of Orange 2 at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. 23d 09h 27m: the passage to the South of Tasmania precedes further happy days (albeit wet).
Cape Horn: 8h 55m lead
The crew of Groupama 3 are able to make out the first land since leaving Ushant 25 days earlier: they skirt round the island of Auckland and are able to dive down into the Deep South. The trajectory is highly favourable as far as 55°S and the downwind conditions colour proceedings. However, the arrival of a nasty Australian low puts a new light on matters: it is necessary to modify the strategy and climb up to 50°S, then further still to 47° S to avoid the worst of the gale and most importantly the heavy and badly organised seas. Despite the fact that the giant trimaran is able to power along at an average of over thirty knots, the extra miles they need to cover causes their lead to shrink to 200 miles (from a previous advantage of 500 miles). However, Franck Cammas and his men are finally able to plunge down towards the Hard Cape at that stage. In Drake's Passage, the downwind breeze dies, the wind even shifting round to the NE, forcing the crew to put in a tack change but also enabling them to get a glimpse of the lighthouse at the end of the world. 32d 04h 34m: the multihull isn't very far ahead of the reference time, but the crew is able to chat with the lighthouse keepers at Cape Horn...
Ushant: 2d 08h 35m lead
Fortunately the North Atlantic is shaping up to be more favourable. As was the case during the descent a month earlier, Groupama 3 finds her way into some established tradewinds and then manages to avoid getting hemmed in by a zone of high pressure offshore of the Cape Verde archipelago. As such she can finally bend her course towards the Bay of Biscay from the latitude of the Canaries. Bruno Peyron and his crew didn't score well over this section of the course five years earlier, which is just as well! It isn't until the 46th day at sea that Franck Cammas and his nine crew get ahead of the reference time again. The next three days are fast in a disturbed air flow and the giant trimaran's lead continues to increase as they make for Ushant, finally stretching to nearly 1,500 miles as they cross the finish line.
From one Jules Verne to another
Ultimately Groupama 3 completed her circumnavigation of the globe with a deficit in relation to the reference time over a 22 day period and a lead over Orange 2 for 26 days. However, this distribution isn't consistent since the separation continued to yo-yo throughout the Jules Verne Trophy, with a whole series of highs and lows. According to the 1400 UTC position reports (corresponding with their start time from Ushant on 31st January 2010), the giant trimaran had a 94 mile deficit on the 1st day, a 620 mile lead on the 6th day, a deficit of 433 miles on the 18th day, a 560 mile lead on the 27th day, a deficit of 492 miles on the 41st day, rounding off with a 1,492 mile lead on her arrival in Ushant!
This stop-start progress is a first in relation to all the previous victorious Jules Verne Trophy campaigns as every one of the attempts vying for the record since Bruno Peyron's successful attempt in 1993, have always been ahead all the way to the finish on rounding the Cape of Good Hope, or even Cape Leeuwin, with the exception of Olivier de Kersauson in 2004, who had to wait until they reached the International Date Line. The record set by Groupama 3 this 21 March 2010 has thus improved on the previous reference time by 4%! However, by adding together the best times over the six sections of the round the world during recent attempts of the 24,375 mile course (of which Groupama 3 holds four reference times: Ushant-Equator in November 2009, Equator-Agulhas in January 2008, Agulhas Cape-Cape Leeuwin in February 2010 and Equator-Ushant in March 2010), a circumnavigation of the globe in 45 days is feasible. However, that's another story: Franck Cammas and his men haven't scheduled a second circumnavigation...
Equator: a lead of 1d 07h 49m
In fact this first 'course mark' proved tricky to negotiate: the moderate northwesterly wind on leaving Ushant on 31 January at 13h 55m 53s UTC increased overnight and then eased as they approached the Spanish coast, shifting across to the East with the arrival of a windless zone. Fortunately Groupama 3 managed to slip past before the calm spell and was into the Portuguese tradewinds to celebrate Lionel Lemonchois' fiftieth birthday offshore of Madeira! They were very much on track again then and the pace could only pick up once they gybed to the West of the Canaries. However, there was another obstacle to negotiate before rounding the Cape Verde archipelago, with a depression centre compelling them to perform several gybes. Once past this zone, the descent towards the equator proved very fast in the moderate northeasterly tradewinds and a rather inactive Doldrums at 2° N. 5d 19h 07m: it's the second best passage time from Ushant to the equator.
The Jules Verne Trophy
1993: Commodore Explorer (FRA), 25m catamaran (Bruno Peyron) = 79d 06h 16m
1994: Enza New Zealand (NZL), 26m catamaran (Peter Blake & Robin Knox-Johnston) = 74d 22h 17m
1997: Sport Elec (FRA), 27m trimaran (Olivier de Kersauson) = 71d 14h 22m
2002: Orange (FRA), 33m catamaran (Bruno Peyron) = 64d 08h 37m
2004: Geronimo (FRA), 34m trimaran (Olivier de Kersauson) = 63d 13h 59m
2005: Orange 2 (FRA), 37m catamaran (Bruno Peyron) = 50d 16h 20m
2010: Groupama 3 (FRA), 32m trimaran (Franck Cammas) = 48d 07h 45m