When he brought the giant 31.5 metres trimaran Groupama 3 across the finish line off Pointe-a-Piitre, Guadeloupe today (Tuesday) under perfect sunshine and light breezes Franck Cammas (FRA) clinched the 9th edition of the Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale .
Cammas completes an outstanding year with the giant multihull which he now steps off for high next challenge, racing fully crewed round the world in 70 foot monohulls.
In March this year he already set the fully crewed round the world Jules Verne Trophy record with the boat, sailing with a crew of ten to smash the record by 2 days 08 hours 35 minutes.
The winning skipper acknowledged that the start in Saint Malo and the very slow, upwind finish tacking more than 15 times over the last 24 hours, skirting voracious rain clouds which sucked away the breeze and trying to find the best angles in through the chain of Caribbean islands, were the most stressfull for him mentally.
Groupama 3 crossed the finish line at 16h 16min 47secs (CET Paris) (15hrs 16mins 47secs GMT/ 11hrs 16mins 47 seconds Local time)
The elapsed time for the course, after starting Saint Malo at 1302hr (CET/Paris) was 9 days 3 hours 14 mins 47 seconds and the average speed over the course on the water was. 20.39 knots for an actual course sailed of 4471 miles.
But the course record of 7 days17 hrs 19 mins 6 seconds, which was set in 2006 by Lionel Lemonchois in an exceptional weather pattern still stands.
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.
Playing to the strengths of the skipper and an optimum route for the fleet's most powerful boat was key to Groupama's victory in this clash of the giants, the first time the unlimited multihulls of the Ultime class have raced head to head.
Even though Cammas has raced Groupama 3 for the best part of four years, single-handing was a step into the unknown. He and his weather team - both past Transatlantic race experts, Caudrelier most recently partnering Marc Guillemot to win last years Transat Jacques Vabre - chose a southerly routing under the Azores high which proved to be only really opened fully to the speed of Groupama 3.
Breaking the finish line off Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe at 02 hrs 52 mins 48 secs today (Wednesday, CET/Paris) ( 01 hrs 52 mins 48 secs GMT/ 21 hrs 52 mins 48 secs local time Tuesday (CET -4hrs)) Francis Joyon on the 29.7m trimaran IDEC took second place in the 9th Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale solo Transatlantic race which started from Saint-Malo, France at 1302hrs (CET) Sunday 31st October.
The elapsed time for IDEC is 9 days 13 hrs 50 mins 48 secs . His average speed is 18.19kts for the distance he sailed of 4181 miles. Over the theoretical course distance of 3539 miles Francis Joyon's average speed is 15.40 kts Joyon finished 10 hrs 36 min 1 secs behind Franck Cammas winner (Groupama 3).
Franck Cammas/Groupama 3's winning Race
The Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale winner Franck Cammas and his weather team had his strategy marked out early.
With the Azores high pressure systems blocking the route there were two options: going east and south early to try and get under the high before it elongated moving east. Groupama was the most southerly of the Ultime class giants as they exited the English Channel on a port gybe, and paid some early miles for their position as Sodebo and Air Oman Majan stayed further north to take the wind shift to the NW as it came.
That meant that as Cammas was nearly across the Bay of Biscay he was calculated as fourth placed and having a 55 miles deficit on early leader Sodebo, but that was entirely inconsequential.
Francis Joyon (Idec) and Yann Guichard (Gitana XI) formed the trio with Groupama 3 who set their stall early that the southern option appeared best to them. Going north Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Sidney Gavignet (Oman Air Majan) were following a traditional strategy which would yield more wind pressure, more slogging upwind or close to it, but theoretically sail fewer miles and usually get them to the faster downwind conditions earlier.
Monday 1st Cammas passed only 18 miles off Cape Finisterre in fourth place at around 1400hrs (CET) and gybed twice off the Portuguese coast - about 130 miles off Lisbon - then with a deficit of 13 miles on leader Sodebo, as the long time rivals set up to go either side of the high pressure.
Clearly between his observations and those of routers Jean-Luc Nélias and Charles Caudrelier, the Groupama team had an excellent handle on the south eastern limits of the high and its movements, as Cammas skirted neatly below it on two accurate gybes.
Then as soon as the solo skipper started pressing Groupama 3 in a more westerly direction on 2/11 on the 0800hrs (CET) ranking he took the lead and was never seriously challenged again. And the next day he was already 211 miles ahead of Sodebo.
Thursday 4/11 as Coville slowed through the front, Groupama 3's lead was at its biggest of the race, 346.5 miles. Groupama averages 26 knots over thirteen hours.
From there Friday 5/11 Sodebo came back temporarily with stronger wind pressure in the north, but as the pair passed the symbolic midway mark by Saturday it looked an even match for some time as the pair dealt with gusty, squally showers giving unstable winds of 25-40 knots.
With 800 miles to go Saturday 6/11 Groupama 3 lead Sodebo by just over 200 miles as the pair gybed down the corridor of strongest trade-like NE'lies, before Cammas sets up for the final upwind tacking, against the light southerly which required one prolonged final effort, constantly manoeuvring and trimming the giant tri.
Under the edge of line of squally showers Sodebo had a painful Sunday evening and night, slowed significantly by some rain clouds losing 68 miles to the leader.
To the end, Cammas kept his rival in a loose cover. At 0800hrs Monday morning Sodebo was twice as far from the finish as he was, and the job was all but done.