Contacted by telephone on Sunday morning, as they were sailing offshore of the Portuguese coast aboard the monohull Groupama 70, Franck Cammas and Jacques Caraës, the current holders of the Jules Verne Trophy, wished fair winds to the crew of Banque Populaire. The latter set off on Saturday to attack the record set by Groupama 3 on 20th March 2010 in a time of 48 days 7 hours and 44 minutes.
10 nautical miles from Cape Saint Vincent, Groupama 70 is making headway in 35 knots of wind. Suffice to say that the living conditions are uncomfortable. However, Franck and Jacques are still monitoring Banque Populaire's attempt closely: "We hope they enjoy themselves on this course, which is one of the finest you could imagine with its wealth of extraordinary passages. It's a great adventure which awaits them; a human story involving fourteen men and some very technical navigation with a large, fine boat. They have all the ingredients to sail a great course" says Franck Cammas. "I hope they get all the way around, which is something that is never easy on this type of course and as it's their first attempt, there are always questions".
"Banque Populaire is a lot bigger than Groupama 3; nearly nine metres in total. This guarantee of power will sometimes enable them to gain a few extra knots of speed, as we saw during the Atlantic record. However, the record will essentially come down to the weather, as this speed differential won't enable them to compensate for a poor weather scenario".
As regards the weather window for the start, the skipper of Groupama doesn't hide the fact that it's a good one: "They've had the time to wait for it and they've had the chance to find one which appears to me to be very good as far as Cape Town. We were three days slower on that same section than we were during our first attempt".
Familiar with the composition of the crew of Banque Populaire, Franck Cammas notes that the crew members will be more numerous than they were on Groupama 3: "There's always a degree of uncertainty when you set out with people who haven't sailed the course before. Some may find that they're very much at ease, others less so. However, all of them are great racers who have the technical experience to be able to go fast. After that, the group has to work well together all the way to the end and that's something you can't be sure of until the finish. Individually though, they are all great sailors".
The media crew member aboard Groupama 70, Jacques Caraës, is also monitoring Banque Populaire's start: "I hope Fred Le Peutrec has a really good time as this will be a whole new experience for him on an even bigger boat. It's a real privilege to have him onboard to do this course. Even though records are made to be broken, it's very rare that you succeed on the very first attempt. As such I wish them success. They have some work ahead of them and the mission to hook onto the first train of depressions around the Indian Ocean is one they mustn't fail on".
Suffice to say that the current holders of the Jules Verne Trophy will be avidly following Banque Populaire's progress: "It's very interesting to monitor them from land. We're routing the boat, looking at its performance, as well as working on the navigation and strategy skills, which will serve us in the Volvo Ocean Race. We're trying to predict their passage times and we're comparing the route they take in relation to the one we'd have chosen. It really helps us to make progress. The weather forecasts as far as Cape Town appear to be really excellent" concludes Franck Cammas, with the background noise on the telephone link-up reflecting the rather harsh sailing conditions reigning offshore of Portugal.
Before hanging up, the skipper of Groupama 70 is keen to pass on a last humorous message to Fred Le Peutrec: "I wish him and all the others good luck and I also remind him that he has nothing to lose so there's no use going too fast".
Find all the latest about the Groupama trimarans on: www.cammas-groupama.com