Victory for Groupama
Franck Cammas' VO70, Groupama, crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron Line today at 10.26.55 GMT to claim line honours in the 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and take both the race and monohull course records.
Groupama completed the 1,802 mile course in 5 days 21 hours 26 minutes and 55 seconds at an average speed of 12.74 knots, smashing the course record set by Dee Caffari's all-female crew on the IMOCA 60 Aviva, by 14 hours 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
It was a triumphant finale for Groupama in sharp contrast to the start, when they were the last boat to cross the line, after they had been damaged on their mooring.
“I definitely preferred the finish to the start!” said Cammas dockside after the finish. “It was difficult for us to give away five miles to Teléfonica, but very nice for all of the boats to see us charging through them in the Solent. This race has been so helpful to Groupama. The course is like a mini-Volvo Ocean Race. It has all of the different conditions that we will encounter and it has been really good to race against Teléfonica. The crew has really got to know each other well and we have made some fantastic progress in our development over the last few days. Best wishes to everyone who will finish the race, it is a great achievement.”
“Our arrival at the Isle of Wight was magic. We went by the island at more than twenty knots under spi going along the edges of the Solent to avoid the current before we reached the finish line off the Royal Yacht Squadron," added Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator on board.
Taking 14 hours and 3 minutes less than Aviva's monohull record, Groupama has demonstrated the VO70's speed, regularly exceeding 30 knot top speeds regularly faster than the wind speed, just like the multihulls the skipper of Groupama knows so well.
Iker Martinez's Teléfonica Blue crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron line claiming second place. A rigging problem caused them to be overtaken by Groupama in the North Sea. They never managed to catch up.
Crewman, Neal MacDonald described the turning point in the race: “The low point was having a fitting break at the top of Scotland that prevented us using our heavy weather jib for 10 hours. This allowed Groupama to get from 20 miles behind to 30 miles in front – heart breaking from a racing point of view, but the sort of price you pay in these type of racing boats when things break. When the failure occurred it was pitch black (as it always is when things go wrong!) and blowing 35 knots in a horrific seaway. But after that, it was fantastic sailing in flat water, something I’ve never experienced before around Scotland. The fastest part was just off the back of the Isle of Wight and these boats are great to sail, they’re just a big skiff. The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland was a really fantastic race.”
Jonny Malbon’s IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing should be the next boat to finish. They have been racing on their own virtually the whole way around the track, but they are most definitely not cruising, as crew member Andy Tourell explained: “Our current ETA is around 01:00 so the IMOCA 60 course record is going to be extremely close. As far as the overall IRC is concerned, the rest of the fleet should slow as they approach the Isles of Scilly, and for the final leg the breeze is due to drop and clock round to the northeast, so it is all still to play for!”
Artemis Ocean Racing need to finish by 01:30:53 on Monday 30 August, to beat the IMOCA 60 record set by Aviva of 6 days, 11 hours, 30 min and 53 secs.
At 1800 BST, the overall handicap leader, Piet Vroon’s Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens has reached the southwest tip of Ireland with just over 400 miles to go. The wind is north to northwest at about 14 knots. The British Keelboat Academy’s TP52 John Merricks II has been flying along and is now 30 miles ahead of Tonnerre on the water. The lighter conditions may well suit the high performance TP52 rather than Tonnerre de Breskens. The Lithuanian Volvo Ocean 60 Ambersail is now halfway across the Irish Sea and still in second place overall, on corrected.