Cammas' final tacks
Franck Cammas is in the throes of what should logically be his final tacks on Groupama 3 this evening, ones which should take him to a sweet but hard earned victory in this ninth edition of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale.
On his final afternoon and evening aboard the 31 metre giant trimaran which has served him and the Groupama 3 team so well, Cammas looks to be on course to win one of the only major French Multihull ocean racing honours to have so far eluded him.
With a margin of over 265 miles on his next nearest rival Thomas Coville on Sodebo, Cammas was on the breeze making 12 knots, poised waiting for the breeze to make its expected veer to the southwest which would allow him to tack and lay the west side of Guadeloupe and the finish line off Point-à-Pitre. Or if the shift does not come the final hours may require more tacks, slaloming in the southerly headwinds between the islands.
Third on his Route du Rhum debut as a 25-year-old in 1998, three times ORMA champion Cammas was fifth in the last race but seems assured of victory before he bids farewell to the multihull world which he has all but conquered, heading for new monohull challenges. The current predictions anticipate Groupama 3 at the end of Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
Cammas commented: "I'll have to tack all the way to Guadeloupe, trying to sail the optimimum angles but solo it is not easy. The winds are very unstable while we are on the edge of this tropical depression, so it goes in all different directions. When it is daylight it is easie to see better what is happening, but at night it is stressful. At one time the wind shifted under a cloud yesterday and I had to tack, but only briefly. Thomas fell into a hole yesterday and that will have been very tough on him.
"The conditions tacking upwind are not exactly great, and so I am trying to keep the final miles as short as possible. I will make a big banana, missing the obstacles and watching what is ahead I should be able to go okay. I have rarely sailed solo on Groupama 3 and at the moment the pilot is not ideal. And I will have to watch out for fishermen and shipping, going round the whole of Guadeloupe. It always drags on and feels long, the end of a race. You have the feeling that you are finishing, but never going to get there. You have to be patient and just think it will be long. I had to sleep last night before the first cloud and i twas a surprise because I slept an hour. This morning I was okay. Between the two tacks I could rest as well. As for the finish I'd choose the North of Guadloupe at 0100hrs CET or Basse Terre at 0400hrs."
Behind him Cammas' long time record adversary Coville, doubtless sapped by the battle he has had to keep his own giant record holding tri Sodebo moving through long spells of very light airs, is under pressure from the Francis Joyon on IDEC, who is arriving on a more southerly routing, who had closed to within 70 miles of Sodebo.
In the Mult 50 class successive damage to the two leading boats Franck-Yves Escoffier's Crêpes-Whaou! 3, which lost the bow of her main hull yesterday evening, and then hours later Yves Le Blevec's Actual damaged her forward starboard cross beam. Both are determined to carry on in the race but have been making very slow speeds today, midway between the Azores and the West Indies.
In the IMOCA Open 60 class Roland Jourdain's lead stands at a steady 40 miles over Armel Le Cléac'h on BritAir, and looks set to grow as Le Cléac'h is the first to run into light winds to the south of 2006 IMOCA class winner Jourdain on Veolia Environnement. Brit Air is slowed to just over two knots.
Roland Jourdain on Veolia Environnement commented: “The laundry is outside drying! I have mixed feelings now because the wind is dropping in front of me. The night was not easy because when the wind drops you have to put up more sails, but the seas are big so you are dragging sails around and end up tired. And then you can't make decisions as well, so it is a vicious circle. But anyway that is life at sea. My speed dropped away a bit more than it should have, maybe I slept too much. But with the seas I have I don't want to break anything. So I am quite conservative putting sails up so as not to be caught out by any squalls.
"On the weather models it shows the winds dropping ahead, but if that follows the files I should get through it first and make more speed first.
I need to negotiate the no wind zones though and after that the worry will be to know what to do with the tropical low, what the composition is and how much wind it will bring. But I am setting up for 45 knots but we can't really be sure.
"If the wind comes back from behind me then I'm not sure, but in this area anything can happen. None of the weather routing seems to see it coming in from ahead. But none of the models just now seem to concur. The files don't match up to each other.
"Recently we got down here really fast, but inside the boat is wet and I was wet. It is no big deal, but when you do manoeuvres you could be in your wet gear. In my opinion it will be worse after the stormy low when there will be no wind.
"For Guadeloupe the end will be tough, but we take it as it come, not something to worry about before it happens. When you see the weather it is not that great, given the choice I would rather see 15 knots of trade winds as usual here, but that is not the case.”
Armel Le Cléac'h gave thoughts: “I am taking some time to take everything out and dry it off while I can. It was three days in very wet conditions, with a lot of water through the boat. So we are tidying up, drying as much as we can. I am taking a different course from the others, wanting to understand what the weather will do in the next few days as the weather situation is far from being typical, so I am trying to position myself according to my where my competitors are. I gained some ground but will lose some again as the weaker winds come in.
"Just after I got the last ranking I fell into a big very heavy rain shower, it was bucketing, and under that there was no wind. It took me a lot of time to get out of it. But at the moment I am out of it and moving well, but that was a big slow down and it surely won't be the last before Point-à-Pitre.
"I don't want to talk about my options and strategy as everyone is listening. We will see if it pays off or not. Tomas (tropical low) who is arriving from the west will give us winds in the next 48 hours. The courses will converge but we have a transition to get through and then we will see. We have had a few fast days on a good course, even if it was fast and demanding. I can't see which way will arrive from. Franck seems to have the right course. There will be no photo finish this time and he is managing those behind him nicely.”
The lead of Thomas Ruyant has never been bigger in the Class 40 fleet on his Destination Dunkerque, but the south and the tradewinds are still paying the dividend that Nicolas Troussel on Credit Mutuel de Bretagne went in search of. Troussel has gained 44 miles and 12 places over the last couple of days and continues to profit. Britain's Pete Goss is also winning places down in the south and is up from 22nd to 13th on DMS.
Sam Manuard skipper of Vecteur Plus reported in: “Everything is good today. The conditions just now are a little more steady than they were during the night, when I was caught in some rain showers where the wind was very shifty and unsettled, and there were some holes in the breeze that I fell into. In front they are going quite fast and the situation in front really is not that clear. It is pretty confused, and so when it is like that I feel like the scientific approach to the weather is the best thing.
"Arriving from the east is still an option, but really nothing is for sure. What we can conclude from this fleet so far is that the ones at the front are the good sailors, Yvan Noblet, Jorg (Riechers) and Nicolas (Troussel) who spend a lot of time on the water, sailing. Those two especially (Riechers and Troussel) also have very fast boats. We saw that after the front. In the big picture they are the ones who were really well prepared. The programme here is simple: steering, eating, recover from the night, going as fast as possible on a straight line, that is the speed battle. The weather is warm, the sea is super blue, with a decent wave pattern to it just now. The weather is nice with small rain showers which don't seem very big but they suck up the wind, so you need to be careful but there is plenty you can do about them.”