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Cammas FranckGroupama 70offshoreVOR 2011

Ο Franck Cammas εξηγεί την επιλογή του να αφήσουν τον στόλο και να πάνε κοντά στην Αφρική

The option taken this Monday morning by Franck Cammas and his men is somewhat risky as Groupama 4 is now sailing on her own along the Moroccan coast, in light downwind conditions, whilst her three other rivals still racing are picking their way upwind to the West.
Photo Credit: Yvan Zedda
 However, the situation is likely to become clearer from noon on Wednesday...
Boosted by his wealth of experience in transatlantic races, Franck Cammas, with the support of his navigator Jean-Luc Nélias, didn't think twice about striking out on his own, on a different course to the more familiar faces in the Volvo Ocean Race. Indeed, as soon as they were through the Strait of Gibraltar, Groupama 4 slipped along to the south-west in a bid to hug the Moroccan coast.
There were two reasons for this. The first was to make the most of the thermal breeze often created by the presence of the Sahara desert. The second was due to the tradewinds which, though weak, are positioning themselves off shore of Essaouira. This is around 120 miles ahead of Groupama 4's current position and hence well in front of the first islands that make up the Canaries archipelago.

"We know that the start of an option is always difficult. Afterwards, it's an additional pressure because we don't have any other boat alongside us, which is one less speed reference...
It's a bit like being in `record' mode, but Groupama's used to that! It's a little surprising to find ourselves out on a limb, far from the rest of the fleet. As for the crew, they're happier when there's a bit of wind and not so contented when there's none, as is the case right now..." explained Franck Cammas at the 1200 noon (GMT) radio session.
The Canaries corridor
Photo Credit: PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race
Of course the current situation isn't favourable in the sense that Franck Cammas and his crew are making laboured progress in a very light breeze, making less than three knots of boat speed early this Tuesday afternoon. Meantime, Groupama 4's three rivals, led by Telefonica, are slipping along at over twelve knots, albeit it due West, within sight of the Americans on Puma, with the New Zealanders on Camper over twenty miles astern; the trio in a southerly breeze linked to a depression offshore of Madeira. The problem for these three VOR-70s, is that at some stage they're going to have to pick their way South towards the Cape Verde archipelago!
Credit: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
However, to the North of the Canaries lies a vast windless magma... As such, they'll have to pass to the North of Madeira, which considerably extends the distance to go, without necessarily enabling them to push forward in the ineducable transition between this Atlantic disturbance and the zone of high pressure which generates tradewinds below the Canaries... It's a race against the clock between the two options then: one slowly wriggling down the Moroccan coast throughout the night for Groupama 4, the other relatively speedy for the other three yachts, but at 60° to the direct course!
"Since Monday we haven't really been putting the boat under any pressure in these light airs: we're trying to get into some breeze! They're proving to be good conditions for getting some rest and racking up sleep. Indeed, aside from stacking down below and trimming the sails properly, there's not a lot to do... There's a good atmosphere, despite the calm that's been reigning over the past three hours. We have slipped into our tradewind outfits!" explained the skipper of Groupama 4.
A comparison test
Even though the four boats haven't followed the same trajectory the whole time in order to extract themselves from the Mediterranean, the opening tacks since Saturday's 1400 hour departure from Alicante, have enabled the French crew to gauge the potential of the other three prototypes.

Credit: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
"We've noted that Groupama 4 was fast when we were sailing with eased sheets in over 20 knots of breeze, between the start and the Palos headland. We were able to pick off our rivals one by one whilst making 23 knots of boat speed. Next, whilst close-hauled in 18-20 knots of breeze, the boat handled pretty well from what we saw. We hooked back up with Puma close-hauled prior to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Americans had a touch better heading, but a bit less boat speed. After that, our courses diverged with them heading out West while we struck out towards the Moroccan coast. As such there doesn't seem to be much difference in terms of speed, other than the fact that on a reach in over twenty knots, Groupama 4 appeared to be in her stride!"
The tough conditions endured in the Mediterranean also enabled the architectural and construction choices to be validated on Groupama 4.
"We haven't suffered any damage aboard. We just have a few odd jobs to do, nothing serious. It's an encouraging sign for the next stage because there were very tough, boat-breaking conditions in the Alboran Sea! It was a sound structural test", concluded Franck Cammas at noon.
Unfortunately the same wasn't true for Abu Dhabi, which is set to head back into the race on Wednesday or Thursday equipped with a new mast, nor for Sanya, which will have to make Cape Town aboard a cargo ship if she is to be in a position to contest the In-Port race in South Africa.

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