Sunday, February 17, 2008

Vibratory Phenomena (CRACK!)

This post is hardly dry, noting "vibratory phenomena" that cautioned the crew of Groupama 3 to moderate their pace, and now comes word that the leeward float broke and the crew have been airlifted off the capsized trimaran. The words below are actually more relevant now . . .

Into the Pacific now and bound for Cape Horn, Groupama 3 doglegged north over the weekend to dodge the worst of a 50-knot blow, sacrificing distance in favor of safety and still leading in its double race against time. There's (1) the fifty-day circumnavigation record that (nope, we know better now) Franck Cammas and crew can probably beat and (2) the likelihood that this is the last crack at a round-the-world record this boat will ever have (got that much right).

A bigger hammer is on the way.

(See below, but that's not the story of the moment.)

Reading between the lines, there is (was) nothing routine aboard Groupama 3, even though the communications express(ed) confidence of rounding the Horn in a week or so and covering the remaining 10,000 miles to Ushant at a pace that will (would have) advance(d) the record. There are suspicions in some quarters that the crew turned north, not because of the weather, but because they feared a breakup and wanted to be closer to land. They were only 80 miles off New Zealand when the leeward hull cracked. While cross-tracking north in twentyish-foot seas, crewman Franck Proffit wrote, "It's the first time we've encountered this type of wave. The boat handles well. She doesn't bury, though there are vibratory phenomena in the floats and beams requiring us to be careful."


And there was the broken number one batten, up at the headboard, that would have required dropping the main at the next opportunity (flatter seas), and aboard these monster trimarans, dropping and rehoisting the mainsail is a major, all-hands trial. But when you have a job in the record-breaking industry, these are the tests that come your way (including broken boats). Only hours before the breakup -- day 24 and about halfway around -- this was the upbeat take from the Groupama 3 web site: "We can expect some astounding average speeds at the start of the week. Although Orange II was pretty quick in the Pacific, it is now established that Groupama 3 can step up the pace and make up further ground as soon as the big westerly swell gets behind it."

Never happened. This shot was taken during the rescue and lift-off . . .

Crew were airlifted safely to Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island.

This read differently before the breakup, but let's pick up the story anyway:


That would be Banque Populaire V, coming, "dès l'hiver 2008-2009 pour la conquête des records océaniques les plus mythiques autour de la planète, coming in the winter of 2008-2009 to conquer the most mythical oceanic records on the planet."

Mythical? Whatever.

Banque Populaire V is to be no less than 131 feet long. When the main hull left the builder's yard in Cherbourg last October, it was quite a sight, as snapped by Ivan Zedda . . .

Banque Populaire V is scheduled to launch this spring and then get serious about its work next winter, after the requisite teething. The parts are coming together now in Lorient, up a protected bight from the Bay of Biscay. Not too long ago, the parts looked like this . . .

This puppy is going to come out 29 feet longer than Groupama 3, with a lot more sail power. Scary? Bigger weapons usually are.


The Gitana 13 team on its way to a probable new record on the clipper ship/Cape Horn route continues to make time up the western coast of South America, though the crew sounds a bit frustrated that their distance through the water and distance made good don't match. As of Monday Gitana was crossing the line of 4 degrees south latitude.

The crews aboard these boats have their own way of measuring things. Thus we find Nicolas Reynaud writing from west of Ecuador, "Same wind direction, same changes in trajectory to stay in the good wind, same speed, and San Francisco is now only a Route du Rhum away."

As I write, the Gitana catamaran is 33 days into an attempt to beat Yves Parlier's 57-day record from the Big Apple to the Golden Gate. That mark has gone unchallenged through ten years of developing bigger hammers, and it sits there as a big, fat target for skipper Lionel Lemonchois, who crewed in each of the last two successful record shots.


Al Jazeera has denounced as a "risk to freedom" a code of journalism favored by 20 of 22 members of the Arab League, excepting Lebanon and (Al Jazeera's state sponsor) Qatar.

Quoting: Arab information ministers meeting in Cairo endorsed the charter, which allows host countries to annul or suspend the licence of any broadcaster found in violation of the rules it sets. The Cairo document stipulates that satellite channels "should not damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values". It says that programming should also "conform with the religious and ethical values of Arab society and take account of its family structure".

I know, I know, that's not yachtie news, but I keep up with Al Jazeera. You might recall, Al Jazeera ran America's Cup reports in 2007, while did not.

And yes, the Volvo Race dropped its Mideast stop with quite a lack of fanfare, didn't it?


Not everybody in California went skiing last weekend. This was the pre-race scene at Corinthian Yacht Club's two-day Midwinter series. No, you didn't want to be part of the gangrounding of
R-12, but we'll save that nightmare for a different telling, and later this week we'll (re)visit the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center with Jack Sutphen—Kimball