Why Groupama 3 isn't looking for big winds in the Southern Ocean to break the Jules Verne record

Here’s a quick update and some notes and remarks on the progress of Franck Cammas’s maxi catamaran Groupama 3, which has just entered the Indian Ocean in pursuit of the Jules Verne Trophy.

Despite a blistering day’s run last week of 719 miles, the crew has had a very slow and sticky lap round the South Atlantic High, but today things are looking up.

In fact, their weather advisers think they should be able to hook in ahead of a cold front and might be able to ride this all the way across the Indian Ocean.

To Cape Leeuwin in Australia, that’s a distance of over 4,000 nautical miles, and if they get the right conditions they could cover that in as little as 8 or 9 days.

These maxi multihulls are so fast nowadays that they are looking for very particular conditions. In a north-westerly air stream ahead of a front they would be in smoother sea conditions (sea state is the decisive factor in top speeds) and be able to adjust their course to dial in and out of pressure.

These big boats are not looking for any more than 25-30 knots at most, so they are not running so far south as, say, the Vendée Globe monohulls.

Running ahead of a front like this and finding the best wind angle, wind range and pressure also means that the crew don’t have to gybe or do as many sail changes. Doing any kinds of major manoeuvres on these giant boats expends tremendous energy and time.

Five years ago, Bruno Peyron’s Orange 2, still the record holder, rode a single weather system from halfway across the Indian Ocean all the way across the Pacific and covered the whole of the Southern Ocean in 17 days.

But it’s the huge difference between top speeds and slow days that makes these attempts so precarious despite the machines’ ultimate potential. Here is the list of distances covered by G3 so far:

Day 1  (1st February 1400 UTC): 500 miles (deficit = 94 miles)
Day 2  (2nd February 1400 UTC): 560 miles (lead = 3.5 miles)
Day 3  (3rd February 1400 UTC): 535 miles (lead = 170 miles)
Day 4  (4th February 1400 UTC): 565 miles (lead = 245 miles)
Day 5  (5th February 1400 UTC): 656 miles (lead = 562 miles)
Day 6  (6th February 1400 UTC): 456 miles (lead = 620 miles)
Day 7  (7th February 1400 UTC): 430 miles (lead = 539 miles)
Day 8  (8th February 1400 UTC): 305 miles (lead = 456 miles)
Day 9  (9th February 1400 UTC): 436 miles (lead = 393 miles)
Day 10 (10th February 1400 UTC): 355 miles (lead = 272 miles)
Day 11 (11th February 1400 UTC): 267 miles (deficit = 30 miles)
Day 12 (12th February 1400 UTC): 247 miles (deficit = 385 miles)
Day 13 (13th February 1400 UTC): 719 miles (deficit = 347 miles)
Day 14 (14th February 1400 UTC): 680 miles (deficit = 288 miles)
Day 15 (15th February 1400 UTC): 651 miles (deficit = 203 miles)
Day 16 (16th February 1400 UTC): 322 miles (deficit = 376 miles)
Day 17 (17th February 1400