The 300-mile deficit between Groupama 3 and the Jules Verne Trophy reference time has begun decreasing - slowly

With a little over 5,000 miles before reaching Ushant, France, the virtual separation between Groupama 3 and Orange 2 has been yo-yoing for the past three days. The giant trimaran has picked up her average speed since escaping the high pressure, whilst five years ago Bruno Peyron’s cat was just beginning to make headway close to the Brazilian coast.
The crew had a 100 mile lead rounding Cape Horn, a 190 mile deficit off Uruguay as Skipper Franck Cammas began his beat in the high pressure, and finally were 360 miles off the pace at 07:00 UTC today (Tuesday 9 March). However, since Groupama 3 has made it back into some strong E’ly winds, the deficit has been decreasing slowly, with 30 miles made up in the space of seven hours.
“It was a rough night, with heavy seas, even though the wind was less violent than forecast. We had thirty knots of E to NE’ly with some good four metre waves… We’re all anxious about the idea of breaking gear, so we’re being very careful. We’ve got two reefs in the mainsail and I think they’ve just dumped the heavy airs jib on deck! Down below we’re finding it hard to hang on. It’s more testing for the men rather than the boat, as she’s seen conditions such as these before!” indicated Fred Le Peutrec this morning.
“We’re in a squall and it’s very stormy! We’re going to make it through to some N’ly winds again soon as we hit a Brazilian depression: the seas shouldn’t be too heavy there as the air flow has only just kicked in, but we’re going to have to keep an eye out for squalls… It’s likely we’ll be on a beat in this N’ly system so as we don’t distance ourselves too much from the direct course and escape these headwinds as quickly as possible. There isn’t too much breeze to our West and it’s very unstable. As a result we’re going to avoid getting tangled up in these erratic airs, but we will have to climb as far as 25°S to find the steadier wind.”
Therefore the strategy is to remain in a corridor of breeze about a hundred miles wide, to get as far as the latitude of Rio de Janeiro where the E’ly tradewinds will kick in again. If she were to get too close to the Brazilian coast, Groupama 3 would fall into light breeze, whilst the offshore option would put Franck Cammas back into a rather unfavourable NE’ly air flow.
“Physically we’re really worn out: the environment is constantly drawing on our energies at the moment and I can barely talk due to the extent to which we’ve been bracing ourselves… We’re less talkative and highly concentrated on ourselves and on the noises the boat makes, which are very familiar to us now. We’ll only be able to relax once we’ve reached the SE’ly tradewinds! We’re on the same latitude as the Canaries and though the temperatures are already milder, the colours are more reminiscent of Ushant with a grey sky and rain! We’re going to wait a little longer before we have a wash but it’s beginning to smell quite ripe around here…”
Groupama 3’s log over the past week:

Day 31 (3 March: 617 miles (lead 291 miles)
Day 32: 492 miles (lead 248 miles)
Day 33: 445 miles (lead 150 miles)
Day 34: 461 miles (lead 58 miles)
Day 35: 382 miles (deficit 100 miles)
Day 36: 317 miles (deficit 326 miles)
Day 37: 506 miles (deficit 331 miles)

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