Monday, April 9, 2012

Message From Yann Riou Onboard Groupama - Volvo Ocean Race Update

Preserving The Guys

Groupama in the Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama 4 headed back out to sea 24 hours ago and is currently 380 miles from Itajai, making headway at an average speed of 8 knots. Seven sailors remained aboard Franck Cammas' Volvo Open 70: rest and health are the watchwords, after over 12,000 kilometres of sailing, most of which has been testing.
Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Recharging your batteries after such a long and intense leg on a physical and mental level is key for long-term performance. This is particularly relevant given that in ten days' time, the sailors will already be pulling their foulies back on for the Pro-Am (20 April), the In-Port (21 April) and the start of the sixth leg (22 April), which will take them on to Miami, in South-East Florida. This is why Phil Harmer, Laurent Pagès, Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias remained onshore after the pit stop in Punta del Este.
Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
There have been some perfect conditions for Groupama 4 and her jury rig since she restarted the race yesterday at 0500 UTC. A beam wind of around twenty knots is enabling us to rack up average speeds in double figures. Early in the afternoon, Martin Krite even sliced through the surf at over 19 knots. At this pace, we've closed on Itajai by over 200 miles after 24 hours of `racing'.

It now remains to be seen how Groupama 4 and her new rig handle in other conditions, such as the light airs we're set to encounter tomorrow. However, we remain prudent as regards the ETA.
Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
There are seven sailors aboard Groupama 4, including the media crew member. That equates to a 30% `reduction in the workforce" to carry out the watches and the manoeuvres. However, it should be said that these so-called manoeuvres are rarer now and certainly less testing. Furthermore, to preserve the new rig, which is a little undersized, we've forbidden ourselves from optimising the boat's righting couple, for example by canting the keel, or even... stacking. As such, sailing without much sail area and without stacking, alters the atmosphere somewhat.

Indeed, the watch system has become simpler now. There are three watches of two people with a rotation every two hours. And when conditions are really stable, it's not rare to see one of the two crew on watch go down below to eat or look at the nav, leaving his mate alone on deck for a few minutes.
We made a video on the first of April where we said that we leave one guy on deck working, whilst the other ten sleep down below. The initiated will immediately have spotted the April Fool.

However, for the others, it's likely to be a little complicated to explain that last week, it was something which was intended to be funny, as sailing these boats single-handed is completely out of context and absurd. This week though, it's a system we're more naturally tending towards, and shouldn't come as any great shock at such speeds...

In short, it's night-time, the wind has just begun to pick up to around 25 knots, and we dumped the staysail to hoist the storm jib. The idea behind this is still to avoid working our rig too hard. We're still making over 10 knots and the latest position report sees us polled some 431 miles from Itajai.

Have a good Sunday!

Yann

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