The Shetland Islands in their wake
It was today at 1300 hours UTC, that Groupama 70 rounded the North of the Shetland Islands with a good lead over her direct rival, Telefonica. Jean-Luc Nélias, Groupama Team's navigator, gives us the low-down on the first 48 hours of racing around the British Isles as well as the next stage of the course.
"We were counting on the Sevenstar as a means to compare the performances of Groupama 70 with those of another VOR 70. Unfortunately we've hardly done any contact sailing since we left Cowes. It's still a very interesting experience nonetheless, because we've got a lot to learn about our own boat as regards the manoeuvring, the organisation of watches, the sail selection and finally the handling of information between the skipper, the navigator and the watch leaders. We're learning a massive amount about ourselves. With a bit of luck, we'll be more in contact with each other in the second part of the race."
Though the navigator's voice is firm, the fact that they've moved into the lead has been no small feat. Physically the navigation is leaving its mark: "The VORs like Groupama 70 are fast boats which require a lot of energy and physical power to go fast. The crew is hotting up quickly and are beginning to give off a few slight odours. There are eleven of us onboard after all. Everything is proving difficult: sleeping, eating and washing your teeth and so on. I think we'll all be happy to get back into some gentler living conditions. The atmosphere is good but any discussions are inexistent due to the foulies. Solely Franck and myself, who are off-watch, manage to exchange a few ideas to establish which is the best course. For the others it's the normal subway, work, sleep."
Happy to have moved up into the lead of the fleet, the navigator on Groupama 70 is certainly not claiming victory: "By slipping across to the East during the climb along the Scottish coast, Telefonica lost out on an opportunity that we were able to make the most of offshore of Edinburgh. However, we're heading towards a windless zone which we won't be able to get round. We're going to take 24 hours to get free of it and that will allow Telefonica to make up ground on us."
Suffice to say that there's everything to play for: "We'll soon be at the midway mark and Groupama 70 is both powerful and impressive. Franck and I are making good progress with our exchanges and that's enabling us to make headway."
As regards whether or not these areas lend themselves to travel, the navigator had this to say: "The light is fabulous and the air clear. There are birds everywhere. As Charles Caudrelier said, we'd love to come and spend a few days holiday here if we were sure to find sunshine and not rain…"
SMS: Leading at the Shetland Islands, Groupama 70 has set a course to the South towards a zone of light winds, which should enable Telefonica to make up their deficit.