Code yellow despite numerous uncertainties
It is common knowledge that the Jules Verne Trophy is primarily a school of patience. Indeed, before any hope of beating the prestigious record held today by Francis Joyon and the men on Idec Sport, it’s vital to find the best possible launchpad from which to set sail on the round the world. And waiting for the right weather window is no easy task, especially with expectations running so high after two months of standby, heightened by the fact that the elements don’t seem to want to align themselves… However, Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their four crew have long been familiar with the vagaries of a potential weather window and know how to keep a cool head. Despite a serious deterioration in the weather conditions and extended passage times for both the equator and Cape Agulhas, there is still a slender chance of them setting sail. As long as the window remains ajar, the skippers of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are continuing their observations in earnest. The updates on the grib file forecasts from this Monday evening and tomorrow morning will be key in deciding whether or not the team triggers a fresh departure on the theoretical 21,760 nautical miles that make up this big looped circuit around the planet.

From the get-go, the window currently under study by the Gitana Team’s routing cell has not been a classic one. In fact, Storm Bella, which hit the Breton coast at the end of the weekend has left some scars, starting with some very heavy seas that for now are ruling out any delivery trip to the Jules Verne Trophy start zone, offshore of Ushant. Things are set to calm down over the course of the day tomorrow, which would enable the crew to cross the start line at the end of the day. However, following that, the scenario offered up by the North Atlantic is not favourable for a speed record on the passage down to the southern hemisphere. Indeed, some of the weather models are predicting a low-pressure system forming to the WSW of the Canaries, which could break up the trade wind system and thus force the crew onto a course way out to the east, whilst the doldrums appears to be more cooperative to the west. In short, there is no natural weather sequence, which means that the crew would be obliged to really zigzag their way down to the equator. For all that, there remains a slim chance of some fairly decent courses according to the latest routing. 

“5% chance already translates as a 5% chance of securing a favourable weather window, so we have to go all out whilst there’s still hope. As things stand today, the window in the North Atlantic certainly isn’t great with a very, very average time to the equator and a difficult course to hold onto and implement along the African coast, which would notably include the negotiation of the Canaries and Cape Verde as they’re close to our planned trajectory. Today though, whilst there is still a possibility, albeit it very slender, of us having a smooth transition in the South Atlantic and hence the potential of a good passage time to Cape Agulhas, we’re keeping our options open right to the wire”, said Franck Cammas as he explained the switch to code yellow.   

“To set sail, we’d outlined three main criteria. Firstly, manageable conditions to set sail from Ushant and exit the Bay of Biscay, a passage time to the equator of around 4 days 15 hours and a sub-11-day passage to Cape Agulhas. Today, we’re coming up to the second half of our standby period and with time ticking by till the end of our potential waiting period set for mid-February, we’re slightly revising our criteria and our pretensions. A window like the one we’ve pinpointed for the coming days certainly wouldn’t have been considered in early November, but on 28 December it’s worthwhile dwelling on it a little”, explained the co-skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

At the end of a long weather briefing, all the crew gathered together at the five-arrow racing stable’s base in Lorient to undergo another series of PCR tests. Each of them has also finalised their single bag of personal gear before each of them heads home to await the evening’s grib files. 

Jules Verne Trophy memo:

Crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild:

Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, skippers
David Boileau, trimmer bowman
Erwan Israël, helm trimmer
Morgan Lagravière, helm trimmer
Yann Riou, trimmer media man

Marcel van Triest, weather router
Yann Eliès, replacement crew

Record to beat:

40 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes > Record held by Francis Joyon and his crew (Idec Sport) since 26 January 2017.

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