Exclusive report from onboard the record breaking tri

YM’s technical editor Chris Beeson was in Lorient, France, to carry out a liferaft test when he chanced upon Groupama 3 click here for previous story It was too good an opportunity to miss. Here’s his special report:

Franck Cammas’ maxi-trimaran Groupama 3 passed south of The Lizard at 0045 on Tuesday morning, setting a new Transatlantic record of 4 days 3 hours, 57 minutes 54 seconds. That’s an average speed of 28.65 knots over the 2,925-mile course. She also becomes the first boat to cross the Atlantic in under 100 hours.

The 31.5m green giant broke the record set by Bruno Peyron’s 36.8m catamaran Orange 2 by 4 hours 26 minutes. She also set a new record for distance covered in 24 hours – a remarkable 794 miles – within 30 hours of the start off New York’s Ambrose Light.

‘We broke the port foil (daggerboard) on the first night,’ co-skipper Franck Proffit (34) told Yachting Monthly’s Chris Beeson in Lorient, France. ‘Otherwise we would have past 800 miles in 24 hours. We lost about 2 knots.’

Groupama 3 was built for skipper Franck Cammas (44) and his crew to break the Jules Verne non-stop round the world record. The record of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes is currently held by Peyron’s Orange 2, set in 2006.

Apart from breaking three bunks, two records and one daggerboard, the trip was an uneventful work-out for Groupama 3 in advance of its Jules Verne attempt in December. It was widely thought that the boat would be too small to challenge the bigger multihulls like Orange 2. This record blows that notion away.

It’s been her biggest test since launching in 2006. ‘We put the boat in the water and two days later we started to push, but never that hard,’ said Proffit. ‘Now we know it can handle that workload. We can beat the bigger boats.’

Proffit raced non-stop round the world with Peyron onboard Orange 2’s sistership during The Race in 2001. He believes Groupama 3 is better suited to the challenge. ‘She’s not too big, not too heavy, not too powerful. We can reef with hooks in 5 minutes. During The Race, it took us 20 minutes. You lose a lot of time.’

The roughest conditions encountered were on the last day when an easterly, head-on wave train sent them crashing down from 2 metres. That exposed a weak point for Groupama 3: ‘The only problem is the sea,’ said Proffit. ‘If the waves are not organised, it’s very rough. Orange 2 can handle the waves easier than us.’

The bigger boats have one more important advantage: ‘It’s more difficult to steer than the bigger boats, you have to concentrate every second. It’s easy up to 36 knots but after that? Our top speed was 42.5 knots.’

After breaking the record, Groupama 3 was off Lorient by 1100 the same morning. She stood off until 1430 while her champagne reception was arranged and the press assembled. ‘After all the press, we had a party until 0400. Now I’m back in debrief meetings, getting the boat ready again.’

Despite – or possibly because of – the Tour de France and its daily scandals, her achievement has attracted high profile praise, as Proffit explained. ‘Sarkozy sent us a message this morning saying good job, best of luck with the Jules Verne.’

Franck Proffit spent 20 years racing with Bruno Peyron’s brother Loïck onboard a series of Fujicolor-sponsored 60ft trimarans. He joined Cammas’ Groupama project five years ago, racing the 60ft trimaran Groupama 2.