On 23 July ten years ago, Groupama 3 broke the West-East Transatlantic record. YM’s Chris Beeson and Graham Snook were in Lorient shortly after and were invited aboard to find out about breaking records on an ultime

What’s it like to sail 103ft trimaran at 42 knots?

Groupama 3

(L-R) Co-skippers Franck Proffitt and Franck Cammas relax after crossing the Atlantic in under 100 hours

Skipper Franck Cammas’ trimaran Groupama 3 passed south of The Lizard at 0045 to set a 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 became the first boat to cross the Atlantic in under 100 hours.

Groupama 3

103m she may be, but accommodation is more like a 50ft racing yacht

The 31.5m green giant broke the record set in 2005 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.

Groupama 3

Co-skipper Franck Proffitt sits in Stan Honey’s nav station

‘We broke the port foil (daggerboard) on the first night,’ said co-skipper Franck Proffit, ‘otherwise we would have past 800 miles in 24 hours. We lost about 2 knots.’

Groupama 3

A spartan galley with nothing but the basics

Apart from breaking three bunks, two records and one daggerboard, the trip was an uneventful work-out for Groupama 3 in advance of her first Jules Verne attempt in December 2007. It was widely thought that the boat would be too small to challenge the bigger multihulls like Orange 2. This record blew that notion away.

Groupama 3

A handy place to dry your boots while off watch

It had 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.’

Groupama 3

There’s a great view of the rudder tube from the loo but little else

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 in five minutes. During The Race, it took us 20 minutes. You lose a lot of time.’

Groupama 3

There’s surprisingly little shelter from the elements in the cockpit

The roughest conditions encountered were on the last day when an easterly, head-on wave train sent them crashing down from two 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.’

‘It’s easy up to 36 knots, after that…’

Groupama 3

For regular sailors, it’s difficult to appreciate the scale of these ultime trimarans

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.’

Groupama 3

The cap shroud chainplates seem to be up to the job

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. Sarkozy sent us a message this morning saying good job, best of luck with the Jules Verne. Now I’m back in debrief meetings, getting the boat ready again.’

Groupama 3

Skipper Franck Cammas on the bow planning the next challenge for Groupama 3: the Jules Verne Trophy

Groupama 3 was built for skipper Franck Cammas and his crew to break the Jules Verne non-stop round the world record. In 2007, the record of 50 days 16 hours 20 minutes was held by Peyron’s Orange 2, set in 2005. After two abortive attempts ending in 2008 and 2009, Groupama 3 finally took the Jules Verne Trophy in 2010 with a time of 48 days, 7 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds.

Ten years after her record-breaking Transatlantic dash, and now named Idec Sport, the boat again holds the Jules Verne Trophy after Francis Joyon and his crew took her non-stop around the world in 40 days 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds. The crewed multihull West-East Transatlantic record, however, has been in the hands of Pascal Bidégorry’s Banque Populaire V (now Spindrift 2) since 2009 when she tore across the Atlantic in 3 days, 15 hours, 25 minutes and 48 seconds, covering an astonishing 907.9 miles in a 24-hour period, both records that still stand.