French yacht skipper Franck Cammas will race his 100 foot trimaran “Groupama 3″ across the Atlantic using pedal power to trim the sails.
Frank Cammas’s Groupama 3 racing trimaran is designed for a crew of 10 people, but Cammas will sail this boat solo in the transatlantic Route du Rhum yacht race from Saint Malo, Brittany, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean.
For this solo race, the yacht has been modified so that all sail controls are within easy reach of the helm. The boat designer also fixed a bicycle frame to the deck, which is used to trim the sails. When Cammas’s arms get tired from turning winches, he can hop on his bike to trim with his legs.
In sailing events, strong crew members can grind away at the winches with their arms for only eight seconds at 250 watts, while a reasonably fit cyclist can generate that power for a half hour. Since some sailing maneuvers can take several minutes to perform on a large trimaran, Franck Cammas leg power provides a clear competitive advantage. In the inaugural Route du Rhum race in 1978, the winner took first place with a margin of only 98 seconds after 23 days on the water. This year, the winner is expected to make it across the Atlantic in only a week.
Cammas tested his bike winch when he and his 10 man crew set a new round the world record of 48 days, 7 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds earlier this year on the Groupama 3.
Bikes were first used to trim sails in a 1967 America’s Cup race, and again in the 1970s.
This video about Groupama 3 is in Français, but you can see the bike winch in use for a short time at about 2:30.