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Sail World NZ Lone Wolf

Uncertainty remains in Francis Joyon's North Atlantic record chase

by Mer et Media on 15 Jun 2013
Francis Joyon (FRA), IDEC Chris Cameron/ETNZ© http://www.chriscameron.co.nz
It was once more with a remarkably calm voice for a sailor at the helm of a 30-metre machine speeding along at between 25 and 30 knots that Francis Joyon confirmed his ETA at the finish, in other words that he is due to cross the legendary line marking the finish of the North Atlantic crossing off The Lizard at the southern tip of Cornwall on Sunday evening.

To beat the record set in July 2008 by Thomas Coville on the giant trimaran Sodebo, IDEC has to finish before 0400hrs UTC (0600hrs CET) on Monday morning. Without wishing to celebrate too soon, as with 1200 miles to go to the finish, there remains some uncertainty, Joyon seems more motivated than ever given the way the low-pressure area that he has been with since leaving New York, is moving, as it should enable him to succeed in this mammoth task.

If he succeeds, he will become the record-holder of the only one of the four major solo sailing records missing from his current list of achievements. 'If I manage to remain ahead of the low-pressure area, I should finish off The Lizard on Sunday evening.' The problem is clear but Joyon is not paying attention to the current figures, which show him 130 miles off the record pace of his virtual rival, as he is focusing on what lies ahead with his router, Jean-Yves Bernot.

The low is still moving as forecast in the right direction and with the right strength of wind, so it is up to Joyon to make the most of it. The sailing on a knife edge that began just over three days ago in New York will continue right up to the finish with all its dangers, uncertainties and risk-taking. Dangers, as Francis himself explains, 'It’s sometimes a bit scary when IDEC takes off on a wave at more than 30 knots. I have to apply the brakes by easing the sheets, then get her going again so as not to lose the inertia…' Francis carries out these manoeuvres over and over again and each time, that means he is doing without any rest. 'That’s what makes things tricky on IDEC,' he laughed. 'I managed to grab an hour’s rest during the night, but that was all… '

After three days and three nights, Francis Joyon is still managing to keep up this infernal pace and is showing perfect lucidity when choosing his route. On two occasions yesterday, he had to carry out the long (30 minutes) and tricky task of gybing, in order to ensure he remained ahead of the low. He is investing for the long term, which shows just how forward looking you need to be and that means not giving way to the temptation to make short term gains by keeping up the speed. 'I have sailed further than you would expect from New York, but now I should be able to maintain high speeds ahead of the system, while at the same time easing northwards,' he explained.

This is a strategy that the low-pressure area is not making easy, as it will probably require yet another move to stay on track. 'I shall probably have to sail for a while at 90° to the route,' added Francis. 'That way, I should get a much better angle to the wind to sail quickly in the right direction.'

Risk-taking, ongoing danger… Francis Joyon is taking it to the edge. 'This record is a tough one, where you have to avoid making mistakes and stay at 100% of the boat’s polars…'

A competitor at heart, while remaining a wise sailor paying attention to the elements and his boat, Francis Joyon is also finding the time to look at what is going on around him and enjoy himself; 'I've just seen a bit of sunshine. I’m still wearing my foulies, but it feels good to see the sun coming out.' Trimaran IDEC website
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