Francis Joyon dealt impeccably with the first of the three difficulties facing the maxi trimaran IDEC: after the front with 35 knots of wind, there remains only the heavy swell from the North West, which is punishing the boat. But IDEC is still sailing quickly: at lunchtime on Tuesday, they were 400 miles ahead of the record time they set in 2008, with around a thousand miles to go before the finish in San Salvador.
IDEC skippered by Francis Joyon
Francis Joyon continues to speed across the Atlantic, once again covering more than 530 miles a day. 'I had to deal with the front that was forecast yesterday: a dark layer of cloud under which the wind reached 35 knots. I reduced the sail to three reefs at one point, but the boat coped well and I’m pleased to have got a bit ahead (some 400 miles in fact...), as we face two more difficulties ahead: getting in the right position to deal with the high-pressure area, which is above me and the risk of encountering calm conditions before the finish at the end of the voyage,' summed up the skipper of IDEC. And as ever, he remained totally calm while telling us that.
So, all is going well for Joyon, who will early this afternoon complete the sixth day of this attempt to improve on the Columbus Route record, having covered more than 2850 miles since the start in Cadiz. Francis can rightly hope to improve on his 2008 time by a few hours, or maybe even more. He remains cautious however, 'as I know that the calm conditions at the end may stretch out a long way and seriously slow us down. But let’s just say that the optimistic scenario, which we need to be cautious about, would see me finishing in just under 9 days.'
French sailor Francis Joyon and his boat IDEC II sail past the Statue of Liberty on August 19, 2011 in New York Harbor. Joyon is preparing to attempt to set a new trans-Atlantic sailing record. PHOTO : DON EMMERT / AFP PHOTO / DPPI
That would mean that IDEC may well cross the line in the Bahamas on Friday. But a word of caution: in 2008, only 200 miles were sailed during each of the final two days of racing, because of these infamous calms at the finish. 'It’s a classic scenario around the Bahamas. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t last too long, as that would be a bit of a problem.'
Francis Joyon fully expects to slow down between now and the finish. We can understand why he is very pleased to have built up a lead, even if it is only comfortable on paper. Whether we are talking about one or more hulls, in a fleet race or during a record attempt, everyone is aware that until the finishing line is crossed, you should not count your chickens. For the moment, 'the boat is under a lot of stress sailing downwind, but in a heavy North-Westerly swell. I feel a bit sorry for her, but as far as the sailor is concerned, all is going well.'
IDEC has adapted to the wind shift to the North-East behind the front. As for life on board, 'I have managed to find a satisfactory sleep pattern.' Is Joyon still just as happy to be out there on the water? The pilot of IDEC has his own way of answering that: 'Yes, indeed. Everyone imagines that life for the solo sailor is Spartan and horrible, but there are some fantastic moments too: when the boat hones along nicely, there is beautiful light on the water, and some magnificent colours, as I’m currently experiencing… To keep it short, we could say that as far as comfort on board is concerned, it is not really that, but from an aesthetic point of view, there is the sheer pleasure of seeing the beauty of the elements that surround us.' A typical Joyon style analysis of the matter.