Sailor Francis Joyon, onboard the maxi trimaran IDEC, sailed across the Columbus Route finishing line off San Salvador in the Bahamas at 04 hours 57 minutes 30 seconds GMT today Friday 15th February 2013 (0557hrs CET).
Francis Joyon, IDEC
With a race time of 8 days, 16 hours, 07 minutes, 05 seconds, Francis Joyon shaved more than 1 day and 4 hours off his own record set back in 2008 (9 days 20 hrs 35 mins). Over the 3884 miles of the Great Circle route, the theoretical route, he sailed at an average speed of 18.66 knots (distance actually sailed 4379.5 miles at an average speed of 21.04 miles).
Francis Joyon left Cadiz (Spain) at 12 hours, 50 minutes 25 seconds GMT on Wednesday 6th February. He in fact improved on his previous record by 1 day, 4 hours, 27 minutes and 58 seconds. Indeed he becomes the first sailor ever to take the bar for the Columbus Route to less than 9 days.
An exceptional performance, when we see that Francis Joyon looked after his own strategy out at sea without any routing assistance or outside help. The Columbus Route is always very challenging, as it requires dealing with many different weather systems.
The next challenge for Francis Joyon on IDEC will be an attempt at the North Atlantic record between New York and the Lizard. He is due to go on stand-by in the spring.
It was in the middle of the night in the Caribbean, in the warmth and total darkness of Columbus Island in the Bahamas where Christopher Columbus also went ashore back in 1492 that the red trimaran IDEC arrived after an incredible dash across the Atlantic ending with a new record time for a solo sailor on a multihull. Francis Joyon has once again left his mark on solo sailing with his unique approach and his own particular way of sailing on the high seas.
Setting out from la Trinité sur Mer in Brittany on 4th February, Francis hardly had time to drop off his companion for the delivery trip in the Bay of Cadiz, before getting underway on the Columbus Route early on the afternoon of Wednesday 6th February. No stand-by, no router on dry land… The Joyon of 2013 was about to tackle the Joyon of 2008 without any protection or back-up. What he achieved was another amazing feat knocking an astonishing one day and four hours off his previous time. There were no champagne celebrations or prize ceremonies in San Salvador; once he had validated his race time with the official representative of the World Speed Sailing Record Council, Francis hoisted his sail, trimmed his gennaker and set off again, all alone to make his way to the French West Indies, where he will moor up.
With a race time of 8 days, 16 hours, 07 minutes, 05 seconds, Francis Joyon knocked more than 1 day and 4 hours off his own record time from 2008 (9 d 20 h 35 min). Over the 3884 miles of the Great Circle route, the theoretical route between Cadiz and San Salvador, via Gran Canaria, he took the average speed up to 18.66 knots, having actually sailed 4379.5 miles at an average speed of 21.04 knots. Francis Joyon set off from Cadiz (Spain) at 12 hrs, 50 minutes 25 seconds GMT on Wednesday 6th February, with an idea of his route already on his mind, and a solid belief that he would be able to smash his own record. 'I was interested by the weather opportunity I could see when I left La Trinité sur Mer,' he explained, 'remembering that Thomas (Coville) would be the first to make the most of it. Since the autumn, I have been following the weather patterns in the Atlantic, and this opportunity was clearly the finest that we have had for months.' So this was not improvised at all. The extraordinary Mr. Joyon was off on another adventure, but was well aware of what lay ahead and with his usual physical strength and exceptional determination.
The absence of the person, who usually accompanies him on dry land during his records, Jean-Yves Bernot, who had gone off to the other side of the world, did nothing to affect the confidence of the skipper of IDEC, who tackled the tricky voyage down to the Canaries without any outside help; 'It would have been during that initial phase that Jean-Yves’s help would have been the most useful.' With heavy seas and a north-easterly wind tending too much to come directly from astern, there was an effect on the boat’s performance and it was 170 miles off the record pace that IDEC finally made her escape from the wind shadow of Gran Canaria. 'I didn’t have any doubts at that point,' stated Francis, 'as I knew I would be able to take advantage of a favourable trade wind after that.' Indeed, after that, there were four fantastic days covering more than 500 miles a day. Four days of pleasure that even the modest and discreet Joyon could not avoid sounding happy about, telling us how he enjoyed getting the most out of his giant trimaran, in spite of the swell, at times very heavy and in the wrong direction. 'I really love these moments, when the boat sails along quickly and effortlessly, in some brilliant light, and I have experienced many great moments like that.'
Francis has thus managed to set an incredible time on a route, which it cannot be stressed enough, is made extremely complicated due to the many different weather systems you encounter along the way. 'A record pace from New York / the Lizard is achieved on the edge of just one system that is clear and going in the right direction, so needs to be followed all the way to Ireland,' explained Francis; the Columbus Route on the other hand is very complicated; you cannot only rely on one system. You have to change systems three times, which automatically involves tricky transitional phases.' Francis knows that his record will be targeted by many others, and that is something that he is happy about; 'I think I have placed the bar quite high up,' he admitted, 'I hope the record will stand for a while and that my future challengers will enjoy themselves…'
Holder of three of the four most significant solo sailing records, the round the world voyage, the 24-hour record and the Columbus Route, Francis Joyon is quite naturally aiming to try his hand again at the reference time between New York and the Lizard. IDEC is due to head for the Big Apple in the spring to go on stand-by, which this time will likely be longer…
What he said:
'My immediate reaction is one of huge satisfaction… and tiredness. I haven’t yet come to terms with it, as I’m still sailing, but the pleasure of completing the voyage in less than nine days is obvious. I set off hoping to set a decent time. I got off to a quick start back in 2008, but the end was much harder. This year, it was the other way around. My biggest fear is always getting stuck in an area of calm, but that didn’t happen. The boat sailed very quickly for some time. In the first part, the heavy seas slowed us down. Then, there were some great moments honing along. I flirted with peak speeds of 30 knots, but as we face the oncoming prevailing weather systems, we often experience difficult seas, which are not favourable for very high speeds…'
'I finished in the dark of night off the island of San Salvador, where not many people live, so there were very few lights. We have to round some major headlands, which are not lit and on the GPS we were close to a coral reef. I called up Mr. Clifford Fernandez from the WSSRC, who found a little boat to take him out to see me cross the line. I furled the gennaker and he came on board. After 5-10 minutes, I hoisted the sail again to avoid drifting towards the coast. They got off and I set off again without even seeing a single tree… I’m currently on my way down towards the French West Indies.'
'There are still a few minor improvements that can be made, but in general this is a good boat, which is well designed, well built and had been tried and tested. We can still work on a few details and on the sails…'
'Personally, you can’t fine-tune me as much as the boat. The years are slipping by and recently I became a grandfather. You have to avoid time taking its toll by doing lots of sporting activities between these sailing trips, in order to be able to cope with the demands of the trimaran…'