Joyon heading for the Horn by the end of the year?

Francis Johon sailing
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Frenchman Francis Joyon on trimaran IDEC today has extended his lead over British Ellen MacArthur’s world record time for a west-to-east world circumnavigation to more than 3,000 miles.

He has crossed the dateline and is now into the Pacific Ocean, with vigilance key as he maintains a course through iceberg territory - The Horn by the end of the year?

IDEC crossed the dateline yesterday, 27 days after Francis Joyon set out on his solo round the world record attempt from Brest. After slowing slightly yesterday Joyon is back averaging 500 miles over 24-hour periods. Yesterday Joyon just managed to avoid getting caught in an area of little wind, as a ridge of low pressure threatened to overtake him.

In squalls and shifty winds, he managed to stay ahead of the ridge with a number of manoeuvres and sail changes and escaped into better conditions today. 'Now I am in a well-established southwesterly system, I even took a reef in 32 knots just now. I have escaped from a trap that would have to lost me 24 hours,' he explained today.

However, now Joyon has other things to worry about. In his present positions, 55 degrees south and 170 degrees west, icebergs are a constant danger. 'I have no choice,' said Joyon on his southerly course. 'On the one hand the wind obliges me to continue to go south and on the other hand it is a little early to gybe because the anticyclone is still to my north. I shall go down as far as 56° south perhaps, although I hope not to, because that low the risk of ice becomes very significant.'

For the moment, IDEC has good speed and this should be the case for another two to three days. 'I do average speeds of around 20 knots,' Joyon confirmed, although he explained the wind remains fairly unstable, making sleep difficult.

For the next couple of days, IDEC should continue to benefit from the southwest winds, but then a depression looms and Joyon and his onshore router Jean-Yves Bernot will have to pick their way through the weaker winds ahead.

Ellen Macarthur holds the record at 71 days and some hours, which took an average speed of 12.66 knots to achieve. So far Joyon has been consistently beating that speed by dramatic differences. If these speeds continue he could easily complete the journey in less than 60 days.