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The Water Shed - 5

Francis Joyon's legendary quest on hold in New York

by Mer et Media on 17 May 2013
Francis Joyon, IDEC on standby in New York © V. Curutchet / DPPI / IDEC http://www.trimaran-idec.com/
On a legendary record quest, Francis Joyon is at North Cove Marina in New York taking care of his maxi trimaran IDEC. On Thursday 16th May, the official stand-by began as he awaits a weather opportunity to tackle the North Atlantic record between Ambrose Light and the Lizard.

Francis Joyon is in the thick of it. From Thursday 16th May, in association with his faithful router, Jean-Yves Bernot, the helmsman of the maxi-trimaran IDEC has been watching the weather closely.


The goal is to find the right low-pressure area – or preferably one which strengthens off the Gulf of Saint Lawrence – to be able to sail straignt across the North Atlantic in under five days 19 hours and 29 minutes. Or in other words keeping up an average speed of 21 knots… These figures may appear beyond belief and out of reach of ordinary sailors. But Francis Joyon is not just anyone and the maxi-trimaran IDEC is not just any old boat.

Fortunately, as when sailing solo, the task is truly reserved for an elite. We can remember how Ellen MacArthur just missed out on it, and indeed only five solo sailors have managed to improve on the record launched by Bruno Peyron back in 1987. A time beaten by Florence Arthaud, before Bruno Peyron grabbed the record back. Then, there was Laurent Bourgnon and yes, already up there, Francis Joyon. It was in 2005 aboard the first IDEC trimaran (six days and four hours). In 2008, Thomas Coville bettered that time with the record that is still his today after completing the voyage in five days 19 hours and 29 minutes.

'This is not an easy record,' Francis Joyon warned us. 'To keep up such a high average speed, you need to find the right weather and work hard at it all the time without any easing off.'

So that is the real difficulty from a mathematical perspective… while in terms of sailing, he will also have to deal with the legendary mists, marine animals, shipping… and maybe also the wind dropping off as he approaches the coast of SW England.

For Francis Joyon and IDEC, this is a huge challenge. If he pulls this off, Joyon will become the only sailor ever to claim the Grand Slam of outright records. The skipper of IDEC already holds three other record times: the solo round the world record, the 24-hour distance record and the Columbus Route record. It will also be a way for him to gain his revenge after a failed attempt in 2011, when IDEC capsized at the start in New York. An incident that shows just how tricky the task of sailing this incredible wind-making machine can be, and indeed how scary it can be for a solo yachtsman.

The North Atlantic record requires an all-out effort. However, that is something that attracts Joyon, who enjoys taking it to the limit, while making it all look so easy, giving the impression that he is just doing a normal sailor’s job. Two things that are far from being the case in reality.

The five record times so far set on solo crossings of the North Atlantic:

1987 : Bruno Peyron, catamaran, Explorer, in 11 days, 11 hours 46 minutes and 36 seconds
1990 : Florence Arthaud, trimaran, Pierre 1er, in 9 days, 21 hours and 42 minutes
1992 : Bruno Peyron, catamaran, Explorer, in 9 days, 19 hours and 22 minutes
1994 : Laurent Bourgnon, trimaran, Primagaz, in 7 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes and 42 seconds
2005 : Francis Joyon, trimaran, IDEC 1, in 6 days, 4 hours, 01 minute and 37 seconds
2008 : Thomas Coville, trimaran, Sodebo, in 5 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes and 20 Trimaran IDEC website

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