Safely delivered from La Trinité-sur-mer Spindrift 2 arrived in Newport on Tuesday following eight days at sea. Standby begins for Spindrift racing and its attempt to break the crewed North Atlantic record and ‘Zenith 24-hour record’ - Currently no suitable weather window for the next 10 days, with icebergs identified along the route.
Newport, one of the sailing world’s most renowned destinations, welcomes a new giant. Following eight days of delivery from La Trinité-sur-Mer (France), during which substantial information was obtained, Spindrift 2, the maxi-trimaran, arrived at the famous Rhode Island harbour on Tuesday late afternoon. Co-skippers Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard and their crew now enter the critical phase of meticulously monitoring the weather. They must wait for the best window to launch their attempt to break the crewed North Atlantic record between New York and Lizard Point (England). With 3 days, 15 hours and 25 minutes (at an average of 32.94 knots) to beat, the challenge is daunting and will require optimal sailing conditions. If the weather permits, the team will also go for the ‘Zenith by Spindrift racing 24-hour record’, aiming to improve on the existing record of 908 miles, itself an impressive distance, equivalent to two Marseille-Carthage (Tunisia) crossings in 24 hours.
Spindrift 2’s elegant black, white and gold 40-metre hulls certainly attract their fair share of attention. Newport has been part of sailing history for many years, in particular with the America's Cup, but also in connection with oceanic records. Less than 200 miles from New York and the Ambrose Light, Rhode Island, where the start-line for this record commences, benefits from a good geographical position and offers exceptional infrastructure. As such, it is considered an ideal base for technical preparation.
'This start of the standby is incredibly important for the team. We’ve been anticipating and preparing for this for a long time,' said Dona Bertarelli. 'The North Atlantic record has reached such a level that we are pushing the boundaries of technical and sporting excellence, while still dealing with the unpredictability of the weather, which can be stressful and frustrating. The crew will return home before the start to remain as relaxed as possible. Yann, Erwan Israël (the navigator) and Richard Silvani (the meteorologist) must face the responsibility of choosing the best time to set off. The intensity of these challenges reflects the mindset of the team, our dynamism and expertise.'
A delivery from the South
Before leaving their French base last Monday, the crew decided to take a southerly route to seek the downwind conditions that they will need for the record attempt as well as test the new configuration of the boat, including the modified rig. 'We made the right choice by heading south,' said Yann Guichard. 'We came very close to the Canaries before heading west, but it was worth it. We were able to collect valuable data with the same angles and wind strength that we hope to see during the record. On the climb to Newport, we encountered a significant depression from the north with 35-40 knots of winds, combined with messy five-metre waves. It was ferocious on the boat, I can tell you, but we negotiated the conditions with more flexibility than ever before, achieving higher average speeds. It’s very encouraging.'
A 4,248-mile flight and a trimaran in perfect condition
Despite their on-going intense season, which includes the D35 circuit, crewed records and the single-handed Route du Rhum in November, the Spindrift racing crew were able to enjoy their best training to date during the delivery to Newport. 'Nothing beats sailing 4,000 miles together, it’s an ideal opportunity to learn even more about each other and Spindrift 2,' said Guichard. 'We were constantly sailing at over 30 knots, there was lots of vibration, lots of noise, the deck was very windy day and night and, by their nature, there is lots of tension on board these multihulls. But everything went well and we didn’t have any ‘boo boos’ for the crew or the boat. We’ll check the structure, but Spindrift 2 seems to be in perfect condition. If we had to, we could almost have set off immediately after arrival here in Newport.'
A configuration pushed to its limits
For the North Atlantic record, one ton of weight will be removed from the maxi-trimaran. 'We are removing the engine, whilst are also customising the boat in anticipation of a crossing on one 'starboard' tack (the wind coming from the right),' said Guichard, who has already beaten this record twice - in 2006 on board Bruno Peyron’s catamaran, Orange II, and in 2007 on Franck Cammas’ trimaran, Groupama 3. 'This involves leaving the foil that won’t be used, plugging the hole and swinging the mast. Such efforts may appear extreme, but the existing record is sufficiently impressive that it will be necessary to optimise every possible advantage if we are to succeed.'
Icebergs on the road
The daily weather monitoring and analysis routine is already in place. Guichard, Israël and Silvani will study the forecast in great detail morning and night, each time the weather reports are updated. They will use the routing software to identify whether a crossing under the crucial three days, 15 hours is possible. As previously announced earlier this week, Armel Le Cléac'h is also currently on standby in New York for the same record, but will attempt the journey en solo. At the moment there is ice drifting unusually far south, the result of a particularly harsh winter. 'We are taking this very seriously,' said Guichard. 'The solo record can still be beaten on a route slightly further south, similar to the one taken by Francis Joyon, the current holder. For the crewed record, however, it is a game which needs to be played in the north, taking the most direct route, and that is where the ice is right now. The water is warming up and conditions are improving each day. Currently, however, there is no identifiable start window over the next 10 days.'
In Numbers: The crewed record attempts by Spindrift racing - 2014 season
Crewed record to beat: 3 days, 15 hours and 25 minutes; 32.94 knots.
Zenith by Spindrift racing 24-hour record: 908 miles; 37.84 knots.
Holder since August 2009: maxi-trimaran Banque Populaire V (now Spindrift 2); held by Pascal Bidégorry and his crew.
Route: 2,880 miles (5,333 km) between Ambrose Light in New York and Lizard Point, on the southwest tip of Cornwall, England.
Spindrift 2: the largest racing trimaran in the world (40 metres), architects VPLP.
Skippers: Yann Guichard (FRA) and Dona Bertarelli (SUI).
Crew: from 12 to 14 people on board for this record, plus routing onshore (final crew to be confirmed)
Standby dates: June 3 to mid-august, 2014.