by Soazig Guého
Round Britain and Ireland now has a new record that has been set by Safran. The crew just made it in with a time of six days, nine hours, forty-eight minutes, and fifty seconds.
Safran has now been added to the record-breakers around Britain and Ireland. On Saturday 18th June, the big monohull sailed by Marc Guillemot, Yann Eliès, Loic Lingois, César Dohy and Didier Le Vourch sailied across the finishing line off the Lizard at 0734 hrs GMT.
The crew aboard Safran completed the voyage in 6 days, 9 hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds improving on the record time held since June 2009 by Dee Caffari’s all-women crew on Aviva by one hour 42 minutes and three seconds. Safran completed the course at an average speed of 11.52 knots on the 1773 mile Great circle route (the theoretical course).
However, on the water, she actually covered more than 2000 miles at an average speed of 13 knots. Setting out just under a week ago from this same location off the Lizard at 2145 hrs GMT on Saturday 11th June in a duel with Vincent Riou and Hugues Destremau’s PRB, Marc Guillemot’s crew just managed to achieve what they set out to do, while PRB was forced to retire after their forestay broke. (1)
The record was particularly difficult with some strong winds (up to 48 knots) and heavy seas, but also some tricky weather patterns to deal with, but this made it all the more interesting for Marc Guillemot, Yann Eliès and the three other men on board. In the North Sea – the attempt was carried out in an anti-clockwise direction from east to west – wind farms, which were not marked on the charts and a boat being towed forced them to carry out emergency manoeuvres on Safran and this led to two breakages:
The big spinnaker blew out and two mainsail battens were broken. The strategy involving staying ahead of a warm front was soon no longer valid and they had to adapt to the situation, talking things through with Sylvain Mondon of Météo France. 'Off the Shetlands, we no longer had any advantage and at best we could aim for beating the record by three hours,' explained Sylvain.
The conditions they encountered were particularly tough: sailing upwind in winds averaging 35 knots gusting to 45 in heavy seas with four to five metre high waves.
In other words, rather like during the 2009 Transat Jacques Vabre, when Safran was nicknamed 'the war machine' after previously being referred to as 'the jet fighter'… PRB, lighter with three men fewer aboard was in the lead at that point.
The crew of Safran can be praised for sticking with it and executing a perfect strategy throughout the second half of the race course.
In particular off the west of Ireland, where they carried out three changes of tack in heavy seas to try to make the most of the wind shift as it came around to offer downwind sailing. After having more than enough upwind sailing in nasty seas – to the extent that they even had to slow down to ensure the safety of the boat as she slammed violently into each wave. Safran could finally open up her sails and was speeding along south west of Ireland when we learnt that PRB had suffered damage: their forestay had broken and this eventually led to Vincent Riou and Hugues Destremau retiring. Safran accelerated on the starboard tack and only needed to do one more gybe, just before the finishing line.
Upwind, reaching, downwind, heavy seas… the boat experienced all sorts of conditions in this difficult voyage around Britain and Ireland. An excellent way of training for the Transat Jacques Vabre and great way to introduce the boat to Yann Eliès, who will be Marc Guillemot’s co-skipper in this year’s big event.
Two questions for Marc Guillemot.
Marc, this was a tricky record for you?
'We didn’t have much leeway. A good boat setting off in the right conditions could improve on our time by around thirty hours, I think. Maybe we’ll give it another go ourselves one day. Having said that, we are quite pleased, as it took such a lot of effort. The wind and in particular the seas were so nasty that at times, we had to slow the boat down deliberately. There were moments when we weren’t in record mode, but more worried about looking after the equipment. There was some really bad slamming. The conditions were sometimes tougher than in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2009 when we went through some really nasty weather.'
Your final appraisal?
'It’s all been very positive for several reasons. We were able to check out the modifications made during the winter refit in some very demanding weather and the boat did well apart from two little bits of damage in the North Sea (spinnaker and mainsail battens – editor’s note). The idea of a duel with Vincent was a good one and we are sincerely disappointed for what happened to them. We would have preferred to see two boats finishing.
They sailed really well until they suffered this damage. Finally, sailing with a crew meant we could really focus on the details and Yann (Eliès) adapted perfectly to the boat, so it was a great introduction for him. And just as after each adventure, we are simply delighted to have completed it and to be heading home. We are due to arrive in La Trinité-sur-Mer this evening or during the night and then we’ll be able to get some rest.'
(1) All of these figures await ratification by the WSSRC, the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the body, which governs world sailing records.