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IDEC Sport launching today for Clipper Route Record

by Guy Nowell 17 Jan 2020 19:47 PST
A very slow trip around the harbour (TWS 2.4kts). IDEC Sport, HK-London Clipper Route Record © Guy Nowell

On 18 January 2018 Giovanni Soldini and his crew on board the MOD70 trimaran Maserati set out to break the Tea Route record from Hong Kong to London.

Today, 18 January 2020, Francis Joyon expects to start his own attempt to break the same record on the 31.50m (103 ft) VPLP-designed IDEC SPORT. This is the boat with which Joyon cleaned up the Jules Verne Trophy in 2017 (40d 23h 30m), the North Atlantic record (5d 2h 7m) and the 2018 Route du Rhum (7d 14h 21m). It's a quick boat, and Joyon is equally at home sailing it crewed, double-handed or solo.

To get here (Hong Kong) in the first place, Joyon first took on his own solo record from Port Louis (Lorient, France) to Port Louis (Mauritius). Tick. Then he picked up a crew to establish two new reference times, from Mauritius to Ho Chi Minh City, and then HCMC to Shenzhen. "Asia is becoming more and more interesting for sailors," says Joyon. "It is also interesting to our sponsors, IDEC Group, so there is a good match of interests there."

Today is launch day for the Tea Route, or the Clipper Route, if you prefer. Either way, it is Hong Kong (Shek O Rock) to London (Queen Elizabeth II Bridge) via the South China Sea, the Sunda Strait, and the Cape of Good Hope. Joyon anticipates that the South China Sea will be the trickiest past of the trip. "It is the water with which we are least familiar, and there is always heavy fishing traffic along the route. This is the sea route taken by the big sailing vessels which did their utmost to get back to Europe as quickly as possible, to be the first to sell their cargo of tea in London.

It's a long way - around 13,000nm, with multiple weather systems to deal with along the way. "We aim to be at the Cape of Good Hope in 16 days, before the long climb up the Atlantic and across the Equator heading for London. The time to beat is 36d 2h 7m. In 2018 Giovanni Soldini achieved a remarkable performance, and the bar has been raised high. But the record can be beaten!" IDEC Sport is quicker than Soldini's Maserati in heavy air, but slower in the light stuff.

Fishing boats are one thing. Floating debris such as containers is another hazard. "This boat is capable of 46kts. A container, awash, and in the dark, is invisible. With IDEC Sport, so far so good - but over many years at sea I think I've seen it all."

Joyon is planning to depart Hong Kong later today.

For the record: the greatest Clipper Race of all was between the five ships that all left China on the same tide in January 1866. The Taeping and the Ariel arrived in London just a mile apart after 99 days, with Serica finishing 1h 15m later, followed by Fiery Cross (28 hours back) and the Taitsing one day later.

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