72 HOURS UNDER PRESSURE

Francis Joyon and his men are preparing for the final battle. IDEC SPORT will be facing three stormy days and three stormy nights before completing their round the world voyage. It will be getting tough from this evening.

Around 800 miles west of the Azores this afternoon, IDEC SPORT is sailing at 32 knots and carrying out a series of gybes: four since the middle of the night. Once again, they are sailing at full speed. “We are on the edge of the high-pressure area. That is why occasionally we have to head back up north to find some more wind,“ explained Francis Joyon. So far, everything is fine. “The seas are quite pleasant. We have an average wind speed of 25 knots and clear, blue skies. We’re paying attention to avoid getting too close to the high, while analysing what is coming up in the next few hours,” the skipper of IDEC SPORT told us.

With 1900 miles to go to the finishing line between Ushant and The Lizard that “we should be crossing some time on Friday”, the six sailors on IDEC SPORT will be facing some tough conditions. A lot of wind and heavy seas. They are going to have to work hard to get to the finish. After a month and a half of fighting it out around the world’s oceans, during the final 72 hours they will be under pressure. “Conditions will start to get difficult from this evening,” Francis Joyon warned us.

“Avoiding the 36-foot high waves”

First aerial images of IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, training off Belle-Ile, Brittany, on october 19, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Generated by the low-pressure areas that are sweeping from west to the east across the North Atlantic, the wind is forecast to blow between 40 and 45 knots with much stronger gusts reaching 60 knots. “It is not the wind that is a problem for us,” Francis Joyon explained, “We can always reduce the sail to get through.”  On the other hand, “the real difficulty will be the sea state. Because when the boat digs in down to her mast as she plunges into the waves, all we can do is slow down and weather the storm.” The waves? To give an idea of what Francis Joyon, Bernard Stamm, Gwénolé Gahinet, Alex Pella, Clément Surtel and Boris Herrmann will be facing, we asked Francis Joyon about the forecast height. This is what he replied, “I looked at the routing, which gave us a relatively fast passage… but with 36-foot high waves with a heavy swell. We would have saved less than an hour taking that route, so logically we looked at a different route… but even then, we’ll be facing 20-foot high waves.”

The boat is fortunately able to sail using her full potential for this final big fight against the elements. The person, who knows the boat best from a technical point of view is Clément Surtel. “Of course, we have had a few little problems, nothing you wouldn’t expect during a round the world voyage. The boat is till at 95% of her potential, which is quite exceptional after a month and a half of racing.” As for the men, as you would expect, there is some tiredness, “but we look after ourselves by helping each other. It’s obvious we’ll be pleased to finish, and get back with our families. But I already know that there will be mixed feelings. There will be the joy of finishing, but then soon after that, the desire to get back out there again.” That’s the way sailors think.

A personal message

The crew of IDEC SPORT sent us a message they had received from Jacques, a merchant seaman, who will also be out there tonight. They respect each other.

“Hi everyone, I’ve been following you from the start. You fought like champions, but please be careful. Come home without breaking anything. We’re preparing to face the same conditions on our way from Le Havre to Gibraltar on our 300m long cargo vessel, and we’re remaining cautious, as it’s going to be very stormy. We will weather the storm. There’s nothing there to be ashamed of. The sea is stronger than us. Keeping the boat safe and in one piece, whether it is a cargo ship or a racing yacht, we have the same goal. There’s the pride of doing a good job. Once again, congratulations on your performance, Happy New Year to Francis and the lads.”