CRUCIAL DAYS IN THE PACIFIC
On her fourth week of racing against the clock where there is a need for precision to deal with the complicated weather patterns in the South Pacific, IDEC SPORT is entering a crucial phase, which could determine the outcome of this attempt to smash the Jules Verne Trophy record.
At the start of this 24th day, with in fact night falling for the big, red trimaran, there was an important gybe on the edge of the area of low pressure. Francis Joyon and his crew of five will be seeking out the best wind angle and strongest winds, trying not to get sucked into the light conditions to starboard. This low-pressure episode is the start of a sequence with contrasting conditions expected before they reach Cape Horn. Like Loïck Peyron and his maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V at this very same point in the voyage four years ago, Francis, Guénolé, Bernard, Clément, Boris and Alex are also expecting to suffer in getting through these transition zones between two systems, before dealing with a huge high they will have to round via the north or south.
A team effort
More than ever they are taking advantage of the wealth of experience found in the crew selected by Francis Joyon, as they approach a tricky stretch, which could be crucial in this voyage across the South Pacific. “Marcel van Triest is doing a great job,” stressed Bernard Stamm, who has already encountered the whims of this huge ocean on several occasions. “Everyone on board can see the control panel in the cockpit, and the e-mail exchange between Francis and Marcel. There are then open discussions amongst us. In any case, it is Francis, who has the final say.” As for choosing the route and finding the most efficient trajectory, once again this is a team effort and the watch routine since leaving Brest has worked well. “Each time we take the helm, we try to do as well as the helmsman that preceded us and better than our previous watch.” For the moment, they can be pleased with the intermediate reference times set in the Indian Ocean and a crew that is dealing well with tiredness.
An unexpected duel
“Early in the night (this morning back in Europe) we were within half a mile of Spindrift,” smiled Francis Joyon. “We weren’t expecting to find ourselves in a duel after 24 days at sea.” The two maxi trimarans competing for the Jules Verne Trophy have come to similar conclusions over the past few days about the best way to tackle the Pacific. Hence, the similar tracks, with gybes carried out within a few minutes of each other. “Our reference is Banque Populaire V,” stated Bernard Stamm, “but we find it interesting to compare our route and speed with Spindrift 2, the former Banque Populaire V.” The conclusion is that Idec Sport, almost 9m shorter with less sail and with just 6 men on board is back equal or doing better than the boat that is now alongside them. “In stronger winds above 25 knots, we are even a bit faster,” the crew told us. “On the other hand she sails at a better angle to the wind. That’s why we lost out getting around the St Helena high. We had to gybe and let them get away on one tack on a more direct route than us.” It’s a race against the clock, a battle against the elements and the complicated weather systems… Idec Sport’s Jules Verne Trophy attempt now involves a real rival, which is ideal for them to see how they are doing and it is giving a boost to the motivation of those on board.