IDEC SPORT has begun the final stretch. Early this afternoon, Francis Joyon and his men had around 700 miles to sail. They had hoisted the big gennaker in 30 knots of wind and heavy seas. They should cross the line late tomorrow afternoon and get back to Brest for dinner.
“We’ve got some decent wind again and the boat is sailing quickly under gennaker in 28 knots of wind and that is now strengthening. There are clear skies and a big swell as you expect off the coast of Brittany. A great sight!” Everything is fine with Francis Joyon and his crew of five. This lunchtime (Thursday) IDEC SPORT is already back up to the latitude of Bordeaux, but way out to sea, 850 miles off the French coast and 700 miles from the finishing line between The Lizard and Ushant.
Last night, conditions were more difficult than expected and the crew had to carry out a lot of manoeuvres and headsail changes to try to get across the two fronts and this turned out to be trickier than forecast. Consequently, the ETA for the finish has been pushed back a few hours with Francis Joyon now talking about 1600hrs UTC on Friday. “We found it a bit tough and had to look at the satellite photos every quarter of an hour to try to work out where we were in relation to the mass of rainclouds, which meant continuous manoeuvres,” explained Francis. “It was hard, but things are better now and we’re pleased to have got through that.”
The fast track to Brest
This was a slight setback, but it’s nothing serious, as the most important thing is that the boat is sailing quickly again with speeds back up to thirty knots or more on the swell. “We looked at the wave charts and the swell is building as we go further north. If it is with the boat, it’s fine, but it’s a bit annoying when it is hitting us side on. We’re watching that closely.” How do they feel on the eve of the finish? A mixture of emotions. Francis: “We can’t wait to get back to shore and want to get the most out of the boat. Over the past 46 days, we have grown so used to getting 100% from the boat that it’s second nature for us. We can’t stop trimming all the time to try to go as fast as possible. The lads are still giving it their all. They are remaining focused, even if like me, they too are thinking about the finish and getting ashore.”
Gwénolé Gahinet, who is about to finish his first round the world voyage, shared the same feelings as his boss: “It’s pleasant. We have a nice, blue sky to start the day. We’re back up to good speed under gennaker.” What he is missing most after a month and a half at sea is his partner, family, friends, and he also wants to take a hot shower, have a good meal and celebrate tomorrow evening in Brest.
Before that the strategy seems to be fairly clear, according to Guéno: “We’re currently tacking towards the NE, towards Ireland. We shall be gybing again at around 0100hrs tonight. Then it will be one long stretch on the starboard tack to Brest. The weather pattern is quite simple and it should be fairly quick, as it looks like we’ll be getting 30 knots of wind all the time. The fast track to Brest is clear for us.” Everything always sounds so simple. A penultimate tack, a gybe, a final fast run and it’s all sewn up. In so doing, they will probably smash the boat’s record. We can be certain that emotions will run high tomorrow evening in the harbour in Brest. The sailors are (almost) back. They have checked it out and have seen that the Earth is indeed a sphere.