Francis Joyon and his crew of five have been dealing with the Doldrums since last night. Forecast not to be very active and to be fairly narrow at 25 degrees W, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone has lived up to its reputation. The IDEC SPORT maxi-trimaran has not encountered the horrible wind variations and sudden thunderstorms that led them to abort their attempt last month. In spite of being slowed down, early this afternoon they are still 125 miles ahead of the pace. The crew are focusing on what is up on the horizon, where Francis and his lads hope to be able to pick up a good SE’ly breeze announcing the trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere. At the start of this sixth day of racing, IDEC SPORT is just 70 miles from the Equator that they may well cross in less time than the Jules Verne Trophy record-holder (Banque Populaire V), which crossed this imaginary line in 2012 after 5 days and 16 hours of racing.
“We can’t wait to get to the other side.” Well used to crossing from one hemisphere to another, the Swiss sailor, Bernard Stamm, spurred on by IDEC SPORT’s hold up in the Doldrums last month during their previous attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy record, is carefully watching how the cloud masses are evolving on the computer screen with to their south cumulonimbus clouds announcing the trade winds. “It is hard getting to grips with this zone, as it changes so quickly and even the most precise weather analyses are not sufficient,” explained Bernard. “We weren’t shaken up as much as in November,” confirmed Francis Joyon, “but we did have a few heavy showers. Since then we have been moving at slow speed, reaching towards the south in a NW’ly wind. The SE’ly trade winds are not only well established, but appear to moving up towards us, which is in iteself excellent news.”
150 miles east of the route taken at this point by Banque Populaire V on her record-breaking voyage, IDEC SPORT can feel upbeat about what lies ahead in the mid-term. ”It’s true the further east we are, the shorter the route,” explained Francis, “with an interesting angle to the wind to come around slowly as we dive south.” The point of sail close to sailing upwind that lies ahead for the maxi-trimaran once out of the Doldrums does not worry the sailors on IDEC SPORT. “The boat sails well in every point of sail. Upwind sailing just means more uncomfortable slamming against the seas,” stressed Bernard Stamm.
Will there be a ceremony to honour Neptune when they cross the Equator early this evening? We can’t be sure of that. The crew are so keen to get going in the South Atlantic that they may prefer to go for performance rather than carry out any maritime traditions.