IDEC SPORT is continuing to extend her lead and clock up the miles in the Pacific. Her crew managed to overcome the hurdles, thanks to a carefully chosen route and some impressive acceleration. Approaching Cape Horn, 750 miles ahead of the boat this afternoon, the pace has stepped up on the red and grey maxi-trimaran , which is now heading due east on the starboard tack. Straight on at more than thirty knots towards the exit from the Southern Ocean. However, while the forecasts ahead now look clearer, there is still some doubt about the best route to take to get to the next ocean at the tip of Tierra del Fuego, which will mark a moment of relief for Francis Joyon, Alex Pella, Sébastien Audigane, Clément Surtel, Gwénolé Gahinet and Bernard Stamm. Will the six sailors chasing after the Jules Verne Trophy continue at the same pace or will they have to turn north to avoid a zone of calms, which threatens to block their route? The skipper of IDEC SPORT will be able to answer that question, when he links up for a video-conference at 1400 UTC on Wednesday afternoon, as the moment of waving hello and goodbye to the famous Cape draws near…
“As far as the weather is concerned, there is a slight improvement, particularly if we look at the European models. The situation has improved, but nothing is certain,” explained the skipper of IDEC SPORT, who, following the advice of Marcel van Triest, his onshore router and the seventh man in the team, is treating these forecasts with some caution, as they approach Cape Horn. Famous for being unstable, this area marking the return to the Atlantic remains full of uncertainties and makes it impossible to come up with an ETA for rounding the famous black rock, which they are all looking forward to leaving in their wake to get back into less hostile and more hospitable latitudes.
On the final stretch to the third and final major cape in their round the world voyage, the six men have the choice of two routes, as Francis Joyon explains, “We can stay relatively a long way south, which is quicker, but risky with possible calms, or the northerly route, which means we would have wind for longer, but which is a greater distance, forcing us to go the long way around.”
Double or quits
He is hesitating for the moment between north and south, as he admits, “We’re putting off this decision for as long as we can. In around twelve hours, we will be able to decide whether or not to take the direct route.” He is not hiding the fact that he would like to take the shortest route, allowing the men to greet the Horn sooner, some time tomorrow evening, after building up an incredible lead threatening the round the world record (45d 13h 45mn 53 sec) as they begin the final third of their circumnavigation.
But Francis Joyon still has his doubts and is keeping a close watch on any changes. He is not willing to gamble on getting stuck in a shallow low. Facing the uncertainty about the weather, the routing programmes cannot agree. They go from one extreme to the other with the most pessimistic seeing him round the Horn on Thursday afternoon, one day and five hours after the most optimistic routing.
30-32 knots of VMG
Whatever happens, for the five crewmen, more than the symbolic rounding of the third and final major cape, there is is the prospect of sailing as many miles as possible for as long as they can on IDEC SPORT. “Speeding towards the Horn at thirty knots is always going to be a pleasure! Passing the Horn is always a relief. But more than the rock itself, it’s a question of climbing back up the Atlantic very shortly,” confirmed Clément Surtel. “We had a fast crossing of the Pacific, which was a bit tough at the start when we got shaken up. But for the past three or four days, we have been in good sailing conditions, enabling us to take care of the boat. Rounding the Horn with a boat in good condition and a long way ahead will be a huge satisfaction for us all,” he added. IDEC SPORT is still speeding along at a VMG of 31.9 knots with a bonus of 1860 miles over the record pace…