After a tricky night on chaotic seas, IDEC SPORT has found her wings again in the trade winds and is heading due north towards the south of the Azores at speeds averaging around 25 knots. At the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands, the Doldrums are now in their wake and Francis Joyon, Bernard Stamm, Alex Pella, Sébastien Audigane, Clément Surtel and Gwénolé Gahinet, looking for strong winds associated with an area of low pressure, are now expected back in Brest (Brittany) after finishing the Jules Verne Trophy on the morning of Thursday 26th January. While the latest simulations show the six sailors tackling the final phase of their round the world race today after 37 days at sea since leaving Ushant, this is not the time for unnecessary risks, as they are looking forward to success in one of the greatest maritime challenges aboard their 31m long red and grey maxi-trimaran.
“We’re not going to do anything silly. What we want now is to finish… “. With his voice sounding exhausted after a night with tiring wind and sea conditions, Sébastien Audigane told us what he could see and how things were looking on this Sunday in the North Atlantic. “We’re facing the Cape Verde Islands. We’re on the right route to get home. We’re reaching at 80 degrees from the wind. In around fifteen hours, the wind will swing around to offer us downwind sailing with a fairly direct route in a SSW’ly breeze. Between now and the finish, we’re going to put our foot on the brake. Sometimes, it’s not easy, as multihulls are boats that accelerate quickly. We will have to be extra careful. But we aren’t expecting very nasty conditions. We have seen worse.”
Slow down, reduce the sail
The last few hours in the trade winds acted as a reminder that IDEC SPORT needs to be tamed at times to avoid taking risks and suffering damage. “’During the night, we had to slow down, as we ran into fairly heavy, boat-breaking seas coming straight at us. We had to reduce the speed by about ten knots going from thirty to twenty knots. Now we’re off again,” confirmed Francis Joyon, who with his wealth of experience, measures to what extent they have to find the right dose of being cautious, with the possibility of clocking up high speeds from today onwards.
2500 miles from the finish, IDEC SPORT is expected to move to downwind sailing in a fresh breeze tonight on the southern edge of the low, which is currently sweeping across the Atlantic. This is a strong, powerful flow, which is set to stay with them and allow them to “gallop” as Joyon said, more or less on the direct route back towards Ushant. “We have to find a compromise about where to position ourselves in the low-pressure system. Our goal is to find the right place to get quite a lot of wind, but not too much swell,” added the skipper, who can rely on the help of Marcel van Triest, the onshore router and seventh man, to ensure the boat is in the right place and at the right time, as they begin this fast final strait to the finish line off the coast of Brittany.
Save the date: Thursday in Brest
“We are remaining very vigilant in terms of the equipment and the boat, but the feeling is upbeat on board. It is a relief to have passed the Doldrums, slowly but surely, as this zone is always a worrying one. Now we are all looking forward to getting back with our families and happy to get close to pulling off this major record,” added Francis Joyon. According to the latest estimates, IDEC SPORT is expected to finish on Thursday between 0800 and 1300hrs UTC. The crew can count on the lead they built up over the miles, as they sailed around the world to attempt to smash the reference time (45d 13hrs 42mins 53secs), set five years ago by Loïck Peyron and his crew of thirteen aboard the 40m long maxi-multihull, Banque Populaire V.