Francis Joyon and the crew of Idec Sport will be seeing their names inscribed on the prestigious Jules Verne Trophy on Thursday 27th April. We look back at the incredible 40 day voyage around the world and at the career of an exceptional skipper – an extreme sailor.
Whether sailing solo or with a crew, Francis Joyon is a record breaking sailor. A champion of me, he is the only person to hold all the greatest ocean racing records at the same time: the round the world record, the Atlantic and 24 hour records. He has his own particular way of doing things. He does it better with few means and all very quietly. We look back at a fifteen year long career, which was marked a few weeks ago by yet another amazing feat: the crewed round the world record – the Jules Verne Trophy – which was shattered in just 40 days. Half as long as it took Philéas Fogg…
After Bruno Peyron (triple holder in 1993, 2002 et 2005) Peter Blake and Robin Knox Johnston (1994), Olivier de Kersauson (1997 and 2004), Steve Fossett (2004 – outside of the Jules Verne rules), Franck Cammas (2010) and Loïck Peyron (2012), Francis Joyon and the crew of IDEC SPORT became on 26th January 2017 the fastest men around the world.
From a very young age, Francis Joyon decided that his sailing career would involve multihulls, those unstable, yet incredibly rapid machines, where performance is achieved on a knife edge. After a few successes in major fleet races, including making it to the podium in the Route du Rhum, the Transat, the Europe Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre among others, he moved to record breaking attempts. Alone. With one idea on his mind – to sail around the world as quickly as possible without stopping on a multihull.
That is how this series of records began. In 2004, he set the outright round the world record by completing the voyage in 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds. This was twenty days better than the previous time and for the first time achieved non-stop. The sailing fraternity was astounded and only Ellen MacArthur managed to improve on that time, before Francis Joyon grabbed his record back in 2008. But more about that later.
The solo North Atlantic record
The menhir from Locmariaquer, as he is referred to in the French press, would not stop there. In early July in 2005, Joyon seized the North Atlantic record for the first time, which had been in place for eleven years. He completed the crossing in 6 days and 4 hours. During this crossing, he also set a new record for the distance sailed by a single-handed sailor in 24 hours: 543 miles on 3rd July 2005. Unfortunately these two achievements would be marred on the delivery trip home to La Trinité-sur-mer. His autopilot failed and the first IDEC trimaran was swept onto the rocks at Penmarc’h (SW Brittany) and was totally destroyed.
Solo first, then with a crew
It could all have ended there had it not been for the courage and perseverance of two men: Francis Joyon and Patrice Lafargue, the president of the IDEC group, the most loyal of sponsors. In 2006, they had a new trimaran built at Marsaudon Composites measuring almost 30m (29.70 m) based on a design by Benoît Cabaret and Nigel Irens. This was the boat that would be sailed by Francis Joyon to achieve his greatest successes. After warming up racing across the English Channel (6 hours and 23 minutes), Francis Joyon set off again to win back his round the world record on Friday 23rd November 2007. He was back in Brest after 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, shattering many intermediate records along the way, as well as the 24-hour record (616 miles), setting new records at the Equator, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin (the Indian Ocean record), the Pacific. On 19th January 2008, when he arrived home after so many challenges, including a mast which almost fell, it was seen as the most incredible feat. At that time, only Bruno Peyron’s giant catamaran Orange II with a crew of fourteen had done better. This was therefore the second best outright time ever. Joyon entered the history books and was named sailor of the year and given the title of knight of the Legion of Honour, even though he shunned publicity and is not someone who enjoys the limelight, but he clearly ruled the waves, as this record remained in place for eight years. When his rival Thomas Coville managed to beat this time after several failed attempts, his first thoughts went out to Francis Joyon.
Opening up new routes
Let’s go back to 2008. Bathing in the success of his round the world record, Joyon could have taken a break, but that was not to be the case. He went on to tackle the Columbus Route between Cadiz and San Salvador, improving on the previous time by more than a day with a time of 9 days and 20 hours. Over the following years, Francis Joyon opened up new routes like the voyage between Port Louis in Morbihan (Brittany) and Port Louis in Mauritius and then the Friendship Route between Bordeaux and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), which he completed in 13 days. In 2012, he also bettered his 24-hour sailing record once again, clocking up 668 miles, averaging almost 28 knots. In 2013, he smashed the Columbus Route record again with a time of 8 days and 16 hours and shattered the North Atlantic record in 5 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds between New York and the Lizard Point in Cornwall…
From the Ultimate Trophy to the Jules Verne Trophy
In 2013, Francis became the first and so far only sailor to take the Ultimate Trophy, honouring the skipper to possess the four big solo records: the round the world record, the Atlantic crossing, the 24-hour distance record and the Columbus Route record. As he approached his sixties, we might have thought that Joyon had had enough, but once again, he surprised us. With IDEC, he bought the former Groupama (which had become Banque Populaire) and took up a very different challenge, moving to crewed sailing and attempting to smash the Jules Verne Trophy record. Joyon came up with the idea of using a small crew of just five, half or a third of the size of most crews attempting this challenge. The boat would set off with a short mast, making her an all round performer and lighter. A small mast and a small crew. That was something few believed in, but Joyon was proved right. There was first of all an incredible duel around the planet with the giant Spindrift during the winter of 2015, which saw them just miss out (47 days, 14 hours) but there was a consolation prize with the Indian Ocean record. We know what happened next. Alex Pella, Clément Surtel, Bernard Stamm, Gwénolé Gahinet and Boris Herrmann got on so well together that they were determined to give it another go, as soon as possible.
Around the world in 40 days
A year later, with the German Boris Hermann, busy with his own 60-foot project, they were not to be reunited, but Sébastien Audigane would replace him on board and there was once again the same joyful atmosphere. Sébastien Audigane would say when talking about their dash across the Southern Ocean “This was the most violent and magnificent run in my sailing career. For six days in a row, they sailed more than 850 miles, covering more than 8000 miles in 10 days! Astounding. All of the intermediate records – thirteen in all – would fall during the legendary Jules Verne Trophy attempt, which Francis Joyon and his crew would complete in Brest on 26th January 2017 improving on the time set by Loïck Peyron’s crew by 4 days and 14 hours… and symbolically halving the time set by Phileas Fogg in the Jules Verne novel: 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds. Averaging almost 22 knots over the theoretical distance and 26.85 knots over the 26,412 miles they actually sailed, it was one of the greatest achievements of the 21st Century in any sport.
The Maxi Trimaran IDEC SPORT sailed by Francis Joyon, Clément Surtel, Alex Pella, Bernard Stamm, Gwénolé Gahinet and Sébastien Audigane won the Jules Verne Trophy completing the round the world voyage at 0749hrs UTC on Thursday 26th January 2017.
Francis Joyon and his crew sailed the 22,461 miles of the theoretical route in 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds, at the average speed of 22.84 knots.
In reality, they sailed 26,412 miles out on the water averaging 26.85 knots.
They shattered the previous record held by Loïck Peyron and the crew of the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V by 4 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds.
In so doing they also smashed 6 intermediate records at Cape Leeuwin, Tasmania, the International Date Line, the Horn, the Equator and Ushant.
List of intermediate records smashed during the round the world voyage
To the Equator: 5 days, 18 hours, 59 minutes, or 4 hours and 3 minutes behind Banque Populaire V
Good Hope: 12 days, 19 hours, 28 minutes, or 0 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes behind Banque Populaire V
Cape Agulhas: 12 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes, or 0 days, 21 hours, 34 minutes behind Banque Populaire V
Cape Leeuwin: 17 days, 06 hours, 59 minutes, or 16 hours and 58 minutes ahead of Banque Populaire V
Tasmania: 18 days, 18 hours and 31 minutes, or 1 day, 12 hours and 43 minutes ahead of Banque Populaire V
Cape Horn: 26 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes, or 4 days et 6 hours ahead of Banque Populaire V
Equator on the way back up: 35 days, 4 hours and 9 minutes, or 2 days, 22 hours and 36 minutes ahead of Banque Populaire V.
Equator – Ushant: 5 days, 19 hours, 21 minutes
Jules Verne Trophy record in 40 d 23 h 30mn and 30s
2015: Indian Ocean record in 7 days
2014: 6th in the Route du Rhum
2014: Friendship Route record in 13 d, 4 h, 05mins and 19s
2013: Solo North Atlantic record after 5 d 2 h 56 mins and 10s’ (record still held)
2013: Columbus Route record in 8 d 16 h 7 mins and 5 s (bettered by Armel Le Cléac’h)
2012: Solo 24-Hour record sailing 666.2 miles (bettered by Armel Le Cléac’h)
2010: 2nd in the Route du Rhum
2009: Record between France and Mauritius in 26 d 4 h 13 mins and 29 s (1st reference time)
2008: Outright solo round the world record in 57 d 13 h 34 mins and 6 s (record still held)
2007: Solo English Channel crossing in 6 h 23 mins and 36 s (record still held)
2005: Solo North Atlantic record in 6 d 4 h 01 mins and 37 s
2004: Outright solo round the world record in 72 d 22 h 54 mins and 22 s