“We’re really getting what we came here for now.” Francis Joyon and his four crewmen, Alex Pella, Gwénolé Gahinet, Quentin Ponroy and Sébastien Picault have been enjoying seeing the gap narrow during the night in the middle of the Atlantic between the three maxi-trimarans leading The Bridge 2017. Crossing through a ridge of high pressure in the middle of the night associated with the famous Azores high, which is some 600 milers south of them, meant the gap is down to less than sixty miles between Macif (François Gabart), IDEC SPORT and Sodebo (Thomas Coville).
“We weaved our way around the edge of the ridge of high pressure,” explained Francis, and are starting to pick up the southerlies, which will be veering to the SW with the low coming up east of Newfoundland and it will then be back to upwind sailing.” The southerly wind is warming them up allowing them for a short while to remove their foulies and hoods before they get back upwind. It is however the race between three multihulls is the focus of attention for the men on IDEC SPORT. “We can see that all of the crews are hard at it,” added Francis. “Yesterday evening, when we got the latest weather files, we saw everyone change their bearing at the same moment, proof that the crews are reacting quickly to weather updates.”
They are comparing their speeds and performance and are able to see how they measure up with similar wind angles and strength. “We could see that with some sails and trimming in certain ways, we were faster than Macif. But that in certain wind strengths, when she takes off on her foils, she is a few knots faster. That is interesting for us to see as we look ahead to developing our sails.”
The strategy for the next hour or so is looking simple. The ice exclusion zone is close by and this means they cannot take any extreme options. “There will be a few game plays ahead,” declared Francis, “but no major tactical choices like we used to do in the old days of the Ostar. The exclusion zone is reassuring for us concerning whether there is ice around here or not. If there is thick fog, we’ll turn on the radar and be particularly vigilant. At the moment, the wind is starting to get up again, and we’re going to have to carry out manoeuvres to adapt our sails to the weather conditions.”
Follow the progress of the IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran here