Francis Joyon left New York last Thursday sailing alone and without any navigational assistance to deliver his maxi trimaran IDEC SPORT to her home port of la Trinité sur Mer in Brittany, after his excellent second place in The Bridge 2017. As he set off, Francis noticed that the liner, the Queen Mary 2, which took part in The Bridge in a race against the maxi trimarans, was also leaving the United States to head for Southampton. Francis decided to take up the challenge and is aiming to make it back across the Atlantic before the cruise liner. Today (Tuesday) he looks like pulling off what was impossible in the transatlantic crossing from east to west. Better still, he is in with a chance of smashing his own solo North Atlantic record tonight!
A leopard never changes its spots. He hardly had time to recover from The Bridge, a crewed race last month, which brought together four of the largest racing multihulls in the world. Francis Joyon quickly decided to sail his giant trimaran back to France alone. There was no complicated weather analysis or stand-by or indeed any special arrangements put in place on IDEC SPORT, which left the Hudson River to sail by Ambrose Light on Thursday 6th July at 2330 hrs UTC. Francis set the black box in motion to record the sailing data. His aim was not just to see how he coped alone for the first time aboard the giant trimaran, but if weather conditions permitted, he thought he would try to break the 24-Hour Sailing record, currently held by Thomas Coville (Sodebo) who sailed 714 miles in June 2016. IDEC SPORT, ex Groupama, ex Banque Populaire VII, has only been sailed twice before by a solo skipper. Once by Franck Cammas and then by Loïck Peyron in their winning Route du Rhum races in 2010 and 2014.
Francis was this morning 340 miles from the Lizard, which marks the finish line for transatlantic records. He needs to round the point before 0225 hrs UTC on Wednesday 12th July to beat the record he set aboard his previous IDEC trimaran on 16th June 2013, when he set a time of 5 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds, averaging 23.3 knots. “It’s going to be down to the final minute,” explained Francis Joyon this morning. “I need to tack off the coast of Ireland, as the wind is directly astern of me. I set off in conditions which didn’t even look like what we hope for when setting records. But on Saturday conditions improved and I was able to follow a better route than the one I took close to the Azores in 2013. I took up the challenge and tried to do my best sailing solo. It requires a lot of effort as I have had to do a lot of manoeuvres. On top of that, my autopilots aren’t working well, so I prefer to stay at the helm myself to be faster. I gain about 15% in efficiency when I’m at the helm.” As you might imagine, there is little time for rest and the 61-year old skipper from La Trinité has only grabbed short ten minute naps since Saturday.
With the Queen Mary 2 delayed by a medial emergency for two hours off Halifax, she is only due to arrive in Southampton on Thursday morning, but Francis is not only gaining his revenge over the giant cruise ship, but in the process of achieving another major success and this time it has been completely improvised.