Francis Joyon is living up to his legendary reputation as a solo racer in this Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet race. IDEC SPORT, holder of the outright crewed round the world record, is after just three days of racing, battling it out with the holder of the solo round the world record, Francis Gabart’s Macif. Francis is pushing his big trimaran all the way to keep up with a maxi-trimaran from a more recent generation. For Francis, this race is all about the sailor, the man at the helm, and he is giving it his all to remain for as long as possible in a position where he can aim for victory at the finish.
Francis Joyon admittedly found himself in the sort of weather he enjoys where you have to fight hard at the helm in heavy weather. “The first two days were difficult to say the least with some very heavy seas. I had to stay at the helm all the time. I couldn’t answer the phone, as that would have meant leaving the helm. I even had to use my hands to eat (laughs).”
Having experienced some acrobatic dance steps, with IDEC SPORT rising up onto one float, Francis managed to enter an odd sort of transition zone this morning on the edge of the low-pressure system to the west of Madeira, where he weaved his way in and out throughout the morning to make encouraging progress towards the south. Well positioned in a vein of wind, he was surprised to see that he had managed to claw back a few miles from Macif, now around forty miles to his NW. This position as the chasing boat seems to give him a certain amount of pleasure. With the seas gradually easing although taking their time, he has hoisted the gennaker and is pleased to have accelerated without inflicting any suffering on his giant trimaran. “All of these tacks to get back to the west were really horrible in such heavy seas. The boat was slamming violently. With the wind on the beam on the heavy swell, I went through some scary moments with IDEC SPORT rising right up on her float. On several occasions I had to ease the sail urgently. This morning, I’m in the rain under grey skies on the edge of the front. During the first day, the hardest thing was trying to slow the boat down without breaking anything. At the moment I’m under gennaker. I’m not yet in the trade winds, but the seas are now more comfortable. This race is a sprint, which doesn’t give you a moment’s rest. Since the first minute, I have been on the attack, and I’m determined to do what I can until the finish.”