For his seventh attempt at the Route du Rhum, Francis Joyon set sail feeling confident in the reliability of his boat and his ability to sail her above her theoretical potential. With that in miNd, he felt able more or less to keep up with the new generation of flying books that have been in the media spotlight. Determined as ever to do things his way and without paying attention to what his rivals were up to, Francis set off on Sunday 4th November with his foot hard on the accelerator in ideal wind and sea conditions and perfect weather.
Avoiding damage in the nasty seas
As soon as he entered the Atlantic, he faced his first major difficulty with a powerful low-pressure front forcing him to carry out a change of tack to dive south as the wind swung around violently to the NW. He then faced two choices and he had to come to a decision off Cape Finisterre. He could either hug the coast of Spain, which meant sailing further or stick to the Great Circle route by heading further west, while risking hellish seas with 7 to 8 metre high waves. Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire IX chose the latter option, while Francis and François Gabart, close together, sailed down the coast of Portugal to gybe at the latitude of Gibraltar. The two trimarans were still together as they reached Madeira hoping that the trade winds would strengthen. After two and a half days of racing, only Macif and IDEC SPORT remained competitive. Gabart stepped up the pace in the stronger trade winds, followed at a distance by Francis Joyon, who remained guarded.
Francis went on the attack
That was when Francis, who until then had been cautious and holding back, whipped his horses into action achieving a level of performance rarely seen on this trimaran, even when she was sailed by a crew in the successful Jules Verne Trophy campaign. “I am permanently above the boat’s polars,” he openly admitted feeling confident in the boat and with the clear desire to give it his all in this dash across the Atlantic.
Macif dragging her feet, advantage IDEC SPORT
At the halfway point, the gap to the Macif flying trimaran had become worrying at more than 120 miles. More than ever, Francis put his foot down. The figures confirmed what his shore team of routers, Christian Dumard and Gwénolé Gahinet suspected; François Gabart had a problem, which prevented his maxi trimaran from flying and inflicting humiliation on IDEC SPORT. Constantly trimming and remaining at the helm, forgetting to sleep and eating whatever he could pick up quickly, Francis started to claw back the miles. At first it was hardly noticeable, but then the miles ticked by, which meant that with 24 hours to go to the finish, he was less than thirty miles behind his rival.
Final act with the race around Guadeloupe
The final act which involved sailing around the island of Guadeloupe was known to be full of traps with some odd weather patterns leading to thundery squalls moving around the islands.
The skipper of IDEC Sport took 7 days 14 hours 21 minutes and 47 seconds to complete the 3542 mile course at an average speed of 19.42 knots. He has set a new record time for the course beating Loïck Peyron’s 2014 time by 46 minutes and 45 seconds.