Francis Joyon has shown that you can grow up a long way from the sea (80 miles or so from Paris), come from a family in which no one sails and still become an exceptional sailor. It was during his adolescence during a training course at the Glénans sailing school that Francis went aboard a boat for the first time. This was a revelation for the young man, who then signed on as a volunteer looking after the fleet of boats at the centre. The man from the country had become a sailor. He learnt on the spot and then clocked up the miles doing delivery trips around the world’s seas, seeing this also as way of enjoying his love of nature. After that, he simply would not stop sailing.
At the end of the eighties, Francis met Paul Vatine and made his first incursion into the world of ocean racing on the Columbus Route between Cadiz and Salvador, making it to the podium. It was the start of a long and brilliant career.
Francis Joyon’s philosophy comes from Lavoisier. To compete in his first Route du Rhum, in 1990, Francis recuperated the floats from the former Elf Aquitaine catamaran in la Trinité-sur-Mer to build his new boat. By giving a new life to a multihull that had been left to all winds and weathers, he proved that you can be efficient even without a lot of financial means. It was already an indication of how he would carry out future projects even today: doing the essential things and doing a lot with very little.
Chasing after records
His meeting with the IDEC Group was to mark a turning point in his career. Alongside his new partner, Francis Joyon began chasing after every record, starting with the most prestigious, the non-stop, solo round the world record. He set off aboard his first giant trimaran, Olivier de Kersauson’s Sport Elec, which became IDEC, and had been designed to be raced with a crew of six or seven people. In 2004, he set a new reference time around the world completing the voyage in 72 days 22 hours 54 minutes and 22 seconds: an amazing performance. A year later, the British sailor, Ellen MacArthur grabbed the record from him, giving Francis an opportunity to set off again. Meanwhile, he shattered another legendary record, the solo North Atlantic crossing. But on the delivery trip home between the Lizard and la Trinité-sur-Mer in Brittany, exhausted, he fell asleep and after an electrical failure, his trimaran ran aground on the rocks near Saint-Guénolé. A huge blow, but the giant wasn’t going to give up after that. He had a new boat specially designed to tackle the solo round the world voyage. Aboard IDEC, the second to bear the name he smashed the record completing the journey in 57 days 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds. A huge feat, which so far no one has equalled. At the helm of his red arrow, he improved on other major records: the North Atlantic, the 24-hour record, the Columbus Route. Last summer after setting a new North Atlantic solo record, he put it rather nicely declaring, “Today, there are no more heroes, but sometimes we can still aim to achieve what those who got us dreaming did when we were younger.”
A fine lesson in modesty from the sailor, who also likes to open up new sea routes, as we saw when he launched the route between France and Mauritius in 2009 or the Friendship Route in 2014, and as he is planning to do once again in 2016 with a new route between France and China.
- 2017 Jules Verne Trophy in 40 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes
- 2016 First attempt of Jules Verne Trophy in 47 days, 14 hours and 47 minutes
- 2015 Ocean Indien record in 7 days
- 2014 6th in the Route du Rhum
- 2014 Friendship Route Record between Bordeaux and Rio de Janeiro in 13 d, 4 h, 05’ and 19’’
- 2103 Solo North Atlantic Record in 5 d 2 h 56’ and 10’’ (record still in place today)
- 2013 Columbus Route record in 8 d 16 h 7’ and 5’’ (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’ and 29’’ (initial reference time)
- 2008 Outright solo round the world record in 57 d 13 h 34’ and 6’’ (record still in place today)
- 2007 Solo Channel crossing in 6 h 23’ and 36’’ (record still in place today)
- 2005 Solo North Atlantic crossing in 6 d 4 h 01’ and 37’’
- 2004 Outright solo round the world record in 72 d 22 h 54’ and 22’’
- 2001 Winner of the Fastnet
- 2000 Winner of the Europe 1 transatlantic race
Francis’s latest challenge
Next autumn, Francis Joyon will be back out there chasing after records, but this time with a crew by tackling the legendary Jules Verne Trophy, the crewed round the world voyage, at the helm of a maxi trimaran (ex Groupama 3 then Banque Populaire VII). The time to beat is 45 days 13 hours 42 minutes and 53 seconds set in 2012 by Loïck Peyron and his crew on Banque Populaire V. If he manages to do better, Francis Joyon will become the first man to hold the two finest world records sailing solo and with a crew. The bar is high up, but certainly not above the capability of a sailor like Francis Joyon.