This evening is expected to see Francis Joyon aboard his maxi-trimaran yacht IDEC reach the halfway point of his voyage between New York and The Lizard. While at lunchtime today, based on the mathematics, he was some 100 miles off the pace set by the current record-holder, Thomas Coville, the skipper of IDEC yacht stated he was delighted with the first part of the crossing. He managed to get away from the coast of North America, with all its traps as well as hurdles: fog, all sorts of obstacles, winds that were variable in strength and direction.
Maxi-trimaran yacht IDEC © JM Liot / DPPI/ IDEC
Sailing yacht IDEC, as if marking the start of the second stage of the transatlantic crossing gybed in the middle of the day. Francis Joyon has to stick with the strongest conditions associated with the low-pressure area with winds in excess of 25 knots. He will therefore gradually be easing his way back up to a more direct route, which will see him clock up the miles more easily towards the tip of SW England, where he will finish late this week. As the hours slip by, the sailor from Locmariaquer in Brittany is sounding more and more upbeat, as he sees the low moving in a clearer direction, allowing him to be in with every chance all the way to the British Isles.
On a knife edge
The high risk sailing where the tension had remained high for Francis Joyon since the start in New York only eased off for a brief moment this lunchtime; just long enough for Francis to turn his wheel and line up his sails on the right-hand side after being on the left, and then, he accelerated away once again, with the speedo regularly indicating 29-30 knots. He had given this gybe a lot of thought after talking things through with his router Jean-Yves Bernot, and this should enable the giant trimaran yacht IDEC to stay in this corridor of wind sweeping from west to east across the Atlantic.
Francis Joyon has moved away from the bearing that saw him heading down towards Spain and Portugal, to move to colder climes, with wetter weather and cloudy skies. It may seem more hostile, but this weather is synonymous with the winds that will take him towards Northern Europe. Over the next couple of hours, the bows of the red trimaran will therefore come around to point towards the coast of Britain and Francis, just as he has been doing since leaving New York, will be taking his giant trimaran on a knife’s edge journey.
“There were a few little incidents during the night,” Francis told us, referring to moments, when two or three hulls dug into the heavy swell, which has developed in the near gales. “I’m living life at the same pace as during my 24-hour record (set last year when he sailed 666.2 nautical miles). “The difference is that last year, I was able to choose my route for the record, and continue to sail ahead of a low-pressure area on calm seas. Since leaving New York, I have been experiencing a heavy swell, which is sometimes very uneven and that stops the boat from gliding along smoothly.”
The key to this record is in fact down to the ability of the solo sailor to sail close to the edge for as long as possible. There is no time to ease off in this transatlantic sprint, as that would lead to the boat missing out on the favourable air stream.
When the models agree
The suspense is still high during this attempt and each hour and each mile need to be dealt with efficiently. “I got very close to the centre of the low, within 50 miles of it,” explained Francis quickly. “I therefore gybed to get closer to the edge of the low-pressure system, where the winds are stronger.”
Joyon is being kept busy looking at his strategy options, which he discusses with Jean-Yves Bernot, while at the same time has to make sure there is nothing wrong with the boat, and ensure that he is getting the full potential out of IDEC yacht in the given wind strength and direction. We heard nothing at all about how the man himself is feeling. His voice of course, remains as calm as ever.
He is always very careful in his choice of words and as usual, he remains measured in the way he expresses himself, whether things are going well or badly. We did however notice a slight hint of pleasure, when he told us that the low was moving in the right direction. “When we left New York, we were far from certain about the route this low would be taking. Half of the weather models showed it heading off towards Ireland. Today, it would appear that all the models agree that it is going in the right direction for us…”
After a bright spell with temperatures climbing to 20 degrees, this afternoon Francis Joyon plunged back into rain, dull weather and the wind that the big, red trimaran needs to fill its appetite.