Flying François Gabart stepped up his Vendée Globe challenge with an unprecedented display of lightning fast sailing in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The youngest skipper in the race who, remarkably, is a rookie to solo sailing in the Southern Ocean has set a set a truly electric pace - consistently at a level which none of his rivals have matched - to send the 24 hours solo monohull distance record soaring to a seemingly stratospheric 545.3 miles over the 24 hours to 15:00hrs on 10 December.
By 08:00 UTC on 10 December, 29 years old Gabart had already bettered the recent mark of rival Jean-Pierre Dick, set only ten days ago at a yet to be ratified 502.9 mm when he made 515.6 miles.
This new best 24 hours distance, which needs to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Records Council, riding at the front of a generous low in a good sized, orderly swell reflects an average speed of 22.3 kts and also surpasses easily the two handed record of Dick and Loick Peyron at 506.333 nm set in the last Barcelona World Race.
For a solo ocean racer on a 60 footer, 30 days into a non-stop, no outside assistance three month race, the distance even compares impressively against the outright crewed monohull record of 596.6 miles set in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race by Ericsson, and is only 21 miles shy of the best 24 hour run on the last Volvo Ocean Race.
"I can't really explain why I'm going so fast in the same weather conditions as the others… Maybe my sail settings are different from Armel's. I'm sailing at 22-26 knots, and it should be like that for several more hours. It's very noisy but you get used to it, same for how much the boat shakes. These things become familiar conditions, the norm,"
reported Gabart .
"The autopilot is just fine, the boat is perfectly balanced, so I'm not even worrying about that. That's what allows us to sail fast and effortlessly."
Whilst the record as it stands is a nice Indian Ocean souvenir for Gabart and his Macif team, looking longer term the race's youngest skipper is sitting with the highest average speed for the actual miles sailed so far in the race, presently at 14.9kts. Compared with the 2008-9 average of Gabart's mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, at 14kts for his existing record of 84 days 03 hours 09 minutes, then a sub 80 days circumnavigation is on target.
Gabart's attack took him back into the overall lead this afternoon, ahead of Armel Le Cléac'h by just over one mile after making up more than 54 miles to Le Cléach's Banque Populaire since 9 December evening.
Speeds between the two leaders, racing side by side, separated by just 3.5 miles of ocean, had evened out to around 21kts this afternoon.
"I think I'm doing great in terms of performance, I can see MACIF on my AIS. My average speed is about 20 knots but he's obviously been faster last night. But congratulations on his 24-hour record! 23 knots of average speed is really something, maybe he's taken a bit more risks. Same for the skippers behind, but so far they're doing ok. But I'm focusing on my own race, not the others', and there's still a long way to go,"
Le Cléac'h responded on Vendée Globe LIVE!
While the leading group are well established on their low pressure ride which will stay with them for some days to come, it is more complex now for the trio Mike Golding, Jean Le Cam and Dominque Wavre who have high pressure and lighter winds chasing them, forcing open their separation to the pacemakers.
Vendee Globe Website