Ahead of the start of COVILLE's attempt to break the singlehanded round the world record onboard the trimaran Sodeb'O, his weather routers had forecast a seven-day passage to the equator and they have been proved correct. However, the current holder of the singlehanded round the world record, Francis JOYON (FRA), was faster at this stage of his record breaking voyage, crossing the equator after 6 days and 17 hours.
Seven days and 28 minutes to make the descent of the North Atlantic is quick, even though it may well be an increasingly common feat in the future! Seven days and 28 minutes, means the solo skipper sailed an average speed of 16.3 knots over the water, day and night, with just minutes of sleep snatched here and there.
Last year in the same period, JOYON took a few hours less - 6 days and 17 hours, that is seven and a half fewer hours than COVILLE - benefiting from conditions recognised as being exceptional by all the specialists who scan the world's seas on a permanent basis. These same seas are in the process of becoming the new playing field of sailors, if we are to believe the number of racing yachts which have passed this way over recent weeks. As COVILLE pointed out on Monday, he really had to battle for the last 48 hours with a very, very special semblance of a Doldrums, which was very high north and paradoxically not very active. All this seems due to an enormous cloud mass as worrying as it was unforeseen, which settled to the south of the Cape Verde islands and lined itself right across his path. This zone of cloud really upset the generally well-established NE'ly tradewind in this area, thus hampering the express descent led by the maxi-trimaran Sodeb'O from Brest.
"Yesterday I was fighting like a wildcat, it was exhausting! Constantly battling through squalls with the wind doing exactly what it wanted. It was really full on at times and it was hard to know if I should dump all the sail or chance everything and go head down into it without knowing what was behind the black curtain! You no longer know which is the way out and it just goes on and on. The mainsail halyard was poised to drop. I had nearly 600 m² of sail above me to deal with if it all went pear-shaped. A real game of calling its bluff!" explained COVILLE.
Once past this cloud mass, COVILLE battled for seemingly endless hours through the chop and light winds of the so called convergence zone itself. Since mid-morning the situation has become more organized with increasingly steady SE'ly winds of around 15 knots, familiar to the classic tradewind scenario of the southern hemisphere.
Doubtless a 2,500 to 3,000 mile run now lies in store with headwinds and a relatively steep chop. COVILLE will just have to make do with it prior to hanging a left into the Indian Ocean. For the time being, the wind seems stable across the whole of the South Atlantic, with Sodeb'O likely to need around nine days to make the upwind descent with slightly eased sheets before making the turn. Aside from the heeling, the sailing conditions on multihulls are pretty much the same as on the particularly wide modern monohulls like those in the Vendée Globe.
"Thanks to the appendages and hull shapes, today's multihulls are able to make a course. A lot of them have canting masts to enable them to sail to windward better," explains Thierry BRIEND, in charge of coordinating the shore crew. He goes on to add that although the multihull makes twice as much headway as a monohull in these sailing conditions, it also takes off more on each wave.
It's certainly sporty!
The Record To Beat
Record: Round the World, non stop, singlehanded
Yacht: IDEC, 90ft trimaran
Skipper: Francis JOYON (FRA)
Dates: January 2008
Elapsed time: 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds
Distance: 21,769 nautical miles
Average Speed: 15.84 knots