Francis JOYON and IDEC are now on a direct course for the Azores and then the finish at Brest, as he moves within the final 2,000 miles of his solo round the world voyage.
After an exhausting and drama-filled weekend, where Francis JOYON's (FRA) incredible solo round the world record attempt almost came to an end, today things are looking much better for the skipper of the giant red trimaran. However, JOYON is still planning his fourth climb up IDEC's mast to inspect the damage to the starboard shroud, although yesterday the French skipper was sounding confident that a sub-60 day voyage was still on the cards.
If reassured by the condition of his mast, JOYON will be able to look forward more confidently to the final days of sailing that lie ahead. The weather pattern is in his own words favourable, and he just needs to avoid hanging around on the way. "With the westerly winds, we can hope to finish on 20 or 21 January [Sunday or Monday meaning a round the world time of under 60 days]. We must not dawdle, as after the 21st, there are calms and upwind conditions expected in the Bay of Biscay. I want to make the most of the weekend's southwesterlies to reach Brittany,"
JOYON said yesterday.
Overnight IDEC has made good progress, moving within 2,000 miles of the finish at Brest and extending his lead of Ellen MACARTHUR's record pace to more than 3,000 miles. This morning he has turned to a more northeasterly course and is now on a direct heading to the Azores.
Early Monday night was characterized once again by some tough sailing, with some unexpected squalls popping up, creating 35 knots of variable winds to shake up the large IDEC trimaran and her skipper. However from there things improved and the night ended for JOYON with long-awaited calmer conditions.
"I had some extraordinarily violent squalls early in the night,"
explained JOYON. "Thirty-five knot winds and then behind them calms."
By veering more easterly, the trade wind blowing to the south of the Azores eased off significantly and became much steadier, making it easier for the red multihull to make her way north. With the wind on the beam, resting on her port float, IDEC was sailing along at first light at 16-18 knots on seas that were still quite nasty. Although with a touch of tiredness, JOYON's voice also expressed a little relief. While the threat of seeing his shroud break away from the mast remains present, what lies ahead for the solo yachtsman after 53 days of uninterrupted struggle, seems much clearer, with a route strategy very much in line with what is considered normal in the North Atlantic. He has to round the high, then it will be full speed ahead in the southwesterly flow sweeping right across the northwest corner of France.
With the tough conditions yesterday, it proved another busy 24 hours for JOYON. "I've had to carry out a lot of manoeuvres,"
he explained yesterday. "I have managed to hoist some more canvas. Under the solent and one reef, I'm now sailing on the right tack at a speed of 16 or 17 knots. The boat is not slamming down as heavily and is resting on her float."
JOYON is thus on a clear trajectory, heading due north towards the Azores Archipelago, beneath which the centre of the high is languishing. By tackling this from the south, IDEC will feel the wind go around behind her and so it will be upwind that he will negotiate his way through to the westerly winds. A gybe on the port tack will enable him to round the islands, then one on the starboard tack will mark the start of the final sprint downwind to Brest.
Back Up The Mast
With the change in wind direction, JOYON is waiting in particular for the swell to improve. When the sea calms down, he will be able to make his fourth climb back up the mast. A crucial moment in this round the world voyage, as it will enable JOYON to work out just how much he can get out of his machine before the finish. He explained yesterday, "As I approach the high-pressure area, the wind is easing off and as soon as the swell dies down, tomorrow morning, I'm planning to attempt to go back up the mast to secure my repairs. I need to check out everything on the mast and make sure that the shroud fitting remains in place..."
Although JOYON was sounding optimistic yesterday, he also acknowledged that after 25,000 miles clocked up at high speed, IDEC has lost a little of her splendour. "After the problems with my staysail yesterday, I can see the boat is clearly showing signs of fatigue; I've lost confidence in my spectra lashings and I can see that they are working loose everywhere,"
In spite of the damage, which has held back their progress since the Equator, JOYON and his giant multihull still have a lead of over 3,000 miles over the record journey by Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR). Breaking the symbolic barrier of completing the round the world voyage in less than 60 days remains, if all goes well, still within their grasp.
The Record To Beat
Record: Round the World, non-stop, singlehanded
Skipper: Ellen MACATHUR (GBR)
Dates: 28 November 2004-7 February 2005
Elapsed time: 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds
Distance: 21,760 nm
Average Speed: 12.66 knots
Trimaran IDEC - www.trimaran-idec.com
World Sailing Speed Record Council - www.sailspeedrecords.com