The route to Brest now appears to be open. Feeling rather less worried after completing his fourth mast inspection, JOYON is now concentrating on the only job that really matters for him - his route strategy between the Azores high and the deep North Atlantic low. This is crucial in order to reach the finishing line for his single-handed round the world record attempt as quickly as possible, but with an element of caution built in.
Taking advantage of a (relative) calm in the weather and a cleaner swell, yesterday JOYON went back up the 32-metre mast of his maxi-trimaran, IDEC, for the fourth time in five days. After an hour and a half of work balanced at the top in his climbing harness, he came back down, visibly pleased with the state of what he saw and the repair that was carried out on the weakened anchor point for his starboard shroud.
With the wind from astern and at 180° to the route for a part of yesterday afternoon, JOYON, who never puts off until tomorrow what can be done today, took advantage of the first respite in the trade wind to carry out one last check up on his damaged mast. The latest telephone conversations with Dominique MARSAUDON, the maker of the mast and the designers, Nigel IRENS and Benoit CABARET, convinced him of the measures required to secure, as best as possible, the shroud anchor point, (the shaft of which had come unscrewed, threatening to bring down the mast). It was thus with belts and a big hammer that JOYON went back up to the head of the trimaran's mast.
His first reaction was a great deal of relief, as he could see that the faulty spindle had not budged since the Equator. "In spite of the fact that three days of upwind sailing in the trade wind, could have had some very nasty consequences..." said JOYON.
JOYON then set about using the heavy artillery; "I really went for it," he admitted, and we can well imagine that the screw under the Herculean blows of the sailor from Locmariaquer, is now well and truly jammed in place. "I then fixed the protective cover and strapped the whole thing up with rope and spectra." Thus, strapped and secure, the skipper has once again found his confidence and he can feel much more relaxed. "I feel reassured and I have regained full confidence in my mast."
Right in the middle of the transition zone on the edge of the Azores high, JOYON has continued with the inspection of everything on board his trimaran, which he himself said was beginning to look a bit tired. Under gennaker and mainsail permanently with one reef, IDEC is playing her final hand before the final run towards Brest.
At the beginning of Wednesday afternoon, JOYON gybed to the west, in order to avoid an area of calms. On the port tack, he is looking for some stronger winds before hoisting more sail on the starboard tack for the final sprint towards Brest. A new area of deep low pressure is currently located to his north west. By hopping on to its southern edge, IDEC will pick up some strong southwesterlies, which will be favourable in his home run to reach the tip of Brittany.
"They are forecasting 50-knot winds for the worst of the low," explained an unperturbed JOYON. "I will need to get in the right place to avoid the worst of the blow. It's clear I'm going to get 30-35 knot winds in any case."
No regrets therefore about losing the first reef. Sailing downwind with the swell in the right direction, IDEC could well offer us a final run in line with the performance already achieved since the start in Brest just 54 days ago...
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