The past week has been a dramatic one for armchair sailors who have been watching the multihull action on the Atlantic. We have seen no fewer than three big trimarans racing down the Atlantic in independent efforts to break three different records all held in veteran sailor Francis Joyon’s iron grip. The long wait for a favorable weather pattern actually began last October, and two men in Brittany left within a few hours of each other, while the third man jumped into the game a week later from southern Spain, needing only a clear run to the NE tradewinds to give him a flying start.
The starting order looked like this:
1) Prince De Bretagne 80′–Lionel Lemonchois Jan 16 at 15:52 from Port Louis, S. Brittany to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Record to break Joyon’s 26 dats 4 hours.
2) Sodebo 103′–Thomas Coville Jan 17 at 07:42 from Brest, W.Brittany around the world and back. Record to break Joyon’s 57 days
3) Banque Populaire VII 105′–Armel Le Cléac’h Jan 23 at 19:57 from Cadiz, Spain to the Bahamas on the Columbus Route. Record to break Joyon’s 8 days, 16 hours
Two weeks later and the whole show came to a shuddering halt. The long and short of it was this:
#1) Jan 27–Lemonchois capsizes 800 miles off Brazil, he is awaiting rescue in the upturned hull. On Feb 1, six days into his ordeal, the skipper passed his 54th birthday in fairly tolerable conditions, and a well-equipped tug left Rio de Janeiro….
#2) Jan 30–Coville quits in disgust in the south Atlantic after a day’s run of 35 miles puts him 1,000 miles behind record pace. This was his fifth attempt to break the record.
#3) Jan 30–Le Cléac’h reaches Columbus’ landfall of San Salvador in less than a week, and also sets a new solo 24 hour record of 682 miles! He sailed 4271 miles at an average speed of 25.5 knots.
He commented: “”It was divided into three parts: a fast run down to the Canaries, the first half of the Atlantic crossing in very strong conditions with with over 30 knots of wind, and a more technical second half where it was necessary to gybe. Rounding Gran Canaria was difficult with a rough sea running, but then I found my rhythm and the right settings which allowed me to beat the 24 hour distance record (682 miles). In the end thanks to a good average speed, I beat the time Franck Cammas and his crew managed on this course [on this same boat in 2007] ”
From this we can learn some important lessons:
a) Fast is not always fun: this is the fourth capsize the rapidly diminishing French fleet of about ten racing trimarans 50-80′ long has suffered this year.
b) The wind calls the tune: Joyons is not only a fantastic sailor, his descent of the Atlantic in 2007 looks utterly unbeatable.
c) The wind doesn’t care how long you waited: you win some, you lose some.
d) Racing singlehanded on a boat that can hit 40 knots–and has come close to flipping even with a crew of 10–makes this a very high-risk business.
Route of Discovery records
1988: Serge Madec (Jet Services V) 12d 12h 30m 27s
2000: Grant Dalton and Bruno Peyron (Club Med) in 10d 14h 53m 44s
2003: Steve Fossett (PlayStation) in 9d 13h 30m 18s
2007: Franck Cammas (Groupama 3) 7d 10h 58 min 53 s
2013: Dona Bertarelli & Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2) 6d 14h 29 min 21 s
2004: Francis Joyon (IDEC) in 11 days 3 hours 17 min 20 s
2005: Thomas Coville (Sodeb’O) in 10 days 11h 50 min 20s
2008: Francis Joyon (IDEC) in 9 days 20 hours 32 min 23 s
2013: Francis Joyon (IDEC) 8 d 16 h 07 min 05 s
2014 Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VII) 6d 23h 42 ’18”