On this fifteenth day of racing in this attempt to smash the Jules Verne Trophy record, as has been the case since the start from Brest on 22nd November, the crew of the IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran remains upbeat and fully motivated. After sailing 8500 miles out on the water at an average of 25 knots, the boat is nevertheless 785 miles behind the record pace this lunchtime, or in other words around a day’s sailing for such a highly technical multihull. Francis Joyon and his crew of five, Gwénolé Gahinet, Alex Pella, Boris Herrmann, Clément Surtel and Bernard Stamm are enjoying the experience, while looking ahead eastwards to Cape Leeuwin and the promise of stronger winds blowing in the right direction, which should allow them to get back to the level of performance they achieved in the North Atlantic, when IDEC SPORT, in spite of her smaller crew and inferior length, managed to do better than the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy.
Ice on the deck
There is ice in the water and on the boat. That was the great surprise at the first light of day at the start of this fifteenth day of racing; a frozen, slippery deck, with chunks of ice falling from the rigging to the deck. At latitude 52 degrees south, IDEC SPORT is sailing in the icy wilderness, which quite naturally leads even the most hardened sailor to feel apprehensive. Francis Joyon could see the rapid drop in the temperature of the water, “3 degrees, 2.5… 1.5… !” These numbers do not merely mean that it is bitterly cold for the men on watch and the helmsman in particular, but confirm that this environment favours the presence of ice. They have to remain vigilant and observe what is going on in the waters around them. The helmsman on IDEC SPORT is therefore joined by a second sailor, who watches what is happening and studies the ice charts on a laptop. “We have reduced the time spent at the helm,” explained Alex Pella. “After one hour, the bitter cold attacks your hands and face, and so it is a wise measure to change over who is at the helm.”
Latitude 54 degrees south
The fog, which has been a permanent feature for the past 48 hours in this transition zone with its light winds, lifted for a moment this morning to allow a few rays of sunshine through onto these uniformly grey and quiet seas. “The boat is sailing smoothly,” added Pella. “The sea is slight, and the boat cuts her way through the water without any problem. We would like to see more than the 18 knots of wind we currently have. But that will be for later.” The low-pressure area, which is moving sluggishly behind IDEC SPORT will in the end catch up and overtake the boat, so Joyon and his troops hope to pick up speed again shortly. “We are going to have to continue to dive towards the south,” explained Francis. “We’re probably going to have to go down to 54 degrees south. We shall sail a long way south of the Kerguelens, but close to Heard Island, which I hope we will go to the north of.” This will be another opportunity for the six men aboard the multihull to see one of those rare, mysterious islands in the Southern Ocean with its wealth of marine life. “We haven’t really seen many albatrosses since we got down here,” explained Francis. “Guéno and I saw one. On the other hand, there are lots of petrels, which watch us go by, a bit like cows watch passing trains.”