If we look at the incredible comeback achieved by the skipper of IDEC SPORT over the past 48 hours, the finish of the Route du Rhum has taken on the air of a Hitchcock suspense movie. No one foresaw this outcome in Saint-Malo, where most people thought he had no chance against the big boys. Francis Joyon in record-breaking mode has played an excellent hand. As a sailor he is used to fighting hard, keeping up high speeds and achieving what was thought to be impossible. He has shown total confidence in his boat and pushed her harder than we have ever seen before. For once, luck has rewarded his audacity. Facing his rival for victory, François Gabart aboard his flying maxi trimaran, Macif, Joyon’s determination and hard work since the very start have paid off. The gap has melted away. From 140 miles just 48 hours ago, the incredible Francis Joyon has narrowed it to around twenty miles. With fewer than 200 miles to go to the finish with the final highly unpredictable 70 miles around Guadeloupe, the outcome of the race has yet to be decided.
Can nothing stop Francis Joyon? He appears immune to damage and tiredness. With the arrival of the new flying machines, his human and sporting approach to the Route du Rhum was relegated to the wings. Francis Joyon has shown that was not really the case by highlighting the importance of commitment, determination and resilience, hard work and the vital harmony established between the sailor and his boat. If some people smile when they say his old fashioned way of preparing, the giant from Locmariaquer has always had a practical approach to ocean racing relying on his own efforts and commitment to serve his boat.
In the seven days of the Route du Rhum, Joyon has been in Atlantic record-breaking mode, sacrificing everything – sleep eating, communication to make sure he has been at one with his IDEC SPORT. Joyon lives and breathes multihulls. It is true that he knows he can count on Christian Dumard and Gwénolé Gahinet to keep an eye out for the slightest change in the weather pattern. He sends back a word or two, an SMS, to be able to continue to advance and keep a clear head, while showing no signs of tiredness. At the age of 62, as when he was thirty when he raced his first Route du Rhum, Joyon never calculates anything. He just gives it his all. More than just the result, Francis enjoys sailing for what it is, living it to the full. His aim is to be faster all the time, never content with seeing the miles being clocked up as the seas pass under his floats and the wind whistles in the sails.
As they approach Guadeloupe, the wind will ease off and become less stable. Thundery areas around the island will make things complicated for the two solo sailors. A new battle is about to begin. More subtle. But also more unpredictable too. Francis will be counting on his instinct and experience to guide his giant trimaran closer and closer to his rival. It is expected that they will arrive off Guadeloupe (off the Tête à l’Anglais point) at around 1700hrs local time or 21hrs UTC. It is looking like there is a long night ahead of them and it is going to be full of suspense.