With a few days to go to the start of the stand-by for the Jules Verne Trophy, with a touch of humour and with his usual wisdom, an enthusiastic Francis Joyon tells us about his latest adventure.
You are an expert sailing multihulls alone, so whatever tempted you to shift to crewed sailing?
“My previous boat was well suited to solo racing. But we were getting to the limits of what she could do, as we saw in the Route du Rhum. This one, Franck Cammas’s former Groupama 3, suits both types of sailing. Above all, I want to discover something new! I’m learning a lot and doing different things working with a team. I can see for example that the boat was designed with a completely different angle from IDEC, which was very basic and simple. This boat is more complicated. It’s a very different approach. I’m trying to adapt.”
Why are you setting off with such a short-handed crew and what were the criteria for choosing your five crewmen?
“There were a lot of candidates. I went for three things: skill, the ability to live together and motivation. In this type of record, which lasts 45 days, it’s vital for everyone to get on aboard the boat. There are some sailors with lots of experience and some highly motivated youngsters… that’s what it takes, as it is such an incredible thing to set off around the world. I only went for skippers, good all-rounders, as everyone needs to know how to do everything aboard the boat.”
With just six sailors, that doesn’t seem much compared to the 13 that hold the record or the eleven aboard Groupama. How will you organise things on board?
“I’m outside of the watch schedule. There will always be two men out on deck – a helmsman and a trimmer, with another one on stand-by ready to intervene, while the other two are resting. Everyone will be at the helm. That’s why I was looking for skippers, who can do everything and not crewmen with great talent in one particular role, which is what you see in the bigger crews. It’s bound to be demanding. We’re looking here at an extreme expedition.”
There were eleven aboard this boat, when they smashed the record…
“Yes, but they set off with a big mast and a set of sails with halyards and no furlers. The boat has changed with a smaller mast and sails on furlers, which makes life easier on board. On top of that, the boat lost around two tonnes between Franck Cammas’s crewed version and IDEC SPORT as she is today. We are much lighter with less windage and drag… but yes, it’s bound to be demanding. We mustn’t forget too that setting off with a smaller crew, means we are also that much lighter.”
Looking at the technical aspects, how many sails do you have on board and does sailing with a shorter mast not mean you are handicapped in terms of performance?
“We are setting off with a set of 3Di sails with five in all. The mainsail, a gennaker and three other headsails on furlers: J1, J2 and J3. As for the short mast, the answer is simple: that means we can sail with a short-handed crew with a saving of two tonnes. The boat is much safer and there is less risk of damage. In particular, when the wind gets above twenty knots, we find ourselves in the same configuration as if we had a big mast with one reef taken in… and as we weigh two tonnes less, we can sail that much faster. For a round the world record attempt, the aim is to find strong winds, so it’s not a handicap, but quite the reverse.”
For the routing, you’re going to be working with Marcel Van Triest. Why did you choose him?
“That’s new too. We’re going to find out about each other, but I’m not worried about that. Marcel is the router, who holds the Jules Verne Trophy record. He has a huge list of successes and is a great sailor. He knows all about the Southern Ocean and has worked on the iceberg zone, which will be a huge advantage, I think. He knows what it is all about.”
What does it take to smash the outright round the world record?
“You have to set off at the right moment and deal with the weather systems in the most efficient way possible. I’d say that half of the success is down to the speed of the boat and the other half on getting the timing right between these systems. And then, you have to ensure the crew is well coordinated and fully motivated, but I’m not going to worry about that.”
This will be your third round the world voyage after your two solo records…
“That’s not that many. There are people like Bernard Stamm, who, if they stay at home one winter instead of going around the world on a boat, wonder what’s going on (laughs)! He will be a vital element on board, like Clément (Surtel), Alex (Pella), Gwénolé (Gahinet) or Boris (Herrmann). Let’s just say I am keen to learn still and this time it’s all new to me: the boat, the crew, the router, the computer system… but I’m keen to make progress (laughs)!”
As for the time, how do you feel about the dream time of 40 days to sail around the world?
“A record is a record: if we smash it by one minute, it’s smashed. If we do it with just 59 seconds, we are said to have failed in the rules… But, we’re also out there to set the best time possible. However, 40 days would mean shaving 8 days off the record set by this boat with a crew of eleven… and that looks like a lot to me.”
Seeing you’re not in the watch schedule and with the rest of the crew, you’re going to be able to sleep much more this time and be more relaxed, aren’t you?
(Francis bursts out laughing) “Hey! I’m not sure about that… I can’t guarantee that!”
The crew of IDEC SPORT
Francis Joyon (FRA), skipper
Bernard Stamm (SUI), helmsman-trimmer
Gwénolé Gahinet (FRA), helmsman-trimmer
Alex Pella (ESP), helmsman-trimmer
Clément Surtel (FRA), helmsman-trimmer
Boris Herrmann (GER), helmsman-trimmer
Marcel Van Triest (HOLL), onshore router
Roland Jourdain (FRA), substitute crewman
The Jules Verne Trophy
Record to beat: 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds set by Loïck Peyron and his crew of 13 in January 2012 on the Banque Populaire V (40 m) trimaran
Average speed to beat: 19.75 knots
Course: round the world via the three capes, Good Hope, Leeuwin, Horn.
Great circle distance: 21,600 miles
Start and finish line between Ushant (Créac’h Lighthouse) and the Lizard (SW Britain).
The IDEC SPORT trimaran
Previous names: Groupama 3, Banque Populaire VII
Initial launch: June 2006
Length: 31.50 m
Beam: 22.50 m
Displacement: 15.5 t
Draught: 5.70 m
Mast height: 33.50 m
Upwind sail surface: 411 m2
Downwind sail surface: 678 m2