Our thrilling mid-winter Route du Rhum and Collectif Ultim preview of three solo maxi tri’s out breaking records has come to a sudden and stunning close. Just three days after Lionel Lemonchois and Prince de Bretagne’s capsize, we’ve seen Armel Le Cleac’h and Banque Populaire VII absolutely shatter Francis Joyon and IDEC’s 2013 Route of Discovery Record, while re-raising the 24-hour record twice along the way. Further south in the Atlantic, Coville and Sodebo are calling it quits after getting off to a lackluster start and running into a long, slow south Atlantic route that would see Thomas entering the Indian Ocean three days off the pace.
Armel and Banque Pop crushed. Knocking more than a day and a half off of Francis Joyon’s one-year old record, Armel has lowered the east-to-west solo Transatlantic record to 6 d, 23 h, 42m with a 23.2 knot average. Perhaps more impressive is that he beat the boat’s personal best by beating Franck Cammas and Groupama 3’s fully crewed time by nearly half a day along the same route. Adding 11 and then 16 miles to the 24 hour solo sailing record (which now stands at 682) along the way, Armel has solidified his position as the new man to beat in the Route du Rhum this year.
Sailing south along the coast of Brazil while Francis Joyon’s route was speeding towards the Indian Ocean, the meteorological wheels began to fall off for Coville and Sodebo with a mileage deficit that began multiplying with frequency. Struggling with a large and disorganized Saint Helena high, things went from bad to worse when Coville again found himself sailing a circuitous route to stay in breeze. Sodebo’s long-term route saw Thomas entering the Indian Ocean 1,600 miles behind the record and then forced into diving further south to avoid light airs. With routing that directed Thomas to 60° south and pack ice, (300 miles from Antarctica) and a record that was looking more and more unattainable, the team has abandoned the record attempt and Thomas is headed back to France.
Meanwhile, Lionel Lemonchois is adjusting to living in a capsized trimaran in the South Atlantic, having managed to clean the central hull of spilled engine oil and even sleep comfortably. He has a shore crew on the ground in Brazil and another technical crew having already left Brazil in a tug boat to go recover the upturned 80-foot tri. All in all, Lionel will have spent more than five days in his capsized PdB before this ordeal is over.
SA will continue to cover the maxi tri and solo scene as we work up to our first ever live coverage of this November’s Route du Rhum. – Ronnie Simpson.