death match 2015

track.pngThe two super trimarans vying for the Jules Verne Trophy are already nearly half way around the world having set sail on November 22 and will soon be passing under New Zealand which is considered the midpoint of the circumnavigation. They have covered almost 13,000 nautical miles at an average speed approaching 28 knots.

As I write this both IDEC Sport skippered by Francis Joyon and Spindrift skippered by Yann Guichard are both averaging speeds in the low 30s and are under the bight of Australia. It’s been an amazing match race with both boats chasing a ghost ship around the world. Current Jules Verne record holder Banque Populaire V is  very much in there in the match race and until yesterday was ahead of both challengers.

Today Spindrift found a fast lane and Guichard and his crew are now 35 miles ahead of where Banque Populaire V was at the same point in their circumnavigation. IDEC Sport trails Spindrift by 120 miles but despite being at the back of the pack they are celebrating. They just set a new record for the fastest transit of the Indian Ocean. Never before in history has a boat sailed from Cape Agulhas at the bottom of South Africa to Cape Leeuwin on Australia’s west coast in under six days. IDEC Sport covered the distance in 5 days 11 hours and 23 minutes, an amazing accomplishment. Track them both here.

Spindrift Racing has been in front of both Banque Populaire V and IDEC Sport for most of the voyage. Indeed at one time they were over 400 miles ahead of Joyon and his crew, but IDEC Sport have narrowed the gap to just over three hours of sailing time. Joyon is sailing with a small crew of six while there is double that number on Spindrift.

It’s interesting to note that IDEC Sport was formerly Groupama 3 which held the Jules Verne record until Banque Populaire V smashed it back in 2012. Frank Cammas was the skipper and Joyon and his small team are almost three days faster than Groupama 3 was on their successful Jules Verne record attempt.

The Pacific lies ahead and Banque Populaire V had what they considered to be a relatively slow crossing from New Zealand to Cape Horn. The challengers transit of the Indian Ocean was marred by the proximity of ice with the ice being further north than normal which in turn restricted the boats from going too far south. The great circle route, the shortest route between two points on the globe, would take them right over Antarctica. Both skippers have said that the would have liked to be able to go further south to save some distance, but the danger of hitting ice is all too real.

Looking toward the Pacific Yann Guichard said, “So far there is no drift ice ahead of us but this will depend on our route. The Pacific looks pretty calm, without large depressions. For now, there is no big weather either ahead of us or behind us.” What I like is how easy both teams are making it look but having sailed in the Southern Ocean numerous times I know that anything can happen and when it happens it happens in a split second.

A chunk of ice or a piece of debris could bring either boat to an immediate stop and cause the end of their record attempt. Here’s hoping for a trouble free trip to Cape Horn and back up the Atlantic to the finish.

– Brian Hancock. Read all about yarn here. Not the kind of yarn you are thinking…