I have been trying to come up with some kind of superlative to describe the awesome accomplishment by Francis Joyon and his crew aboard IDEC as they totally obliterated the Jules Verne non-stop, circumnavigation record. Let me be clear. When Loïck Peyron and his team aboard Banque Populaire V set the record three years ago it was deemed by many sailing pundits to be almost impossible to beat. Peyron and company got handed some lucky weather breaks and whomever was out to better their time would need not only blinding speed, but some lucky breaks as well. There is no doubt that IDEC had blinding speed; they left a trail of new records in their wake, but they also got a massive weather opportunity in the final days of their circumnavigation.
As Banque Populaire V headed up the Atlantic they were faced with the Azores High standing between them and the finish off the coast of France. Their options were limited; sail to the east of the High and face headwinds or take the long road to the west up and around the High. They took the long road first heading northwest at ninety degrees to their course, then north, and finally turning to the east when they were around the latitude of Limerick in Ireland. I don’t have the numbers but they must have added hundreds of miles to their course.
By contrast IDEC was able to sail an almost direct route to the finish and not only that, they were able to hook onto some nice little low pressure systems that catapulted them into the record books. I think it’s pretty clear that they were going to beat Banque Populaire V’s reference time, but this little gift from the wind gods is going to ensure that this record stands for a very long time.
For expediency I am going to lift some information direct from the IDEC press release.
“They crossed the finish at 0749hrs UTC on Thursday 26th January 2017. Francis Joyon and his crew sailed the 22,461 theoretical miles in 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds, at an average speed of 22.84 knots. Out on the water, they actually sailed 26,412 miles at an average speed of 26.85 knots. They shattered the previous record set by Loïck Peyron and the crew of the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V by 4 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds. During this round the world voyage, they smashed no fewer than six intermediate records at Cape Leeuwin, off Tasmania, on the International Date Line, at Cape Horn, at the Equator and off Ushant.”
When the first Jules Verne record was set in 1993 by Bruno Peyron and his crew which included American Cam Lewis, they lapped the planet in 79 days and some change. The point was to get around in less than 80 days and they managed to get across the finish line with a few hours to spare. Prior to their record breaking circumnavigation many sailors doubted that it could be done. When the idea of the Jules Verne Trophy was concocted on a barge on the River Seine in Paris, the fastest circumnavigation time was 109 days (set by Titouan Lamazou when he won the Vendée Globe).
To sail around the world in less than 80 days one would have to sail a full 27% faster. It’s easy to look back and think how attainable a goal it was, but in 1990 the idea of sailing around the world in less than 80 days was daunting. Look at it now from the vantage of two and a half decades into the future and realize that IDEC’s time was twice as fast as the original 1993 record and even more impressive, they lopped more than 10% off Banque Populaire V ‘s time. Unreal.
So let me just leave the superlatives aside and congratulate the crew. Francis Joyon you are a master seaman but you were helped by some equally competent sailors. Clément Surtel, Alex Pella, Gwénolé Gahinet, Sébastien Audigane and my mate Bernard Stamm. Seven great sailors who are now in the history books. Bien fait les hommes. – Brian Hancock.