Spindrift 2 Gybe decisions on Jules Verne quest

Published on November 23rd, 2015

(November 23, 2015; Day 2) – After a lively crossing of the Bay of Biscay, the 40m VPLP-designed trimaran Spindrift 2 is now making over 30 knots on the trade winds. At 1745 GMT the crew was 44 miles behind the current record holder, trying to beat the record and claim the Jules Verne Trophy. The distance they have covered from the start is 1130 miles with an average speed of 29 knots over 24 hours.

Helmsman/Trimmer Dona Bertarelli says of the attempt so far, “This morning we performed the only gybe of the entire North Atlantic. Now it’s plain sailing in calmer waters. Temperatures are getting milder, and we’ve changed our oilskins for lighter ones. My watch finished an hour ago, but I can’t sleep. On board, we’re making the most of the calm conditions to check the state of the boat, tidy up, clean, and dry things out. A strong smell of glue has invaded the entire main hull. It’s hard to remain inside. Antoine is meticulously repairing the boot heater, which had come loose. The heater is a much-needed equipment when you know that, once you reach the Southern Ocean, it will be 5ºC maximum in the living quarters and everything will be soaking wet. Fighting the moisture will be a key battle.”

The picture over the Atlantic from Saturday, November 21 was a dream one for any Jules Verne challenger: an anticyclone in the North Atlantic and a low-pressure area in the Mediterranean. Between these two systems, a strong and consistent north-easterly at least until the Canaries. After that we’ll see…

Everything was perfect, right down to the smallest detail, as is clear in the top right of the images. Before going wild on the north wind motorway, it was necessary to get out of a patch of light wind that appeared overnight from Saturday to Sunday over Brittany.

In theory, it’s easy. In practice, it’s obviously not so simple: in order to cross the start line north of Ushant, you have to leave Brest across the crop of rocks that protect it from the Iroise Sea. That’s never simple at night with rather large boats designed for large spaces.

Finally, the start at around 0400 (UTC): heading west in a sluggish north wind, just enough to get 6 degrees west and finally fly south.

Around 0600, there they were: driving fast in northerly wind of 30-40 knots. Squalls, gusts, 4-metre waves from the north. Sails reduced enough to descend south at 30-35 knots: 2 reefs and the small gennaker called “the string” by the observant and facetious sailors.

Today (Monday): gybing in the morning to the east of the Azores is “The topic of the day”. This is a critical point of the trajectory: you can slip under the Atlantic anticyclone, on a starboard tack and then “cunningly” gybe south. The position you end up in then will decide the trajectory virtually until the doldrums.

This is the usual dilemma: Gybe too early and you may end up too close to the wind shadow of the island chains that watch over this road: the Canaries and the Cape Verde Islands. Gybing too late and it’s bit like driving “backwards” towards the US coast whilst we’re actually trying to go south. Sailors don’t like that…

So, the team will refine, polish, calm the impatient and engage with the undecided. Anyway, this afternoon, they will drive south, on a well-established port tack in a strong trade wind, probably until Thursday 26 and the approach of the doldrums.

To beat the record, Spindrift 2 must return to Ushant before 17:43:51 GMT on January 6th, 2016, i.e. 1 minute quicker than the previous time, as per the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC) rules. Between now and then, the 14 sailors must sail around the world via the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn) on the world’s largest racing trimaran. They will be supported by their onshore router Jean-Yves Bernot, who will operate from his headquarters near La Rochelle (France). Day and night, Jean-Yves will keep a close eye on the boat and on the latest weather updates, which will allow him to work with Yann Guichard and onboard navigator Erwan Israel to identify the best route to follow.

The record attempt by Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard and their crew began four years to the day since the current record-holder, Loïck Peyron, began his attempt. Banque Populaire V set that record at an average speed of 19.75 knots (36.58 km/h) for the theoretical shortest route of 21,600 nautical miles, but they actually travelled 28,965 miles, averaging 26.5 knots (49.08 km/h) over the six weeks. The time set in that impressive performance was 45d 13h 42m 53s, a tough time to beat.

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Jules Verne Trophy:
Start and finish: a line between Créac’h lighthouse (Ushant island) and Lizard Point (England)
Course: crewed circumnavigation via the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn).
Minimum distance: 21 600 miles (40 000 km)
Ratification: World Sailing Speed Record Council, www.sailspeedrecords.com
Time to beat: 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds
Average speed: 19.75 knots on the theoretical 21,600 nautical mile route, but 26.5 knots on the actual 28,965 nautical mile route.
Date of current record: January 2012
Holder: Banque Populaire V, Loïck Peyron and a 13-man crew
Stand-by start date for Spindrift 2: October 19th, 2015

Yann Guichard, skipper
Dona Bertarelli, helmsman-trimmer
Sébastien Audigane, helmsman-trimmer
Antoine Carraz, helmsman-trimmer
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, helmsman-trimmer
Christophe Espagnon, helmsman-bowman
Jacques Guichard, helmsman-trimmer
Erwan Israël, navigator
Loïc Le Mignon, helmsman-trimmer
Sébastien Marsset, bowman
François Morvan, helmsman-trimmer
Xavier Revil, helmsman-trimmer
Yann Riou, media reporter
Thomas Rouxel, helmsman-bowman
Jean-Yves Bernot, onshore router

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