Harken Derm

Five Records Athletes Are Dying to Break

Published on June 15th, 2016

by Erin Beresini, Outside magazine
Who doesn’t dream of going faster, higher, deeper, or longer? Or love debating the merits of those who try? Sports records inspire greatness in our own pursuits and make watercooler talks infinitely more stimulating.

We assembled five of the ballsiest sports records that push the limits of human performance. Then we asked experts when they think those records will fall—because half the fun is watching records get broken.

• World Record Freedive
• Cycling’s Hour Record
• The Marathon World Record
• The Highest Waterfall Kayaked

AND…

• Fastest Solo Around-the-World Sail
In 2008, a 51-year-old Frenchman named Francis Joyon sailed east to west around the world in a trimaran in 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes. That’s the current world record.

A few factors explain why that record has stood for so long, says Craig Leweck, the editor in chief of sailing news site Scuttlebutt Sailing News. The primary one being that it takes a special kind of person to do it. There aren’t too many people who are comfortable sailing at 20-plus knots in highly unstable multihulls while asleep.

Once one of those special people decides to make an attempt, a lot of other factors come into play. The big one is—you guessed it—weather. Weather forecasting has improved immensely since 2008, Leweck says, but you still can see only about five to six days ahead, which leaves 90 percent of the course’s weather unknown.

“You could have all your ducks in a row, but weather could still derail your efforts,” Leweck says. That’s exactly what happened to French skipper Thomas Coville, who aborted his 2014 record attempt after weather conditions would’ve led him to reroute on a more dangerous—and surely slower—trajectory than he’d planned.

“There’s a commercial aspect, too,” Leweck says. These attempts take cash. A ton of it. He couldn’t pinpoint an average entry-level amount, but suffice it to say that boats and navigation equipment cost a lot of money. So does waiting for the perfect weather window to launch. “You could be waiting around for a month, six weeks,” Leweck says. “During that period, maybe you’re not making any money.”

Still, there are special people with the funds and desire to do it. Most racers who attempt the record have sponsors earned through previous sailing accomplishments, like French racer François Gabart. The 33-year-old recently won a prestigious solo transatlantic race called the Transat Bakerly aboard a trimaran dubbed the MACIF, for the French insurance company of the same name.

Next year, according to a press release, Gabart will take the MACIF around the world in a run on Joyon’s record. If anyone can take that record down in the near future, it’s likely Gabart. “He seems like he’s succeeding at these levels,” Leweck says. “He’s some kind of wonderkid.”

Full report… click here.

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