Good news, bad news on Mauritius Route

Published on November 1st, 2019

(November 1, 2019; Day 14) – While the figures from the past 48 hours look excellent with 716 miles clocked up yesterday in 24 hours and a lead extended this morning to 707 miles in comparison to the pace set in 2009, out on the water, the situation is rather more worrying and painful for solo skipper Francis Joyon onboard the 31.5m trimaran IDEC-SPORT.

Over the past 36 hours, Joyon has been tortured as he hears his beloved trimaran groaning and shuddering in a nasty swell in excess of 5 metres, coming in the opposite direction from the boat heading due east. As he progresses, the movement is violent and bumpy, which is not what Francis is used to, but he has to stay in these conditions at the heart of the deep low, which is propelling him at high speed towards the continent of Africa.

“I could have sailed three knots faster, but the boat kept bouncing off the waves,” said Joyon. “The whole boat would vibrate. I have rarely seen this sort of reaction. I gybed three times during the night to get back behind the cold front.”

There is a lot at stake for IDEC SPORT. If he manages to stick with this weather system, as he has done for the last two days, in two days from now, he may be able to point his bows under the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope almost two days ahead of his record from 2009. If, however, the weather system, moving rapidly at almost thirty knots in the wide open desert of the Southern Ocean, gets away from him, it will only be in four days from now that IDEC SPORT will pass under the southernmost tip of Africa.

The latter scenario is something Joyon refuses to imagine. He is prepared to sacrifice his sleep not only to get the most out of his incredible boat, spending time at the helm and not skimping on trimming, but also wishing to ensure with the precious help of his router, Christian Dumard, that the boat is in the right place in this huge area of low pressure that is so typical of the southern latitudes.

The three gybes to move slightly further south over the past few hours show just how intense the task is for the skipper of IDEC SPORT. “I have found seas that are slightly more manageable and not so hard on the boat, which is now suffering less in the waves and breakers,” stressed Joyon. “The skies have been very grey with low cloud over the past few days, but it is slightly brighter now behind the cold front, which violently passed over during the night with some strong gusts.

“This is apparently the sort of seascape that is normal down here. I caught sight of some albatrosses in the distance. They were a bit shy and kept away from the boat, which is rather unusual, as they are usually attracted by the wake of the boat hoping to find some fish getting thrown up behind.”

With 3300 miles to go to the finish at the start of this 14th day of sailing, IDEC SPORT has already sailed more than 5500 miles on the theoretical route and 7200 miles out on the water, averaging more than 23 knots. That is all down to the huge diversion to get around the St. Helena high. He is now some 700 miles ahead of the record pace.

For the record:
The Mauritius Route solo record is an 8800nm course from Port Louis (Lorient) and Port Louis (Mauritius), and Francis is attempting to smash his own reference time of 26 days, 4 hours and 13 minutes set ten years ago. To improve on that time, he will have to finish before 1324hrs UTC on November 14.

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IDEC SPORT Specifications
Architects: VPLP team (Van Péteghem-Lauriot Prévost)
Previous names: Groupama 3, Banque Populaire VII
Length: 31.50 m
Beam: 22.50 m
Displacement: 18,000 kg
Draught: 5.70 m
Mast height: 33.50 m
Structure: carbon-Nomex
Upwind sail surface: 411 m2
Downwind sail surface: 678 m2
Initial launch date: June 2006

After the Mauritius Route, there will be three more record attempts, this time with a crew:
Act 2: Mauritius – Ho Chi Minh (3975 miles),
Act 3: Ho Chi Minh – Hong Kong (920 miles)
Act 4: Clipper Route between Hong Kong and London (13,000 miles).

Source: IDEC press

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