Haunted by the sword of Damocles

Published on December 5th, 2019

When French skipper Yann Guichard was forced to abandon his attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy, after just one day, he reported trouble steering the 40m maxi trimaran, and felt it was not safe to proceed with the timed race around the world. Here the team offers more detail about the incident:

At about 19:00 (French time) on Wednesday December 4, Spindrift 2 lost control of its steering. The windward rudder was unable to operate correctly once the boat speed went beyond 35-40 knots, resulting in the black and gold trimaran being unable to stay on course. These issues are in line with problems detected a few weeks ago, which had resulted in erratic performance of the appendages.

“We seem to have had rudder issues for a year now,” explained Guichard. “We broke one in the Indian Ocean last February and, as a result, decided to build two new ones. We had delivery of them in late September, and have carried out several sea trials with them.

“We thought we had sorted the issue when we left La Trinité-sur-Mer on Tuesday, however, these rudders are like a ‘sword of Damocles’. The favorable weather conditions around the start at Ushant, gave us the opportunity to check their reliability one last time, before heading into the Southern latitudes.

“We tried a number of times to solve the problem, but it keeps reappearing at high speeds and we can not control Spindrift 2, even with two crew on the helm.

“It is not prudent to continue like this, because there is a risk of total loss of the trimaran at high speed, which in turn is a not only a risk to the crew but the steering system could become severely compromised. Though we have managed to regain control of the boat now, we cannot race around the world with this technical problem … ”

The reality is that if Spindrift 2 cannot sail with confidence above 35 knots of speed, there is little chance of improving on the existing reference time for the Jules Verne Trophy, which stands at 40d 23h 30 ’30’.

Spindrift 2 had already hooked into the Portuguese trade winds and was in manageable seas with about 25 knots of wind further underlining that, even in benign the conditions, the situation would not improve, however much the crew intervened.

“We are now heading back towards La Trinité-sur-Mer in a moderate easterly wind, but will go through a ridge of depression tonight,” noted Guichard. “We will wait for the winds to abate before entering the channel and we should be back on the pontoon on Friday evening.

Given the problems we have to solve, at the moment, I do not think it is realistic to leave this year for an attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy. This is a massive disappointment for the whole team because we had found a good weather window to leave.”

Crew list:
Yann Guichard – skipper
Erwan Israël – navigator
Jacques Guichard – watch leader / helm
Jackson Bouttell – helm / bow
Thierry Chabagny – helm
Grégory Gendron – helm
Xavier Revil – watch leader / helm
Corentin Horeau – helm / bow
François Morvan – helm
Duncan Späth – helm
Erwan Le Roux – watch leader / helm
Benjamin Schwartz – helm / bow

The rules for the Jules Verne Trophy are simple – it is for the fastest time around the world by any type of yacht with no restrictions on the size of the crew, starting and finishing from the exact line between the Le Créac’h Lighthouse off the tip of Brittany and the Lizard Point in Cornwall. It was first won in 1993, with all nine winners as either catamarans or trimarans. The current challenge is to beat the record time of 40 days 23 hours 30 minutes and 30 seconds set by Francis Joyon and crew on the 31.5m IDEC Sport in 2017.

Record Facts
• Start and finish: a line between Créac’h lighthouse (Isle of Ushant) and Lizard Point (England)
• Course: non-stop around-the-world tour racing without outside assistance via the three Capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn)
• Minimum distance: 21,600 nautical miles (40,000 kilometres)
• Ratification: World Sailing Speed Record Council, www.sailspeedrecords.com
• Time to beat: 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds
• Average speed: 21.96 knots
• Date of current record: January 2017
• Holder: IDEC SPORT, Francis Joyon and a 5-man crew

Split Time References – Full Crew:
Ushant-Equator: 4d 20h 07 ‘(Spindrift 2 in 2019)
Equator-Cape Aiguilles: 6d 08h 55 ‘(Banque Populaire V in 2012)
Cape Aiguilles-Cape Leeuwin: 4d 09h 32 ‘(IDEC Sport in 2017)
Cape Leuuwin-Cape Horn: 9d 08h 46 ‘(IDEC Sport in 2017)
Cape Horn-Equator: 7d 04h 27 ‘(Banque Populaire V in 2012)
Equator-Ushant: 5d 19h 21 ‘(IDEC Sport in 2017)

Here are the nine that have held the trophy:
2017 – Francis Joyon / IDEC SPORT (31.5m) – 40:23:30:30
2012 – Loïck Peyron / Banque Populaire V (40m) – 45:13:42:53
2010 – Franck Cammas / Groupama 3 (31.5m) – 48:07:44:52
2005 – Bruno Peyron / Orange II (36.8m) – 50:16:20:04
2004 – Olivier De Kersauson / Geronimo (33.8m) – 63:13:59:46
2002 – Bruno Peyron / Orange (32.8m) – 64:08:37:24
1997 – Olivier De Kersauson / Sport-Elec (27.3m) – 71:14:22:08
1994 – Peter Blake, Robin Knox-Johnston / Enza New Zealand (28m) – 74:22:17:22
1993 – Bruno Peyron / Commodore Explorer (28m) – 79:06:15:56

Source: Spindrift Racing, Scuttlebutt

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