Tea Route: Better than expected

Published on January 24th, 2020

(January 24, 2020; Day 7) – The 31.5m IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran has been showing her real efficiency over the past two days as she passes through the heart of the Indian Ocean in pursuit of the 13,000 mile Tea Route record from Hong Kong to London.

Francis Joyon, Christophe Houdet, Bertand Delesne, Antoine Blouet, and Corentin Joyon have continued to accelerate since passing through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra two days ago, allowing them to increase their lead over the record time. With a lead now of 620nm, their efficient tack should last another 24 hours with speeds reaching 38 knots as they surf the waves, which means the lead should grow even bigger.

However, the first major difficulties are expected soon after with some small cyclonic areas that they will have to get around in the southern latitudes, where they will encounter icy conditions, strong winds and heavy seas.

At the start of this seventh day of racing, IDEC SPORT has clocked up a good lead and has been faster than expected when they studied the charts. “We dared not even hope of passing through the Sunda Strait in less than four days,” explained Christophe Houdet, who has recovered from the food poisoning, which upset his first few days sailing in amongst the wild islands of the Sea of China.

“It is true that we haven’t sailed many more miles than necessary,” added Joyon. “We had to gybe a lot to get to the Sunda Strait, but we remained more or less on the direct route.”

Having sailed more than 3200 miles out on the water averaging 22 knots, IDEC SPORT only sailed around 350 miles more than the Great Circle Route. On the way out as they sailed across the Indian Ocean, we saw that Joyon and his men sailed an extra 1500 miles close to the coast of Australia.

“We’re sailing close to the wind with full mainsail and J1,” explained Joyon. “Our goal is more speed rather than bearing. In the coming hours, we are going to have to dive further south. Our current high speeds on seas that have varied a lot from smooth to chaotic, means we have to look at some tactical choices to get around the powerful small areas of low pressure which are developing to the East of Madagascar.”

The t-shirts and shorts they are wearing today will soon be replaced by fleeces and wet weather gear.

“We should be able to maintain these speeds and continue to make good headway over the next 700 miles,” added Joyon. “But the gateway to the Cape of Good Hope is for us down at around 40°S. We need to keep good watch all the time, with our hands on the sheets, as we have to deal with a series of fairly violent squalls. We are not with the decent trade winds we had on the way out. We are surfing along, but it’s more up and down.”

The crew are still enjoying themselves sailing the maxi trimaran. “It’s a huge pleasure. We’re really pleased to be sailing in these waters and in this way,” said Houdet. “The mist during the record-breaking trip to Ho Chi Minh City meant we missed out on the wonders of the China Sea that we have been able to discover this week.

“Tropical islands with incredible colours with huge unspoilt beaches. A paradise. Discovering these places on a boat that transports you at high speed is a privilege and we are savouring every second. I have just taken the helm. IDEC SPORT has accelerated easily to 38 knots… It’s amazing!”

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After starting from Hong Kong on January 18, to beat the Tea Route record of 36:02:37:00 set in 2018 by the Italian Giovanni Soldini and the crew of the MOD70 Maserati trimaran, Joyon’s team must finish in London by 11:36:58 on February 23.

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

Act 1: Port Louis, Lorient – Port Louis, Mauritius (8800 nm) – 19:18:14:45
Act 2: Mauritius – Ho Chi Minh (3975 nm) – 12:20:37:56
Act 3: Ho Chi Minh – Hong Kong (870 nm) – 02:20:28:51
Act 4: Clipper Route between Hong Kong and London (13,000 nm).

Source: IDEC press

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