Tea Route: Bumpy through Indian Ocean

Published on January 27th, 2020

(January 27, 2020; Day 10) – Over the past five days or so, the Indian Ocean has offered a series of contrasts to Francis Joyon and his crew of four aboard the 31.5m IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran in their pursuit of the 13,000 mile Tea Route record from Hong Kong to London.

While the boat, which has won the Route du Rhum three times, has maintained a record pace averaging 23 knots over the 5000 miles they have sailed out on the water, it has been an uncomfortable ride and that has increasingly been the case most recently as they passed to the south of two very active low-pressure systems gradually moving to the east of Madagascar.

Rain, reduced visibility, violent winds, and a heavy swell from the north have shaken up the crew and punished the trimaran. However, IDEC SPORT has managed to stay more than 600 miles ahead of the record pace set by the MOD70 Maserati, which was very fast in this part of the course.

There are still some huge difficulties ahead for Joyon and his men, before they pass the Cape of Good Hope and return to the South Atlantic with a number of transition zones, involving a number of strategic gybes that they are going to have to deal with in extremely variable conditions with low pressure systems moving in from the West and some areas of high pressure.

A broken mainsail halyard…
“We are not at our full potential for the moment,” explained Joyon this morning. “The seas are still rough and slowing us down and since yesterday we have been sailing with two reefs in the main after our mainsail halyard broke.

“The seas are still too heavy for us to work safely up the mast and we are going to wait until tomorrow morning for things to calm down. Unfortunately the wind is set to ease off in the coming hours and under reduced sail, it will affect our speed.”

Joyon and his men are not, however, particularly worried. It has been nine days now since they left Hong Kong and they have a comfortable lead over the record of around the equivalent of a day’s sailing at the speed at which their rival Maserati was achieving at this point back in 2018.

At the Cape of Good Hope in 5 or 6 days
The Indian Ocean continues to show its wild side with active low-pressure systems and vast areas of high pressure in the far South. Joyon has to find his way through and gybe at the right moment as the approach the transition zone.

The maxi trimaran is set to continue her route southwards for a few more hours as they wait for some NW’ly winds before gybing on seas that will finally start to calm down. Joyon and his men are going to have to repeat that action several times before reaching the ever so tricky tip of South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. They should be able to maintain their lead of a full day’s worth of sailing at a decent speed.

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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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