Tea Route: Tactics for St. Helena High

Published on February 3rd, 2020

(February 3, 2020; Day 17) – After crossing the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope yesterday, Francis Joyon and his crew of four on the 31.5m IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran now face St. Helena in their quest to set a new Tea Route record for the 13,000 mile course from Hong Kong to London.

Reflecting on the Indian Ocean crossing, it proved to be full of surprises, which were not always that pleasant in terms of sailing and performance. Fourteen days of sailing against the weather systems and heavy westerly swell saw the maxi trimaran exposed to big waves and a bumpy ride that sailors rarely appreciate.

The Atlantic Ocean, with its long neat swell in the same direction as the wind, was something they immediately recognized and appreciated once past the the tip of South Africa. Now it is time for smoother sailing and the men on board can focus on getting the best performance out of the boat, paying careful attention to when it is right to gybe in order to stay in the air stream that will allow them to round the famous St. Helena high via the East and North.

“It was tricky rounding the Cape,” openly admitted Joyon. “The wind would suddenly strengthen and the final gybe under gennaker in strong winds was rather surprising and led us too close to the Cape. It was dark, so we only saw the lights.”

As If by magic, once past the large South African city, the Atlantic welcomed IDEC SPORT in the best way possible offering downwind sailing in the direction of the wind and the swell.

“We are enjoying this smooth sailing,” explained Joyon. “The Indian Ocean is full of secrets and we didn’t discover them all. It has its moods that cannot be seen in the weather charts. Returning to the Atlantic is a bit like getting back in your own garden. Everyone is smiling.”

Rounding St. Helena via the North
The lead over the Tea Route record holder has continued to increase to approach 800 miles on this 17th day of racing. “We will continue to sail downwind moving gradually away from Africa,” explained Francis. “We are trying to round the high via the North, hoping to pick up the SE’ly trade winds on a route to the west of the Doldrums, which seem to have stretched right out. Everything can change very quickly between now and when we cross the Equator.”

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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 of Christophe Houdet, Antoine Blouet, Bertrand Delesne, and Corentin Joyon must finish in London before 1036hrs UTC 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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