Tea Route: The evil South Atlantic

Published on February 7th, 2020

(February 7, 2020; Day 21) – Francis Joyon and his crew of four on the 31.5m IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran have clocked up more than 11,000 miles during her attempt at the Tea Route record from Hong Kong to London. As they now climb up the South Atlantic, very light easterly trade winds have led the crew to carry out no fewer than eight gybes yesterday with one seemingly endless tack of more than 250 miles towards Brazil, at more than 100 degrees from the direct route.

Joyon, Bertand Delesne, Christophe Houdet, Antoine Blouet, and Corentin Joyon have seen their lead now down to 460 nm but have got back on a more profitable track since this morning as they make their way towards the Equator and are looking forward to leaving this endless South Atlantic behind them. There are no big speeds to hope for within the next three days as ahead there are light, variable winds, which means the crew has to remain vigilant and respond quickly to changes.

Peak speeds at 36 knots
However, let there be no mistake about it. While the lead gained by IDEC SPORT, which at one point reached more than 750 nm, has shrunk over the past 36 hours, this is not down to a lack of speed out on the water. IDEC SPORT is remaining above 25 knots, with peak speeds recorded during the night of 33.6 knots. But in order to stay within a steady air stream, Joyon and his men have had to head off in an unusual direction at times, offering small gains in terms of progressing along the route.

With 4000 miles left to sail to London, there is still some way to go before they reach the NE’ly trade winds with areas of light, variable airs to get through to the south of the Equator, which this morning was still almost 650 miles away. It is hard to clock up these miles with some powerful squalls causing IDEC SPORT to accelerate very quickly in the gusts on the beam reaching 36 knots from the east.

This is keeping the crew very busy behind Joyon who remains at the helm. “We have just passed through a small tropical low, and it was like a storm. The wind suddenly got up to above thirty knots. We found ourselves with too much sail up and rushed to reduce the sail… After the squall, the wind dropped off again.”

An adventurous route
Today, they are rounding a small low-pressure system via the east, which is allowing them to gain some precious miles towards the north, but more importantly it should enable them to think about a different route from the one they had initially planned.

IDEC SPORT has interrupted her route towards Brazil a little earlier than planned because of worsening conditions to the west. It looks like being a tough couple days having to deal with the Doldrums, which although not very powerful, have stretched right out in latitude and in longitude.

“We have sailed the boat well since we got back in the Atlantic,” stressed Joyon. “The crew are working hard and never think twice about changing a sail or gybing. We shall keep up this pace throughout the weekend and hope that the forecasts finally turn to our advantage.”

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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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