Tea Route: In the lead again

Published on February 12th, 2020

(February 12, 2020; Day 26) – After falling behind the record pace for the Tea Route as they struggled to ascend the Atlantic, Francis Joyon and his team on the 31.5m IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran have finally broken free of the doldrums with NE’ly trade winds in the North Atlantic putting them back in the lead.

Sailing at more than 25 knots out on the water and at almost 16 knots on the direct route, the team is once again steadily increasing their advantage along the final stage of the course from Hong Kong to London.

The Doldrums were baffling
“We weren’t messing around,” said Joyon almost apologetically. “The Atlantic has not been very cooperative since we rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The systems were moving around unpredictably and very quickly and were quite the reverse of what we had on our weather charts.

“The Doldrums lived up to their reputation and were baffling. The boat slammed a lot in very choppy conditions, while we had very little pressure on our sails. The charts forecast the arrival of a NE’ly wind yesterday, a foretaste of the trade winds, but we found ourselves in a very light SW’ly air stream.

“We didn’t look at our position very often, but we suspected that (record holder) Soldini and the crew of Maserati were doing well at that point back in 2018.”

A traditional route back to Europe
Today, conditions have evolved favorably for IDEC SPORT, well positioned in an 18-knot “very classical” NE’ly trade wind, according to Joyon, with the boat sailing on a long regular swell. The gap is widening again as the maxi trimaran is following a highly traditional route for this type of voyage to get back to Europe.

“We are sailing on the usual route towards the west of the Azores, where it appears that the weather systems are getting in position to allow us to deal with a transition phase that is not too complicated,” notes Joyon.

Once bitten, twice shy after the recent unusual stretch, the skipper refuses to give us any indication of his arrival time.

“We’re pleased to be back in cooler conditions. With the spray, the wet weather gear is out again and it is now much easier to get some sleep at night. The crew is making the most of that and enjoying themselves after feeling rather down in the oppressive heat and with the low speeds.”

With 2700 miles to go to the finish, all of the indicators are looking increasingly positive. IDEC SPORT is on a long starboard tack at a very tight angle, which should enable her to clock up almost 600 miles in 24 hours all the way to the Azores, which means they can look ahead serenely to entering the English Channel and then sailing up the Thames Estuary.

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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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