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All dressed up and no weather to go

Published on January 5th, 2022

The Jules Verne Trophy is awarded to the team which sets the fastest time for a crewed, unassisted, round the world under sail effort. It has been held since 2017 by Francis Joyon and his crew with a time of 40:23:30:30, but Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard want it.

However, this duo hasn’t had much luck. They’ve made three previous attempts at breaking the record, posting the third best time in history in 2016, and have been on standby since November 1 to try again with the largest racing multihull ever built at 37 metres.

To put into perspective how difficult it is to win the Jules Verne Trophy, it’s worth noting that out of 33 attempts, just nine have been successful:

• Commodore-Explorer in 1993 (79d 06h 16’)
• Enza-New Zealand in 1994 (74d 22h 17′)
• Sport-Elec in 1997 (71d 14h 22′), Orange in 2002 (64d 08h 37′)
• Geronimo in 2004 (63d 13h 59′)
• Orange II in 2005 (50d 16h 20′)
• Groupama 3 in 2010 (48d 07h 45′)
• Banque Populaire V in 2012 (45d 13h 43′)
• Idec-Sport in 2017 (40d 23h 30′)

But with the time nearly halved during this era, claiming the trophy requires ideal weather, and that’s been on shore supply. A promising start on November 25 was postponed a day later, and the outlook has not improved.

“There is a lot of atmospheric instability,” reports Guichard on January 5. “The weather systems are constantly changing, with no trade winds for the upcoming 3-4 days, meaning no foreseeable start for our record attempt.

“The objective is to arrive off the Brazilian coast with a favorable weather in the South Atlantic; ideally with a low-pressure system across the South Atlantic that we could ride towards the Cape of Good Hope.

“In the North Atlantic, we are seeing lows that are dragging on to the south, and therefore no trade winds. We have no downwind conditions, therefore no possibility to set sail. The next few days aren’t looking favorable – one of the reasons why we’re extending our standby until the end of January.”

After a year of preparing the maxi-multihull, time is now running out before the southern oceans become too risky to traverse, and it will be another year before an attempt can be made to wrest the trophy from Joyon’s grip.

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