Francis Joyon: Doing incredible things

Published on November 18th, 2022

(November 18, 2022; Day 10) – Legendary French skipper Francis Joyon sailed to fourth place in the Ultim 32/23 Class when he crossed the finish line for the 12th edition of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe this morning at 02:56:40hrs UTC (22:56hrs yesterday local time). 

The remarkable 66-year-old sailor, who won the 2018 edition of the solo transatlantic race (held every four years), took 8 days, 13 hours, 41 minutes and 40 seconds to cover the 3,542 mile course, averaging 17.22 knots on the theoretical great circle (direct route). He has actually sailed 4,588 miles at an average speed of 22.31 knots. He finishes 1 day 17 hours, 54 minutes and 15 seconds after winner Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild).

Racing his 105-foot IDEC Sport, which was launched in 2006 as Groupama 3 and became Banque Populaire VII, Joyon completed the fourth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe for a venerable giant boat which won this race three times in succession in 2010 with Franck Cammas, in 2014 with Loick Peyron, and which took Joyon to an amazing victory four years ago. The boat also won the Trophée Jules Verne in 2010 and 2012, and again with Joyon and a five man crew in 2017. 

At the start in Saint-Malo, Joyon estimated he had “10% chance of winning,” effectively requiring some kind of attrition which did not happen. The wily French skipper was only beaten by three faster, more modern Ultims which all have hydrofoils. He also kept behind him this morning Yves Le Blevec who is racing the former Macif 100.

Indeed his delta behind winner Caudrelier of 1 day and 17 hours is a direct reflection of foiling technology and Ultim design moving on apace. 

Joyon has had a good race with Le Blevec on the former Macif and at the start of the trade winds his Acutal Ultim 3 was ahead, but he managed to pass and left the younger skipper in fifth. This is Joyon’s eighth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, and he says his history with the race is not over yet. 

“We go through a lot of adventures getting here to the finish line, doing incredible things that we would just not do in normal life,” said Joyon. “And we come out here to meet people we have met in previous editions. That is the charm of this race.

“It was a difficult transatlantic, not because of the bad weather but because there were a lot more maneuvers than usual and Idec Sport is a very difficult boat to maneuver. For me, it would almost have been easier to leave on Sunday (before the postponement), to go to the west of Ireland to go back to the south afterwards, rather than making all these tacks and gybes.

“I’m very tired, but that’s the result of having been in a close race with Yves, we got ahead and could not let up. These two boats have already raced a lot since The Bridge, and these two Route du Rhums. In the end, I thought his boat had a memory and wanted revenge. I kept it tight to the finish so that that boat could not do to mine what I did four years ago.”

“Charles (winner Caudrelier) had a very good race, the first three finishers sailed very well. I had a little preference for François (Gabart) who had a lot of courage to get through many difficulties. He lost a sponsor, found another, managed to complete the build of a half-finished boat. Then there were the difficulties against his competitors. I thought that François would have made a very, very great winner.

“I have seen that the new boats in ideal wind conditions, in 20 knots of wind, go 10 knots faster than our traditional boats. And the weather system gave the advantage to the boats in front which sailed on a flatter sea. Behind we could not do much. We passed the fronts harder than the first boats with more sea.

“I had doubts about my ability to steer this boat at the start; I have none at the finish. I did things that I no longer thought I could do, like climbing the mast one third of the way up to untangle a halyard in a huge swell where it was slamming hard. You have to exceed yourself to do a transat on these boats.

“Will I be here in 4 years? In 4 years, in 8 years, in 12 years? This may not have been my last shot of rum. I love sailing alone. I have learned a lot of things on this Route du Rhum even though we have been sailing on the boat for five years. For example, I only have half my winches working, so I learned to do without!”

At 0504hrs UTC today, Yves Le Blévec finished in fifth place in Pointe à Pitre. His race time was 8 days, 15 hours, 49 minutes and 1 second. He finished 1 day 20 hours 1 minute and 36 seconds behind the winner Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild). 

The duel he fought against Francis Joyon added a touch of spice to the race. When Actual Ultim 3 overtook Idec Sport in the trade winds, it looked like the hardest part was over. But three days before the finish, losing his big gennaker meant that the performance of his boat was limited. He was rather disappointed with his position in the rankings, but pleased to have completed the race.

• Skippers that have retired: Sam Goodchild (Leyton – Ocean Fifty) after being injured during the pre-start phase, Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori Global One – IMOCA) following a collision off Cape Fréhel, Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert – Rhum Multi) with a ripped mainsail, Antoine Magré (E.Leclerc Ville-La-Grand – Class40) after hitting the rocks off the island of Batz, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil – IMOCA), Victor Jost (Caisses Reunionnaises Complementaires – Class 40), Martin Louchart (Randstad-Ausy – Class40), Geoffrey Matacyznski (Fortissimo – Class 40), Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romane – Class40), Thibaut Vauchel-camus (Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP – Ocean Fifty), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee – IMOCA), Fabrice Amedeo (Nexans – Art & Fenêtres – IMOCA) after a fire broke out aboard his Imoca, Amelie Grassi (La Boulangere Bio – Class40), François Jambou, (A l’Aveugle – Trim Control – Class40) after dismasting, Aurelien Ducroz (Crosscall – Class40), Jean-Pierre Balmes (FullSave – Class40) due to problems with his ballast tanks and staysail hook, Brieuc Maisonneuve (CMA Ide-de-france 60 000 Rebonds – Rhum Multi), Ivica Kostelic (ACI – Class40) due to technical problems, including the loss of his wind gear, Sacha Daunar (Bateau Cit’hotel – Region Guadeloupe – Class40), Erwan Thiboumery (Interaction – Rhum Multi)


In the 44 year history of the Route du Rhum, there has never been so many solo skippers planning to start November 6 (postponed to Nov. 9) as in 2022. On this 12th edition, 138 solo racers will compete on the classic race which leaves Saint-Malo, France and heads across the Atlantic to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Six divisions will compete, beginning with the eight entries in the Ultims and eight in the Ocean Fifty division. Thirty-seven IMOCAs will be there, 55 Class40s as well as 16 in the Rhum Multi (64-feet and less) category and 14 in Rhum Mono (39+ feet) fleets.

Among the competitors, 5% (7) are women across the IMOCA, Class40, and Rhum Mono. Fourteen nationalities will be represented, including Japanese and Chinese skippers. In total, 20% of the participants are from outside France. Half of the French skippers are either residents or natives of Brittany where the race starts from, while there are also 6% Guadeloupeans among the competitors.

Source: OC Sport Pen Duick

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