545.3 mile day singlehanded through the Southern Ocean

Blistering pace from youngest skipper in the Vendee Globe

Monday December 10th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

MACIF skipper François Gabart continued his incredible display of record setting in the middle of the Indian Ocean today.

Gabart, at 29 the youngest skipper in the race and who is also a rookie to solo racing in the Southern Ocean, has been setting a pace consistently at a level above that of his rivals to send the 24 hours solo monohull distance record soaring to a stratospheric 545.3 miles over the 24 hours up until  1500 UTC this afternoon.

By the 0800 UTC sched this morning Gabart had already broke the recent record set by Jean-Pierre Dick and Virbac Paprec 3 of 502.9 mm when he made 515.6. At the 1100 UTC sched he had elevated this to 532.7, before hitting the new high mid-afternoon.

545.3 average speed of 22.7 knots and even surpasses the two handed record of at 506.33 nm set doublehanded by Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron on Virbac Paprec 3 in the last Barcelona World Race.

For a solo ocean racer on a 60 footer, 30 days into a non stop, no outside assistance three month race, the distance even compares impressively against the outright crewed monohull record of 596.6 miles set in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race by Ericsson 4, and is only 21 miles shy of the best 24 hour run on the last Volvo Ocean Race.

“I can’t really explain why I’m going so fast in the same weather conditions as the others…" Gabart said earlier. "Maybe my sail settings are different from Armel’s. I’m sailing at 22-26 knots, and it should be like that for several more hours. It’s very noisy but you get used to it, same for how much the boat shakes. These things become familiar conditions, the norm.

“The autopilot is just fine, the boat is perfectly balanced, so I’m not even worrying about that. That’s what allows us to sail fast and effortlessly.”

While the record as it stands is a nice Indian Ocean souvenir for Gabart and MACIF, looking longer term the race’s youngest skipper is sitting with the highest average speed for the actual miles sailed so far in the race, presently at 14.9 kts. Comparing this with the 2008-9 Vendee Globe average of Gabart’s mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, of 14 knots when he set the existing race record of 84 days 03 hours 09 minutes, then Gabart is on target for a sub-80 day circumnavigation.

Gabart’s attack took him back into the overall lead this afternoon, ahead of Le Cléac’h and Banque Populaire by just over one mile after making up more than 54 miles since yesterday evening.

Speeds between the two leaders, racing side by side, separated by just 3.5 miles of ocean, had evened out to around 21 knots this afternoon.

“I think I’m doing great in terms of performance, I can see MACIF on my AIS," reported Le Cléac’h. "My average speed is about 20 knots, but he was obviously faster last night. But congratulations on his 24-hour record! 23 knots of average speed is really something. Maybe he’s taken a bit more risks. It's the same for the skippers behind, but so far they’re doing okay. I’m focusing on my own race, not the others’, and there’s still a long way to go.”

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