Photo: Francois Van Malleghem / DPPI / Safran

Safran to attempt solo W-E transat record

Marc Guillemot on the hunt for Alex Thompson's record

Thursday May 30th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Marc Guillemot is facing another big challenge as he is about to tackle the North Atlantic solo transatlantic record between Ambrose Light and the Lizard.

After setting off on the delivery trip from la Trinité-sur-Mer on Tuesday, the skipper of Safran will be on stand-by in New York from 8 June.

“After retiring so soon from the Vendée Globe, I felt like doing something major while sailing solo,” commented Guillemot who knows that he would leave his mark, if he managed to improve on the solo North Atlantic record time for a 60-foot IMOCA. The record once belonged to Bernard Stamm set on Armor Lux in 2002 onwards – with a reference time of 10 days, 11 hours and 56 minutes set during the first edition of Around Alone, the solo round the world race with stopovers. That record was shattered last July by Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss with a time of 8 days, 22 hours and 8 minutes. So the bar is high, but the skipper of Safran is ready to take on the challenge, after already beating the crewed multihull record on two occasions in 1984 and 1988 aboard Formule TAG and Jet Services V. On Safran, he hopes to pull it off again for his first solo attempt.

Complicated weather systems

In order to break the record, Guillemot will have to keep up a steady pace throughout the 2,850 miles crossing and deal as best he can with complicated weather systems. Helped by the router Jean-Yves Bernot, he will have to find the most favourable weather opportunity.

“The ideal weather? A high-pressure area centred slightly north of the Azores and a developing low over the coast of the United States that moves off towards Scotland," states Bernot. "By remaining ahead of this low, Marc will be able to stay close to the direct route and make the most of the best conditions for a monohull: strong winds, which aren’t too strong and relatively calm seas. Finding a good situation to set sail that will last until he reaches the coast of England is not that simple, as forecasts are only reliable over a period of six days. You have to grab the right opportunity, sense it just right and be willing to compromise between what you would like to see and what is going to turn up.”

While the final stretch of the crossing is often key to succeeding, two other difficulties need to be taken into account: the Grand Banks is often tricky because of the mist, shipping and unidentified floating objects (UFOs) – along with drift ice to the south of Newfoundland, which can be plentiful at this time of year. Early summer is nevertheless the best time to beat this record according to Jean-Yves Bernot. “Earlier in the season, the winds that are too strong to risk damaging the boats, while later on, we enter the cyclone season when there are a lot of thunderstorms around.”

On stand-by from 8 June to 10 July

Before attempting this record, Safran has to complete her delivery trip. “Conditions are going to be rough for the first few days,” Guillemot said just before setting off from La Trinité on Tuesday. “So we’ll be taking the southerly route, passing under the Azores high, rather than the northerly route, which is more direct, but also trickier. We are reducing the risks, as we are not in a race.”

This first westbound Atlantic crossing to New York will nevertheless be very useful. Clément Duraffourg, an engineer, who fitted the new keel with sensors is on board to gather information. Loïc Lingois, Alex Marmorat and Ludovic Aglaor complete the crew.


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