The southern highway
At the start of the second day of his attempt on singlehanded west to east transatlantic record, Francis Joyon and IDEC are struggling with very unstable weather conditions which are not conducive to sailing at high speeds thanks to the chaotic sea state. This requires a lot of attention to the boat on deck.
IDEC is still on track, albeit with a slight deficit, but the deficit is partly due to Joyon being forced to take a route south of the great circle, and the course taken by Sodebo, Thomas Coville's record holder in July 2008. Nonetheless Joyon is adapting to the conditions that he is being dealt en route to the Lizard.
While IDEC is making 28 knots at 40°N, the depression Joyon chose to leave on is evolving nearly 150 miles south of the optimal route and at the latest sched is 38 miles behind Sodebo. Since leaving New York, he has covered 568 miles in 24 hours, at an average speed of 23.66 knots. In comparison Coville on his first day covered 546 miles at 22.75 knots average, but on a more efficient course. IDEC must remain on the edge of the depression as the less windy center, evolves in its north.
Joyon had a difficult first night at sea, because the depression, provided very unstable winds both in strength as in direction. "I was constantly in between 24 and 39 knots of wind," Joyon reported at midday. "On a maxi multihull, that requires a succession of changes to the sail plan, sail changes, reefing, etc." During the night Joyon only managed some brief catnaps. But with the arrival of low clouds in the leaden sky so hopefully the wind will stabilise. "I'm at 130° to the wind, under staysail and two reefs, and the boat sails well" Joyon continued.
There remains great uncertainty over how this southerly route and the weather system Joyon is following will pan out. "Some models show it reaching all the way to England," says Joyon, "while others see it staying south."
So like any challenge, part of this attempt will come down to the element of chance. But Joyon is used to this scenario and all the inherent drawbacks of record attempts such as this.
Meanwhile he enjoying having got away from the US east coast. "It is not too cold, but it is very humid. I'm glad to get away from the fishing boats. I saw a lot last night, and I had to zigzag between the large buoys that mark the fishing grounds."