Risk versus reward
Both Spindrift 2 and IDEC Sport have now made their turns northeast and are generally - with the exception of the odd hitch north to get into better pressure - are pointing their bows towards the Ushant finish line. Here in theory they should be by tomorrow afternoon if they were to break Banque Populaire V's Jules Verne Trophy record, but in reality they are now more likely to arrive sometime on Friday.
Weather-wise, the forecast has the two maxi-tris experiencing strong following winds all the way to the finish now.
Yesterday from on board Spindrift 2, Dona Bertarelli, who, all being well, is now set to become the fastest woman to have sailed around the world, wrote:
"Right up until the final moments before announcing that the record was no longer possible for us, your encouragement has lifted us.
"The weather forecast has not lied to us. We have known for some time that the door was closing, barring a miracle. But as we approached the Azores high that miracle did not happen. It is now clear that we have to work around to the northwest and significantly lengthen our route.
"Admittedly, this is what Loïck (Peyron) and his team had to do, however, we will not have the same weather conditions. The storms in the north of France over the last few days, and those to come that we will have to manage carefully in order to navigate them safely, have left us no chance because the seas will be stormy. And even if we could make the necessary speeds, the accumulated deficit would not be overcome in view of the remaining miles to the finish.
"Our goal has always been to cross the finish line, finish the work we started on November 22 and complete the circle on this voyage around the world. Nothing has changed. Our routing indicates that we are expected to cross the line on January 8 in the middle of the day, leaving us 36-48 hours, or more than 1,000 miles behind Banque Populaire V.
"So, it was time to face the facts. It has never been our style to hide from the truth. To not admit the reasons that led us to make this announcement, would be to lie to the people who have supported us since the beginning of this adventure and give them false hope.
"We are here to share an adventure, a real one, where we live the good times, and the bad, together.
"Over these last few days, your joy and hope with every mile won made us afraid to spoil a party we too would have liked to have kept going until the finish.
"This is how things are and there are no regrets. The adventure is just as beautiful and powerful, and to share it with you is a privilege.
"There will still be a celebration, at least hopefully, if the weather is kinder this time than it has been and lets us get back to our home port of La Trinité-sur-Mer. So, to all those who have the possibility, my 13 companions on this road and I, say to you: see you very soon!"
Meanwhile there is likely to be some sort of match race between the two boats en route to Ouessant with IDEC Sport now just 140 miles behind her big brother.
Yesterday, Francis Joyon's camp reported: Right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Francis Joyon and his crew are giving it their all, clocking up supersonic speeds. In four days, they are expected to cross the line off Ushant. But before that, they have some rough weather ahead…
To the left of the boat, there is Florida around 1600 miles away. To the right, the Canaries are around the same distance away. Right in the middle of the Atlantic at 27°N, the big, red trimaran is still going full steam ahead.
“We’re on a semi-circular route and that should bring us back to Brittany one day...” Joyon has not lost his sense of humour on this 44th day in the attempt to smash the Jules Verne Trophy record. That tells us a lot about the spirit that reigns aboard IDEC SPORT with all six crew still on the attack. While they have known for several days now that the round the world record cannot be beaten, they are nevertheless keen to achieve some other successes along the way. Why not have a crack at the boat’s record on this North Atlantic stretch, for example? “And then there’s that other boat ahead of us (Spindrift) that we would like to catch,” observes Joyon.
Clearly that is an objective, and Joyon is well aware that with it comes risk: “Last night, we went a bit wild, it’s true,” said Joyon of their hitting peak speeds in excess of 40 knots. “It’s true that it was a great night and the sea was smooth, so it didn’t require too much hard work. We were able to get up to high speeds without putting too much strain on the boat and without taking any risks.” Those few sailors, who have gone beyond 40 knots, will appreciate the extent of the feat.
So what now? In the coming hours, the aim is to complete the rounding of the western side of the Azores high. Already since this morning, the speed towards the finish has doubled (20 knots instead of 10 knots VMG), while the real speed on the water is still the same at around an average of 30 knots. What that means is that gradually IDEC SPORT is shifting her heading east. “Slowly but surely, we are taking advantage of the wind shift to turn towards the right,” confirmed Joyon, before adding, “We had to go a very long way around, but in the coming hours, we shall be back on the direct route towards Brittany.”
But that’s the good news for the day. According to the latest estimates, IDEC Sport should finish sometime on Friday. Before that they are going to have to find a compromise between performance and a cautious approach, as IDEC SPORT has no option but to face the (very) heavy weather, which is currently affecting the North Atlantic, as a series of deep depressions sweep east.
“Yes, it’s going to be fairly violent,” Francis explains in his dulcet tones. “We can see 40-45 knots of wind on the charts, which will mean a tricky sea state. We’ll try to position ourselves well to deal with these lows, but in the end, there’s no escaping this heavy weather. At some point, we’re going to have to face it in order to get back towards Brittany.” That is the main hurdle that lies ahead in the next four days before they complete this fantastic adventure. The bows will once again be sending the spray flying with a mass of water in the air in their wake…