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December 17, 2007

Joyon Continues Phenomenal Record Pace

Despite the solitude and rigors of sailing solo around the world, Joyon’s state of mind has been described as “serene.”

© 2007 V. Curutchet/DPPI/IDEC

"On Sunday, the ground team for Francis Joyon and his magnificent 97-ft trimaran IDEC were hoping to gain another day on Ellen MacArthur’s previous record with B&Q Castorama from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin," reports Javier de Muns, our man in Brittany, "and they got it. Joyon’s improvement to date over MacArthur on the round the world solo attempt now stands at more than seven days.

But what’s even more impressive is that Joyon also beat — by 21 minutes — the record for that stretch set by Bruno Peyron and his fully-crewed 121-ft Orange II in ’05. Even the modest and even-tempered Joyon was astonished to learn that he’d set another new record. "That’s really classy, isn’t it?" he joked.

It’s also interesting to compare the condition of MacArthur during her great record-setting run, and Joyon during his current attempt. MacArthur was, understandably, in a state of near mental and physical exhaustion for much of her trip. Joyon, despite having dramatically improved on her pace, is being described as "serene."

In fact, being only 700 miles from the Antarctic, Joyon took the opportunity to encourage the world’s governments to reach an agreement to combat global warming so, among other things, the ice of the Antarctic and the wildlife living on it could be preserved.

In the big picture, Joyon is now less than 1,000 miles away from the halfway point of the course. If he covers it in two days, as is likely, he’ll have covered the distance in 24 days. That means he could sail two days slower on the second half and still beat Orange II‘s around the world record with a crewed boat!

But Joyon’s ground team is being even more cautious than they were a week ago, pointing out that Joyon’s challenge is to beat MacArthur’s record, not the crewed record. The reason is simple. During MacArthur’s record run, she reached Cape Horn four days ahead of Joyon’s old record with the previous IDEC and, due to adverse weather conditions, lost almost all of that advantage between the Horn and the equator.

On the other hand, the majority of top French multihull skippers — including Yvan Bourgnon, whose 24-hour solo record Joyon just beat — believe that what Joyon has done so far proves the potential he and his boat have.

Being human, Joyon hasn’t succeeded in all his endeavors. Last Friday, for example, in light winds that slowed his average speed to just 17 knots, he said, "I’m feeling kind of weird, not seeing spray and waves constantly over my boat." Seemingly impervious to the cold, the mental stress, and the physical rigors, he decided it would be a perfect time for some recreation. So he built himself a whistle with the goal of "taming" a group of petrels flying above IDEC. Alas, the birds completely ignored him and his whistle.

Coville to Start on Christmas Eve

With Francis Joyon and IDEC setting such a furious pace, Coville is having to start in storm conditions to try to keep up.

© 2007 Jacques Vapillon/DPPI

"Thomas Coville has announced that he and his 105-ft trimaran Sodebo will depart France on his solo around the world attempt on what appears will be very strong weather conditions on Christmas Eve," reports Javier de Muns, our man in Brittany. "Forecasters are predicting 40- to 50-knot winds and 18-ft seas. Readers will remember that Coville was to have started on the same day as Francis Joyon and IDEC, but scratched because of a hydraulic problem. He now faces the burden of trying to compete with Joyon’s spectacular pace."

"Meanwhile, Franck Cammas and his crew with the 105-ft trimaran Groupama III have still not announced a departure date. During a tune-up sail, the outer laminations on the curved daggerboards incurred some damage, and it’s expected to take a week to fix them. As such, I had the opportunity to tour the maxi trimaran and take photos."

Using the little humans as a reference, this pictures shows just how huge these maxi multihulls are. Both Groupama III, seen here, and Coville’s Sodebo are 105 feet. Imagine singlehanding something like that.

© 2007 Javier de Muns
This is Groupama’s pilothouse, with the coffee grinders in back. For such a huge boat, there’s not that much ‘people room’.

© 2007 Javier de Muns
The great French sailor Yves Parlier – who can forget the way he rebuilt and restepped his mast near Cape Horn? – has joined Groupama as navigator.

© 2007 Javier de Muns
While no date has been set for Groupama’s start, the food has already been packed in the galley, which is located aft. It’s obvious this trimaran is all about function and not comfort.

© 2007 Javier de Muns


Thanks to a change in the weather forecast, Coville, with a crew of four, has left La Trinite-sur-Mer for the starting line near Brest, and should be starting his singlehanded record attempt within 24 hours. 

Looking calm and relaxed, with his wife and two children near him wiping their eyes, Coville told our man in Brittany that he wasn’t too worried about the "virile" weather conditions — 40 to 50 knots — during the first two days of his record attempt. While the conditions to the equator weren’t going to be ideal, he still thinks he can make it in seven days, like Joyon.

de Muns reports that Coville’s 105-ft trimaran, the biggest ever to be singlehanded, is more complex than Joyon’s IDEC, as it has a rotating mast and a complex hydraulics system. Coville believes that Sodebo‘s longer waterline and rotating mast will give him additional speed, despite her being a ton heavier than IDEC. Sodebo is also more skipper-friendly and comfortable, as it has a protected and comfortable pilothouse, plus a generator that will provide heat.

Ice Station Tara – Sailing the Snowy Sea

You may recall that New Zealand sailing hero Sir Peter Blake was murdered by pirates in the Amazon River six year ago this month. At the time, he was heading an ecological research project aboard the 119-ft aluminum schooner Seamaster. What happened to that expedition and the Seamaster herself were lost in the swirl of press surrounding Blake’s death.

Shackleton’s Endurance? It sure looks similar, but this is Tara during her frigid Arctic passage.

© 2007 Tara Arctic

Sir Peter would be happy to know that the boat resurfaced recently — in both the figurative and literal sense. Last week, the ice began to crack around the renamed Tara, promising an imminent release near Greenland sometime in January or February. This after a 15-month, 3,000-mile west-east ride frozen solid in the Arctic icepack.

One of the many dangers faced by the expedition were curious polar bears. This one almost killed one of the boat’s dogs.

© 2007 Tara Arctic

It’s all part of an expedition headed by Grant Redvers, an environmental scientist who sailed Tara to the cold latitudes north of Alaska in August of 2006 and let the ice grab her. Fortunately, the rounded shape and steeply flaring sections of the boat were designed specifically to handle this situation — which doomed many ships in the old days. During her ride across the Arctic ‘conveyor belt’, Tara averaged about six miles a day, and she passed closer to the north pole — 88 nautical miles — than any vessel ever. Among the discoveries made by the expedition: The icepack is definitely thinner than it used to be, which means it doesn’t get as cold as it used to. The mean temperature for December, for example, was only 18 below zero — practically Speedo weather. 

Freeze frame – the icepack closes in around Tara at the start of her journey in 2006.

© 2007 F.Latreille/Tara Artic

The stories, findings and photos of the eight-person French and Russian crew (which includes two women) are fascinating. You can find them at We’ll also have more on the expedition in the January issue.

Got Ha-Ha Pix to Share?

"Who was that guy?"

That’s the question Baja Ha-Ha Rally Committee members were asking themselves shortly after the awards ceremony. During the festivities, a nice young man had volunteered to set up a photo-sharing website specifically for this year’s Ha-Ha’ers. But afterwards, it became quickly apparent that no Committee members had caught his name, or his boat’s name.

The idea was to set up this special site where fleet members could both download and upload images from the event free of charge. Seemed like a great idea to the Committee but, like we said . . . "Who was that guy?"

Snapping photos of your ‘competition’ is part of the fun of the Ha-Ha.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’re ‘that guy’ or possess the know-how to create such a site, please email us with your contact info. The Committee would love to see a share site up and running before they slip into their annual winter hibernation.

The ‘Freedom 32’ raft designed by Fidel Castro. © 2007 Rod Williams Today’s Photo of the Day, of a 10-person Cuban refugee raft that washed up on San Pedro Reef in Belize, should be a reminder to everyone just how good we’ve got it in the United States — and just how bad people have had it in Cuba under the tyrant Fidel Castro for more than 40 years.
The day after setting a 24-hour singlehanded record of 616 miles with his 97-ft trimaran IDEC, Frenchman Francis Joyon followed it up with a near 600-mile day yesterday.
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