While the figures from the past 48 hours led us to be euphoric, with 716 miles clocked up yesterday in 24 hours and a lead extended this morning to 707 miles in comparison to the pace set in 2009, out on the water, the situation is rather more worrying and painful for Francis Joyon.
Over the past 36 hours, the skipper of IDEC Sport has been tortured as he hears his beloved trimaran groaning and shuddering in a nasty swell in excess of 5 metres, coming in the opposite direction from the boat heading due east.
As he progresses, the movement is violent and bumpy, which is not what Joyon is used to, but he has to stay in these conditions at the heart of the deep low, which is propelling him at high speed towards the continent of Africa.
“I could have sailed 3 knots faster, but the boat kept bouncing off the waves. The whole boat would vibrate. I have rarely seen this sort of reaction. I gybed three times during the night to get back behind the cold front,” said Joyon, who remains as calm as ever even when talking about such horrible conditions.
There is a lot at stake for IDEC Sport. If he manages to stick with this weather system, as he has done for the last two days, in two days from now, he may be able to point his bows under the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope almost two days ahead of his record from 2009.
If however, the weather system, moving rapidly at almost thirty knots in the wide open desert of the Southern Ocean, gets away from him, it will only be in four days from now that IDEC SPORT will pass under the southernmost tip of Africa.
The latter scenario is something Joyon refuses to imagine. He is prepared to sacrifice his sleep not only to get the most out of his boat, spending time at the helm and not skimping on trimming, but also wishing to ensure with the precious help of his router, Christian Dumard, that the boat is in the right place in this huge area of low pressure that is so typical of the southern latitudes.
“I have found seas that are slightly more manageable and not so hard on the boat, which is now suffering less in the waves and breakers,” stressed Joyon.
“The skies have been very grey with low cloud over the past few days, but it is slightly brighter now behind the cold front, which violently passed over during the night with some strong gusts.
“This is apparently the sort of seascape that is normal down here. I caught sight of some albatrosses in the distance. They were a bit shy and kept away from the boat, which is rather unusual, as they are usually attracted by the wake of the boat hoping to find some fish getting thrown up behind.”
With 3300 miles to go to the finish at the start of this 14th day of sailing, IDEC Sport has already sailed more than 5500 miles on the theoretical route and 7200 miles out on the water, averaging more than 23 knots. That is all down to the huge diversion to get around the St. Helena high. He is now some 700 miles ahead of the record pace.