Each day comes with its particular difficulty, and after 20 days of sailing and having clocked up more than 11,000 miles during her attempt at the Tea Route record, the IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran is continuing her erratic climb up the South Atlantic.
Very light easterly trade winds led the crew to carry out no fewer than eight gybes yesterday, with one seemingly endless tack of more than 250 miles towards Brazil, at more than 100 degrees from the direct route.
Francis Joyon, Bertrand Delesne, Christophe Houdet, Antoine Blouet and Corentin Joyon have got back on a more profitable track since this morning as they make their way towards the Equator and are looking forward to leaving this endless South Atlantic behind them.
There are no big speeds to hope for within the next three days… Ahead of them there are light and variable winds, which mean the crew has to remain vigilant and respond quickly to changes.
However, let there be no mistake about it. While the lead gained by IDEC Sport, which at one point reached more than 750 miles, has shrunk over the past 36 hours, this is not down to a lack of speed out on the water.
The boat is fast, remaining above 25 knots, with peak speeds recorded during the night of 33.6 knots. But in order to stay within a steady air stream, Joyon and his men have had to head off in an unusual direction at times, offering small gains in terms of progressing along the route.
With 4000 miles left to sail to London, there is still some way to go before they reach the north-easterly trade winds with areas of light, variable airs to get through to the south of the Equator, which this morning was still almost 650 miles away.
It is hard to clock up these miles, with some powerful squalls causing the boat to accelerate very quickly in the gusts on the beam reaching 36 knots from the east. This is keeping the crew very busy behind Francis, who remains at the helm.
“We have just passed through a small tropical low, and it was like a storm. The wind suddenly got up to above 30 knots. We found ourselves with too much sail up and rushed to reduce the sail… After the squall, the wind dropped off again,” Joyon said.
Today, Joyon and co. are rounding a small low-pressure system via the east, which is allowing them to gain some precious miles towards the north, but more importantly it should enable them to think about a different route from the one they had initially planned.
IDEC Sport has interrupted her route towards Brazil a little earlier than planned because of worsening conditions to the west. It looks like being a tough weekend having to deal with the Doldrums, which although not very powerful, have stretched right out in latitude and in longitude.
“We have sailed the boat well since we got back in the Atlantic,” Joyon stressed. “The crew is working hard and never think twice about changing a sail or gybing. We shall keep up this pace throughout the weekend and hope that the forecasts finally turn to our advantage.”