Spindrift 2 and IDEC Sport set to cross the equator in Jules Verne attempt

The two massive trimarans currently attempting to set a new Jules Verne record for the fastest sailboat around the world are approaching the equator. The fully-crewed Spindrift 2 is slightly ahead of IDEC SPORT but both have eyes only for the record, set by Banque Populaire V in 2011. Here are reports from both boats:

IDEC SPORT

IDEC SPORT will be crossing the line separating the two hemispheres late in the night. Francis Joyon and his crew of five have slowed down in the Doldrums, but are already making their way out. The time to get to the Equator will therefore be more or less five days. Or in other words fifteen hours or so better than the current record time for this stretch.

“We’re still ahead? About 200 miles? That’s good. The lads will be pleased.” On the phone this lunchtime, Francis Joyon’s first thoughts were for his crew, who have been hard at work since last night, when IDEC SPORT entered the Doldrums. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone has lived up to its reputation: alternating between calms and very strong squalls with winds varying horribly in direction and strength. This part of the voyage is always feared by sailors. The big, red trimaran wasn’t spared. An extremely violent squall for example forced them to furl the big gennaker quickly and make their way through this dark area without any headsail in a lightning storm and in torrential rain. “The crew were running around in every direction on the deck. It was surrealistic,” Francis Joyon told us.
 
Marcel Van Triest: “They are close to leaving the Doldrums”
 
After extending their lead to 300 miles yesterday at 2000hrs, IDEC SPORT’s advance over the reference time has quite naturally been reduced to 200 miles this afternoon with speeds between 10 and 20 knots, as opposed to the thirty knot average recorded in the previous 48 hours. It’s all part of the game as you really gain miles in this zone. Let’s not forget that the virtual opponent (Banque Populaire V in 2011) is for the moment further north. So her speed will also fall as she gets down towards the Equator. In fact, the lead has started to extend again since 1600hrs this afternoon (Thursday).
We can also see an important reference point. This lunchtime, Francis Joyon’s men passed the point marking the fifth day at sea for the record pace with a lead of fifteen hours. In other words, they had been sailing just over 4 and a half days. A lead of half a day. That is what they have so far built up and will wish to work on. One thing is certain: this evening (Thursday), the Equator is a mere 200 miles ahead of their bows.
 
South Atlantic at around 0202hrs tonight?
 
So it looks more than ever likely they will smash the 5 days and 15 hours that it previously took to get to the Equator from Ushant. IDEC SPORT is probably already making her way out of the Doldrums. Contacted at 1540hrs, Marcel Van Triest, the onshore router for IDEC SPORT explains, “There remain what I have referred to as two lumps areas without any wind, but the trade winds are not far off now and they’ll be picking up the wind and accelerating again. I’m not looking at the crossing of the Equator itself, as it is what lies ahead that interests me. But I can give you an ETA of around 2 or 3 tomorrow morning. Remembering they left at 0202hrs, the question is whether they will make it to the Equator in under five days, but it could be exactly five days!”
We’ll be watching. What next? “For 600-800 miles, we are going to have to make the most of our angle following on from this passage through the Doldrums, which we’ve done furteh east than usual. Then, there will be a tricky transition zone before we find out whether we manage to hop onto a low pressure area coming out of Uruguay. That is what will decide whether we get a good time to the Cape of Good Hope or just a decent time.” More about that later. For the moment, it’s all about getting out of the Doldrums to make it to the other side of the world. More or less half a day ahead of the record.
 
In short
 
  • At 1600hrs on Thursday 26th Novemeber, after 4 days and 14 hours at sea, IDEC SPORT is accelerating again and sailing at 23.1 knots at 03°20 North and 27°52 West, in the middle of the Atlantic. Bearing: south (192°). Distance to the Equator: 200 miles. Lead over the record pace: 207.8 miles.
  • The record between Ushant and the Equator – also held by Loïck Peyron and his men on Banque Populaire V since 27th November 2011 – 5 days, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds.
  • The crew: the international crew on IDEC SPORT includes just six men: Francis Joyon (FRA), Bernard Stamm (SUI), Gwénolé Gahinet (FRA), Alex Pella (ESP), Clément Surtel (FRA) and Boris Herrmann (GER)
  • Start: IDEC SPORT set off at 02:02:22 on Sunday 22nd November.
  • The time to beat: Loïck Peyron and his crew (Banque Populaire) with a time of 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds.
  • Deadline: to smash the Jules Verne Trophy record, IDEC SPORT has to be back across the line before 1544hrs on Wednesday 6th January.

Spindrift 2

Tonight, Spindrift 2 and her crew will cross the equator, the first symbolic milestone on the circumnavigation for the fourteen sailors. Thanks to an effective route since their departure last Sunday at 05:01:58 GMT, the crew could cross the equator well up on the split time set by Loïck Peyron on Banque Populaire V in November 2011 (5 days, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds). But exiting the doldrums will not be easy. The weather conditions are difficult to predict, forcing the sailors to adapt to wind speeds that are oscillating between 5 and 25 knots. Their order of the day from the watch captains is not to drop their guard, and to anticipate what lies ahead.

16h15 GMT : 243 miles ahead of the current record holder
Distance covered from the start: 3139 miles
Average speed over 24 hours: 22 knots

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