French sailor itching to take Atlantic record
Legendary French sailor Francis Joyon may have had trouble navigating Manhattan's traffic snarls Wednesday, but he hopes a blistering sail across the Atlantic will win him a historic record.
- Published: 16/05/2013 at 01:49 AM
- Newspaper section: news
French professional sailor Francis Joyon addresses a press conference at the French Consulate in New York, on May 15, 2013. Joyon arrived in New York with his trimaran 'IDEC' as he waits for a weather window to challenge the solo trans-Atlantic record from New York to Cape Lizard.
Joyon, 56, is in New York making final preparations to his giant trimaran IDEC for a bid to beat the trans-Atlantic solo crossing record of five days, 19 hours, 29 minutes and 20 seconds set in 2008 by his compatriot Thomas Coville.
The route between Ambrose lighthouse near New York and the Lizard headland at the tip of Cornwall in England is the competitive sailor's perfect mix of ocean, powerful weather systems and history.
"Sailors have been interested in this crossing for several centuries," Joyon told a news conference at the French consulate, arriving late after what he said was an unexpectedly tricky bicycle ride through rush-hour Manhattan.
There could be history in the making for Joyon too.
He already holds three of solo sailing's greatest records. He is fastest around the world in 57 days and last summer he broke the 24-hour speed record, covering 668 nautical miles (1,237 kilometers) in a day.
He also recently smashed his own record on the Route of Discovery first pioneered by Christopher Columbus, taking eight days, 16 hours and seven minutes to cross from Cadiz in Spain to San Salvador in the Bahamas.
The trans-Atlantic is the fourth big scalp. "If he beats it, he'll become the only sailor in the world to have won the Grand Slam of records," his publicist said.
Joyon's bright red maxi trimaran is a monstrous 95 feet (29 meters) long and equipped with foils to make it even faster, lifting out of the water so that hull resistance falls to an absolute minimum as it tears across the ocean.
But he'll be relying at least as much on the weather. His specialist weather router, based in the French port of La Rochelle, is looking for just the right fast-moving depression to power Joyon across.
Climactic conditions are generally favorable until the end of July, but there is no sign of an immediate window opening up.
"We have a forecast up to May 22 and the situation is not right at least until the 23rd," Joyon said.
The perfect conditions might become apparent with very little warning, meaning something of a tense wait and then a last minute rush to make final preparations to the boat, which is tied up in the Hudson in lower Manhattan.
"Sometimes you don't know two days in advance, sometimes 36 hours," he said.
An illustration of how hard it is for one person to manage these high-tech boats is Joyon's own unfortunate experience in 2011 -- one he'll be hoping not to repeat this summer.
Then, he set off to attempt the Atlantic record, but crashed into a Hudson River buoy in bad weather even before reaching the sea. After repairs, he tried again and set out, only to capsize 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the US coast.
Joyon said that his boat is safer, however, than the intensely demanding speed machines like the America's Cup AC72 catamaran that overturned last week in San Francisco Bay, killing British Olympic sailor Andrew Simpson.
"We haven't tried to build a boat at the extremes of naval architecture. We've kept some safety margins," he said, calling the IDEC "solid" and built to last decades.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
- Position: News agency