As the northern hemisphere settles into a relaxing holiday season with family, friends, warm hearths, victuals and libations, and as the southern hemisphere recovers from their holiday indulgences (or dusts off their brains for the start of the Sydney Hobart Race), it’s good raise a glass to those who are at sea today, rather than spending their time ashore with their loved ones. While this list is long and includes those who protect our freedoms and ways of life, two notable groups of sailors who have not touched land in weeks include the two crews who are trying to break the Jules Verne Trophy (JVT) for the fastest circumnavigation time.
As we have previously reported, skipper Loick Peyron and his star-studded crew aboard the 131-foot maxi trimaran, Banque Populaire V (now Spindrift 2), lapped the planet in just 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds in 2012, setting the current Jules Verne Trophy record. While this is a blistering-fast circumnavigation time, as with all records, it will be broken-the only real question is when.
In the wee hours of November 22, two maxi trimarans, the 131-foot Spindrift 2, which is being co-skippered by Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard and sailed with their full crew, as well as the 105-foot trimaran IDEC SPORT (née Groupama 3, Banque Populaire VII and Lending Club 2), which is being driven by skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, slipped past Ushant, France to begin their record attempts.
Both teams have had good luck avoiding serious calamity (at least that they are reporting), and both boats are in contention for breaking the existing JVT record, however the Spindrift 2 team has been contending with some delamination to their mast, which they believe they have now fixed. Both teams recently rounded Cape Horn and are now punching north through the South Atlantic as fast as their sailplans will carry them.
As of this writing, Spindrift 2 was crawling along at a mere 4.2 knots and was some 211 nautical miles astern of the record, while IDEC SPORT was clipping along at 24.7 knots, but was some 366 nautical miles behind the pace.
While racking up offshore miles is the modus operandi for both teams, the Spindrift team took advantage of the holiday to wear Santa hats on deck while driving and trimming, and also hiding presents for each other throughout the vessel (and, given that they have 131 feet to work with, there were likely lots of creative hiding spots).
For their part, the IDEC SPORT crew reports spending their holiday trying to avoid the St. Helena High, while also dodging icebergs (makes the bleary-eyed drive home from the holiday party seem kind of tame). While there was no talk of Santa hats replacing shielded helmets on deck, a day of sailing at speeds approaching 30 knots while dodging big hunks of ice is sure to be a Christmas day that neither Joyon or his crew will be quick to forget.
While it’s easy to get sucked into the metrics and see negative numbers compared to the reference time, it’s critical to remember that JVT chases have now reached an era of refinement, where the low-hanging fruit was long ago picked, and where the opportunity of knocking entire weeks off of the standing record has passed. For these JVT sailors-as well as the generations of record chasers that will follow-a reasonable goal is an improvement of hours, possibly days, but likely not much more.
Given this scenario, it’s entirely possible that both teams can earn back their miles and beat the reference time, but that will all boil down to smart sailing, wise decisions, and-of course-opportune weather windows. “Before the start, we would have been pleased with the time it took us to reach the Horn,” reported Joyon from IDEC SPORT. “It means we are still in with every chance of beating the record.”
Time will tell, but-as you enjoy the trappings of a holiday celebration-rest assured that both crews will be pressing their mighty machines has hard as possible to try and shave every available second off of their passage times, while also helping to set up a dramatic finish off of Ushant in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!