Francis Joyon and crew aboard the maxi-tri IDEC Sport are fast approaching the halfway point in their attempt to break the “tea route” record from Hong Kong to England. The current 36-day, 2-hour, 37-minute record was set by Giovanni Soldini aboard the 70ft trimaran, Maserati, in 2018. Joyon is projected to be a day and a half ahead of Soldini’s record pace when his crew rounds the Cape of Good Hope mid-day tomorrow, Saturday, February 1.
Despite what the crew’s breakneck pace may suggest, IDEC Sport, which departed Hong Kong on January 18, has faced challenging conditions while traveling through the Indian Ocean. “We had hoped that the Indian Ocean would resemble the North Atlantic from east to west,” says Joyon. “It wasn’t like that. The trade winds simply were not there, and since Indonesia, the small low-pressure systems have turned into transition zones with calms, so the crew and the boat are pretty tired now as these transitions and periods crossing through fronts required a lot of maneuvers and generated a lot of stress when the wind gusted. The sea never really smoothed down because of the cyclic areas and never matched the wind direction.”
Looking ahead, in the final approach to the Cape of Good Hope, the strong Agulhas Current will help pull IDEC Sport in the right direction. However, Joyon predicts headwinds will also whip up a swell making for some uncomfortable sailing. “We’re going to have to deal with two transition phases today and tomorrow, with a trough we need to cross and then something we always fear, the passage of a front with lots of gusts,“ he says.
On the plus side, crewmember Antoine Blouete optimistically notes, “After the Cape of Good Hope, we will pick up some southeasterly winds and the climb back up the coast of South Africa and Namibia is looking good. The Atlantic means we are nearing home.” The plan, Blouete says, is to stay away from the warmer shallow waters in order to avoid marine life that could get hit.
“It has been nice to sail in places that ocean racers don’t usually get to,” Blouete adds, but with a cape rounding and an ocean to cross, it’s not time to reminisce yet. “It’s a long journey and our options are still not clear for our route around the St. Helena high. We’re pleased about our lead over the record pace. This is an incredible voyage.”
For the latest on the record attempt, click here.