French sailor Francis Joyon and his crew have abandoned their attempt to break the round the world record in the maxi trimaran IDEC Sport after squalls and calms in the Doldrums thwarted their pace

Tricky conditions in the Doldrums have thwarted the IDEC Sport Jules Verne attempt

Tricky conditions in the Doldrums have thwarted the IDEC Sport Jules Verne attempt

French sailor Francis Joyon has abandoned his attempt to break the fully-crewed round the world record for the Jules Verne Trophy. He turned his 100ft trimaran IDEC Sport around after encountering adverse conditions in the Doldrums.

Returning to Brest and the start line of the record route now means that he and his crew could potentially make another start for the record this winter season.

IDEC Sport left Brest on 20 November in moderate breezes, but was able to hook into strong tradewinds at the Canary Islands. The team of Joyon, Bernard Stamm (SUI), Boris Herrmann (GER), Alex Pella (ESP), Clément Surtel and Gwénolé Gahinet (FRA) made good gains on the record of 45 days 13 hours set by Loïck Peyron and Banque Populaire V and by November 24 had overtaken Peyron’s time. They approached the Cape Verde islands at an average speed of 29 knots as the team covered almost 700 miles in 24 hours in the 100ft trimaran.

Joyon was initially confident of making a good crossing into the Southern Hemisphere. However, the Intertropical Convergence Zone – the Doldrums – proved to be particularly active, with violent squalls and extended calms. Joyon reported:

“If you total up the experience of the six of us, you’re looking at several dozen crossings of this zone. But it is hell out here with rain that is getting heavier and heavier leaving several centimetres of water on the deck, while the skies are so black that it’s like night. Sudden violent gusts hit us, and we have to sail downwind for a few minutes before finding the sails flapping with no wind at all.”

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Boris Herrmann helms IDEC Sport

However, the Doldrums proved to be too unstable to allow for record-breaking pace, Joyon commented from the boat today:

“That [above] was just the introduction to the 30 hours that would follow. I can remember one particular moment at night with Alex [Pella] at the helm under full mainsail and big gennaker, when we were forced to run downwind in 40 knots of wind. This wasn’t one big gust, but wind that lasted a fairly long time, to the extent that we wondered how long it would be before the boat capsized if it got any worse. Under full sail in the dark with sails wide open, we sped along in the dark without paying attention to the route, just to get away from the worst.

“Then, there were the calms with the trimaran drifting at one knot, a snail’s pace.

“We saw the hours slipping by. Hours when we should have been hopping onto a low a long way south, which was heading for the Cape of Good Hope without us. The following morning we should have been in the south-easterly trade winds, but it was too late. The stopwatch, usually on our side, was against us, so all we could do was head north to go back across the Doldrums and towards Brittany to give it another go later.

Learn more about the Doldrums with Chris Tibbs’s guide here http://www.yachtingworld.com/cruising/tropical-yacht-cruising-10-tips-for-perfect-champagne-sailing-98902

Joyon's team were ahead of the record at the Cape Verde islands, but slowed as they approached the Equator

Joyon’s team were ahead of the record at the Cape Verde islands, but slowed as they approached the Equator

Blistering speeds for solo record challenge

This is the second consecutive disappointment for Joyon. Last autumn the team successfully rounded the globe, but failed to beat Peyron’s current impressive record of 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds, set in 2012 on board the 130ft Banque Populaire V. The 2015 attempt saw IDEC Sport return home after 47 days and 14 hours, four hours slower than rival challengers Spindrift 2.

IDEC Sport is expected to arrive in Brittany by next weekend, where they will return to ‘stand-by mode’ as they await another weather window.

“We’re not giving up. The idea of turning back is always part of this challenge and we had talked about it before the start in Brest last weekend. We shall be heading back into the squalls in the Doldrums and hope to reach Brest next Sunday to go on stand by again,” Joyon commented.

Meanwhile fellow French skipper Thomas Coville is currently over 970 miles ahead of the solo round the world record, sailing his maxi trimaran, Sodebo Ultim. This is a record that has been held by Francis Joyon since 2008.

To beat Joyon’s time of 57 days 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds, Coville needs to finish on or before 2 January 2017 in order to take the title of fastest solo sailor around the world.

He is currently about 1,200 miles south of Australia, racing at 57°S at an average pace of 28-29 knots. Follow his progress at http://tour-du-monde.sodebo.com/

Thomas Coville is currently in the Southern Oceans, ahead of Joyon's solo record time

Thomas Coville is currently in the Southern Oceans, ahead of Joyon’s solo record time