As well as seizing the lead, Frenchman François Gabart breaks the 24hr solo sailing record
The youngest skipper in the race François Gabart (Macif) stepped up his Vendée Globe challenge with an unprecedented 545.3 miles over 24 hours.
By 08:00 UTC yesterday morning (Monday 10 December) 29-year-old Gabart had already bettered the recent mark of rival Jean-Pierre Dick, set only ten days ago at a yet to be ratified 502.9 mm when he made 515.6 miles.
This new best 24 hours distance, riding at the front of a generous low in a good sized, orderly swell reflects an average speed of 22.3 kts and also surpasses easily the two handed record of Dick and Loick Peyron at 506.333 nm set in the last Barcelona World Race.
For a solo ocean racer on a 60 footer, 30 days into a non stop, no outside assistance three month race, the distance even compares impressively against the outright crewed monohull record of 596.6 miles set in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race by Ericsson, and is only 21 miles shy of the best 24 hour run on the last Volvo Ocean Race.
Gabart explained: “I can’t really explain why I’m going so fast in the same weather conditions as the others. Maybe my sail settings are different from Armel’s. I’m sailing at 22-26 knots, and it should be like that for several more hours. It’s very noisy but you get used to it, same for how much the boat shakes. These things become familiar conditions, the norm.”
“The autopilot is just fine, the boat is perfectly balanced, so I’m not even worrying about that. That’s what allows us to sail fast and effortlessly.”
Gabart’s attack took him back into the overall lead, ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h by just over one mile after making up more than 54 miles to Le Cléach’s Banque Populaire.
Speeds between the two leaders, racing side by side, separated by just 3.5 miles of ocean, had evened out to around 21kts yesterday.
Le Cléac’h responded: “I think I’m doing great in terms of performance, I can see MACIF on my AIS. My average speed is about 20 knots but he’s obviously been faster last night. But congratulations on his 24-hour record! 23 knots of average speed is really something, maybe he’s taken a bit more risks. Same for the skippers behind, but so far they’re doing ok. But I’m focusing on my own race, not the others’, and there’s still a long way to go.”
All new record speeds need to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Records Council.