French ironman Francis Joyon is out to recapture the solo Atlantic record of 5 days

France’s steeliest single-hander, Francis Joyon, set off from New York yesterday on his bid to reclaim the outright solo Atlantic record. The 57-year-old, famous for being an ironman of few words, set out ahead of a low pressure in the hope of beating Thomas Coville’s 2008 record of 5 days 19 hours.

In the 24 hours after starting off Ambrose Light yesterday, Joyon covered just shy of 500 miles. He has taken quite a southerly route and is already some 140 miles south of the course Coville took in 2009.

Joyon wants this record back. It belonged to him between 2005 and 2008 when he set a time of 6 days 4 hours in his earlier trimaran, the 90ft IDEC.

That record was shadowed by disaster.

After crossing the finish line off the Lizard, Joyon decided to continue alone to France. Exhausted, he fell asleep and IDEC ran up on Pointe de Penmarc’h and was wrecked. Joyon was fortunate to escape unscathed.

Afterwards he built his current multihull, the Nigel Irens-designed 97ft maxi trimaran IDEC 2, and in 2008 went on to sail non-stop round the world in 57 days. He still holds this record and it could stand for a long time to come.

So, given Joyon’s amazing track record, this attempt is one to watch in every way. No sailor is more interesting or enigmatic than Francis Joyon, who wastes no time on media guff and tends to do things in silent mode with no view to profile or fuss.

When he set another record last year, covering 666 miles in 24 hours, he scarcely mentioned it and the feat went almost completely under the radar. After spending that whole time on deck as the boat careered on the edge of control his short and laconic comment was: “It was extremely dangerous.”

Typically, he operates without the normal entourage of preparateurs and PRs. That means that his approach is a little eccentric by normal standards.

Joyon admitted yesterday that the go-ahead from weather forecaster Jean-Yves Bernot caught him on the hop and he didn’t have all his stores ready.

“I didn’t have time to take care of all the supplies. I asked a guy on the pontoon to help me. He was Russian and he gave me some food from home, so it looks like it’s going to be Russian food this week.”

If you don’t know much about Francis Joyon, all I can say is he’s a remarkable one-off. Take a look at this profile I wrote on him after his round the world record.