If Francis Joyon beats Ellen's round the world record, he'll do it powered only by wind and sun


Earlier today Francis Joyon left in his 97ft trimaran IDEC in a bid to break Ellen MacArthur’s solo round the world record of 71 days 14 hours. Any day now Thomas Coville plans to follow him in a slightly larger Nigel Irens-designed trimaran.

I’m sorry they didn’t conspire to set off together because the combination of record and race would have been engrossing, particularly as they are such different characters and are approaching the challenge in quite different ways.

The 51-year-old Joyon has some very singular ideas and, unlike Coville, has rigorously kept things as simple as possible. He is determined to show that it is possible to be fast and self-sufficient, and intends to be first record-breaker to use only power from the wind and sun.

Asked if that is a reasonable idea, he replies: “My previous boat IDEC [in which he set the record in 2004] was equipped with a huge 280kg engine that I wasn’t able to remove structurally. It broke down halfway round the world in my last record and I demonstrated that I could do without it. I’ve also chosen to carry a minimum of equipment and all if it low energy. So a wind generator, solar panels and a battery will be enough.”

No engine also means no heat on board and, tough guy that he is, Joyon comments: “I’ll have to accept the cold and deal with it. And I do accept it. It’s possible [to endure]. And there are benefits: less gear means less weight, less failures and less downtime. The only problem is that I can’t send a lot of photos or video, but I’m doing it this way because of a conviction that I should fit in with the environment.”

Photo by Thierry Martinez