New 24hr record by Armel Le Cleac'h, while another trimaran record attempt ends in capsize

A breathtaking new single-handed speed record of 682 miles in 24 hours was set yesterday by French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h in the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire VII. Le Cléac’h is attempting to break Discovery Route record between Cadiz (Spain) and San Salvador (Bahamas), sailing the 105ft trimaran that was launched as Groupama 3 and which, under Franck Cammas’s command, broke the crewed round the world record.

The new solo record, once ratified, will knock the legendary Francis Joyon off the top spot, as it betters his 24 hour record in the trimaran IDEC by nearly 16 miles.

To handle such a boat single-handed is a massive feat in itself, and at speeds such as these poses considerable risks. That reality was underscored yesterday by the capsize off the coast of Brazil of another maxi trimaran, the 80ft Prince de Bretagne.

Skipper Lionel Lemonchois set off his EPIRB yesterday some 800 miles offshore at the latitude of Rio while attempting a single-handed record from Brittany to Mauritius. His team say he is safe aboard, sheltering in the upturned central hull and arrangements are being made to evacuate him. Read more (in French) here.

There are some essential differences between Joyon’s IDEC, the 105ft Banque Populaire VII and the 80ft Prince de Bretagne (a former ORMA 60 scaled up) that make the latter two boats potentially faster but arguably riskier. The essential one is that IDEC was conceived and designed (by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret) for solo ocean record-settting and, more specifically, for Joyon’s methods and style of sailing. The other trimarans are designed for crewed sailing and even when carrying more conservative sails put an onus on the skipper to anticipate, judge and respond to a suitable safety margin.

As we’ve seen with recent capsizes of crewed MOD70 trimarans Spindrift and Paprec-Virbac, balancing the right point between speed and safety is tough in volatile winds, especially where big, sharp gusts are punching through that far exceed the mean wind speed, as can happen with or after a front. I’m just guessing, but I wonder if that’s what happened on Prince de Bretagne.

We’ll update with more news as we get it.