Giant trimaran attempts round the world record

Renowned multihull sailor Brian Thompson,
the only British crewmember aboard 130ft maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V,
sends his daily report from their Jules Verne Trophy attempt. The prize is awarded for the fastest circumnavigation of the
world by any type of yacht. This year Brian will attempt to break the record as
helmsman on Banque Populaire V, the worlds largest racing trimaran. The target
is to beat the current record held by Groupama 3 of 48 days, 7 hours and 45
minutes and average over 25 knots for the 28,000 mile course.

Keep up to date
with Brian’s latest updates here:

Day 26 report:

We are still sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean – has nobody mentioned, that the brochure clearly stated that this part of the world cruise, was supposed to be a downwind sleighride!

There is 25 to 30 knots of wind now, and a ‘bumpy’ seastate. The boat is crashing over the waves at 22 knots. We have just changed from one reef and staysail, to two reefs and staysail, as the vespertine light faded for our short night.

Late this afternoon we passed about 4 miles to leeward of one iceberg, and saw ten growlers, between 5 and 1m high. The iceberg we saw from 12 miles out on the radar, (before we saw it visually), but the growlers did not show up at all well on radar.

Fortunately the water temp is 8 or 9C, so the growlers should not get too far from the mother berg before melting.

It’s night now, so a careful lookout for us. Time to go on deck.

Day 25 report:

Since the encounter with the amazing ice display of The remnants of berg B15J we have been skirting the Northern edge of the known ice zone. Firstly in almost no wind, and now tacking upwind in 15 knots of wind.

Our watch was on deck through the entire night – at least the 4 hours of it that we have here, and we were paying close attention to the radar. We were looking at various echos on the radar, rain clouds, fog banks, waves, and distinguishing them from possible icebergs, when an echo on the screen suddenly appeared that
was unmistakably an iceberg, about the size of a large ship,we tacked away towards the north, about 4 miles before it, but it was not quite light enough yet to see it visually..

If you are going to sail in the iceberg zone, this is the way to do it! In flat water, and sailing upwind, so the speed is not too high, and you can easily change direction and even stop and drift back in the direction you came in..Sailing downwind in strong breeze it would take several miles to get the
gennaker furled. Though right now sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean feels a bit more like the BT Challenge than the trophee Jules Verne!

Am trying not to think at all about the miles we are losing to Groupama3, but that’s why it’s good to have had some miles in the bank, to be able to spend some of that lead to make the correct decisions to get to the finish first..

Day 25 and we have sailed further in that time than any other sailing boat. As a
comparison, when I did the mini Transat in 2001, it took those 25 days to get to Salvador in Brasil. In the Vendee 2008, I had gotten to South of Cape Town, and in 2003 on Cheyenne’s Round the world record we had just arrived south of Cape Leewin!

Ciao, am off to my bunk, cannot stay awake any longer!

Day 24 report:
A good days run today, looks like nearly 700 miles.

Today started off with the usual grey mist, 30 knots of wind with 2 reefs and staysail, and during our watch, it turned into a glorious sunny day, with flat seas with a 3m swell from behind, the wind dropped to 25 knots and we could open the throttles again on the boat, putting up more sail and sailing a safe and consistent speed in the low to mid the end of our watch we were sailing
with full main and solent. It was great to steer the boat for speed and not in defensive mode,

In the afternoon we arrived at the corner of the iceberg area, where the remnants of B15J are scattered. B15J is the name of a massive berg that broke off the ice shelf about 3 years ago;. It was the size of Corsica, but it’s now the size of Belle Isle, with lots of pieces ice around..

It was the most inrcredible sight, with huge table bergs and a numerous smaller bergs that had been eroded into little mountains. Plus lots of growlers..

I had seen bergs before nothing like this..we stayed on the north side of them, took photos and videos. Checked the radar settings and saw the bergs in our Raymarine infrared camera.

As night fell we are paralleling the zone of bergs, and have light winds. After our great day yesterday of high speed and icy scenic attractions, we are now almost becalmed in the Southern Ocean at 52S.

Wind 2knots! It is all expected, and we are going to have to be patient before the new NW
wind arrives. We might well be going upwind again for a short while. It is all a necessary part of avoiding that area of heavy ice, that was seen by satellite, and proved in our visual inspection yesterday..

Although we will be losing a lot of miles to Groupama 3 today, we can, in addition to all the sail manouvers required in light airs, use this weather to make checks on the boat.

We are going to check all 420 feet of the 3 hulls for any damage


Day 21 report:

Great sailing today at 57S in the Southern Ocean, clear skies all
day. 30 knots of wind in the first part of the day, which most places
would be a reason to cancel racing, or not leave port to venture out.
But for us now, after so many days of heavy air downwind, it was a just
nice quiet break! 

Then it got lighter still in the
afternoon to 18 knots, so we increased our sail area to the medium
gennaker and full main. It’s now 15 knots and set to drop further in
next 24 hours, with the breeze heading to give some upwind sailing and
tacking to come. Then the following 24 hours will be heavy airs beam
reaching followed by more usual downwind sailing. So a very mixed bag of
conditions in prospect..

Going upwind at 57S is going to
bring some impressive wind chill numbers! Water was at 2C a few hours
ago and is now at 5C. We are at the Latitude of Aberdeen in Scotland and
Juneau in Alaska.

Few if any sailing boats would ever
come here. Round the world races now have mandatory ice gates, and so
it’s really only a Jules Verne attempt, that has no limits, that would
come here. There are no islands to the South, we just passed 100 miles
South of Maquarie Island, part of New Zealand, so no reason for a
cruising boat to come here – we have the place to ourselves!

it was spectacular here in our private sea last night – at sunset we had
7 big albatrosses following us, and one would circle the boat, passing
meters in front of the bow, and just above the water..

The light
was taking so long to fade after sunset, that I finally realized, it was
not going to fade at all! At midnight local time the light was now in
the South, over Antarctica. And by one am it was slightly in the East,
so dawn was here. It was an amazingly clear night..

2 days ago we
were at 43S, and we are now at 57S – the days character change so much
in that distance. And 400 miles to our South, the sun would not have
even set last night!


Day 18 report: Australia!
2 mins under 18 days to Australia! Juan just came on deck to say that we had passed Cape Leewin..

I had daydreamed before the trip about getting to Oz in 20 days, and how incredible that would be, but less than 18, just amazing, I never even considered it possible..

Again passed a major milestone whilst our watch has been on deck, Equator, Cape Agulhas, now Leewin.

Wind is up whilst this low passes below us. Wind 35 to 42 knots. 3 reefs in main now and Solent or staysail. Keeping our speed under control as there are some steep seas that we don’t want to be nosediving into at 40 knots, and thereby straining the boat..still surfing to 35 at times..


Day 15 report:
‘Terre en vue!’ shouted Manu as the mist abruptly parted to reveal the jagged
mountains of the Kerguelens, laced with veins of snow and ice. The mountains soar to 1800m, but we could only see the lower 200m, the rest remained resolutely overcast.

But that was enough to feast our eyes on, to take photos and videos. Before the mist parted we even took a photo of the radar screen, just to prove the island was there..It was our first land sighted since passing Santa Cruz de la Palma on Day 2.

We gybed twice to clear the wind shadow to the east of the island, the closest
we approached was about 6 miles on the south side. Fred at the helm saw a penguin dive between our hulls, and there was a lone albatross plus a dozen petrels circling behind us.

Now we are back on our usual port gybe, and are going to arc towards the north as the wind shifts west. This conveniently sets us up to go over a region of icebergs that extend to 48.5N to our East.

So warmer water here we come. Currently it’s 4.3C, and really not too bad with dry suit gloves, boots and a surf helmet for driving..

Time to go on watch!

Day 14 report:
Making great miles today, all on port gybe running ahead of a low pressure
behind us..wind is 30 to 38 knots so we are changing between the small gennaker
and Solent jib, as the wind alters, and keeping 2 reefs in the main. We are going below the Crozet Islands now, and probably passing just south of the Kerguelens too..

We are down below 50S now so the globe is getting smaller here in a horizontal plane, so every 38.5 miles we sail east we are making a degree of longitude – we would have to do 60 miles on the equator to gain that same degree of longitude..So we are saving time by sailing at these latitudes..though does mean we are keeping a careful eye on the radar. This area has been thoroughly scanned for icebergs by satellite and none have been detected, but better safe than

Have mentioned our watch system before but thought would explain it better. We have 14 crew in total. 2 off watch, Loick, who is the conductor of our orchestra, and grabs catnaps, and Juan, navigating, who hardly sleeps at or more usually both of them are up on deck for all manoeuvers..they sleep in 2 bunks aft of the nav station, which is below the cockpit..

The remaining 12 are divided into 3 watches of 4, each led by a watch captain.
Who are Yvon, Fred and Jean-Baptiste. I am on watch with Yvon. We stay on GMT right around the world and do not alter the watch times for the local time. It could not be easier really. For instance, on our watch we are on deck from 8 to 12, off watch and in our bunks 12 to 4, and on standby mode 4 till 8..then on deck again. So twice a day we are on watch, off watch and on standby..

Every 4 hours everyone is up and changing modes. One group is coming off the deck to get undressed for bed. Another group is getting out of bed and getting dressed for standby and the 3rd group are going on deck from their standby. As you can imagine, in a confined space that is constantly moving, there is an elaborate choreography to this, rather like ants moving inside an anthill..somehow it all happens, with no friction. You need a certain amount of purpose to get done what you need to do, and a good awareness, respect and tolerance for what everyone else is trying to get done too. Somehow it all works, and the boat never stops moving, with at least 4 on deck at all times…

For manouvers it’s usually 9 or 10 people on deck, or 14 if it’s near a watch change..

Day 13 report:
“Yesterday was a positioning day, to put ourselves in the right spot for the next low that is coming through. We needed to get further south not to miss out on the best conditions. We gybed south twice to take advantage of slight windshifts towards the west. The gybes south on starboard were not pleasant at all on a trimaran with the swell near the beam shaking the boat around. Now back on port gybe, the swells are right behind us, and we are surfing smoothly from one swell to the’s not as fast and furious as before the Cape of Good Hope, but still over 30 knots most of the time, and low stress on the boat – she has done amazingly so far..

Hopefully we now stay on this gybe and in this wind as far as the Kerguelens in about 2 days time..

Just changed mealtimes around to account for heading east towards the sunrise. So instead of having breakfast we now made lunch at 0800..”

Day 12 report:

“What a difference 5 hours sailing southwards brings. This morning we were tearing along 550 miles to the south of the tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas (spelling?). It was bright sunshine and 10C water. Now we are on the same heading and 100 miles further south and it’s overcast, limited visibility and
the water is’s the water temp that makes the difference. It’s high summer here, December, and on an equivalent latitude to La Rochelle in the north, yet it’s feeling distinctly wintry. I am sure La Rochelle is balmier today, even in mid winter! However, we are still tearing along, which is the key point, and why we are here..

Another gybe southwards likely tonight, so it may be soon time to put the boots on for the first time this trip, and get the gloves ready, just in case..

All good on board, we have settled into our watch system well. Our watch is on standby now, Yvon is cooking dinner to be ready for 1915, we have just helped to shake out a reef, and I have been marking up the world map on the wall with our position each day, as well as getting my clothing ready for the colder waters to come.

So far my Musto gear has worked perfectly, I have not got wet even once, am in the same thermals I had at the start, though had lighter gear for the tropics. Have just been a little self indulgent and treated myself to new underpants, just because I could..the key is to put on the right outer layers, so you don’t get the inner layers wet. The latex seals on the neck and cuffs of the foul weather top are keeping all the salt water out. I do remember very well having water wicking up the arms in gear years ago – those days thankfully have passed..”

View the race tracker and keep up to date with their progress here.