History in the making

Having been professionally involved with the sport of sailing for over 30 years, I feel very privileged to have witnessed, first hand in many cases, sailing history in the making. To be able to say ‘I was there’ when against all odds Tabarly won the 1976 OSTAR with Mike Birch’s diminutive Third Turtle just behind him or when Ellen MacArthur finished 2nd in the Vendée Globe is something very special. The list is long, from events like the 2001 Jubilee Regatta, when the first 500 mile 24-hour run was recorded or when Alinghi walked away with the America’s Cup in 2003.

However disparate, for me each one of these events had something in common. As they unfolded I just knew I was witnessing something very special and that history was being written, sometimes in extraordinary fashion. And none is more extraordinary than the events that have been played out over the last few weeks – the phenomenon that is Francis Joyon.
When, in February 2004, sailing an earlier IDEC, Francis Joyon completed his solo attempt more than 20 days quicker than the previous record holder most observers, myself included, commented that 72 days would be a record that would stand for a long time. We were proved wrong when the redoubtable Ellen MacArthur, shaved a day off it and in a boat over 20ft shorter just 12 months later. Surely the limit had been reached?

Back in 2004 I commented that Francis Joyon had not just beaten the record, he had taken an axe to it. Now the taciturn Breton has done it again. 57 days 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds. That’s an average speed of nearly 20 knots, or 480 miles every 24 hours. To put that in perspective, it’s over 20 days faster than the first sub-80 day fully crewed record set in 1993 and just a few hours faster than the mighty Cheyenne, again fully crewed, in 2004. And it has knocked 14 days off Ellen’s record. Sadly, I was not able to be in Brest to welcome him back, but I do know that I’ve witnessed one of the greatest sailing achievements of all times.

Andrew Bray