Story written by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt:
As a columnist for Sailing World, I reflected on my appreciation for record setting. Our sport can be a blur of boat types and race formats, but we all dabble in record setting.
How many days you can resist your guilty pleasure, how much time you can shave off your commute, or how many wieners a guy can scarf down in 10 minutes. Then there are the more noteworthy records, like the longest free dive (200 meters), most balls juggled (11), or heaviest weight lifted with the toes (51 pounds).
The World Sailing Speed Record Council is the lone administrator for sailing records, and while their record list includes some that are more ego accomplishment than nautical achievement, racing non-stop around the world is not one of them.
Among the greatest is the Jules Verne Trophy, a prize awarded for the fastest circumnavigation of the world by any type of yacht with no restrictions on the size of the crew, starting and finishing between the Le Créac’h Lighthouse off the tip of Brittany and the Lizard Point in Cornwall.
Beyond imagining a 40-day quest that averages nearly 20 knots, this record fits nicely into our Northern Hemisphere seasons. As we back off the sailing throttle during winter, this is when sailors seeking to survive the southern latitudes are throttle down… the Southern Hemisphere summer.
So it was with interest when the 12-man crew of the 40 meter trimaran, Spindrift 2, led by Yann Guichard began their attempt to win The Jules Verne Trophy on January 16, and with disappointment in how their effort ended on the seventeenth day while deep in the Indian Ocean. The breakage of the boat’s starboard rudder stock was the cause.
“The starboard rudder stock broke shortly after the Kerguelen Islands,” explained Guichard after nursing the boat up to Fremantle, Australia. “We do not know when exactly, but Thierry Chabagny was helming and said it suddenly felt very heavy. I am positive that we didn’t hit anything. We were on port tack heading east-northeast with the downwind gennaker.
“As it happened at night we tried to establish what the issue might be – whether the rudders were parallel, the tension of the steering cables, or just something stuck on the rudders. But nothing. When we changed helmsman, it was exactly the same – difficult to round up or bear away. It was becoming even more difficult to steer as the boat was doing what it wanted.
“At first light we were able to see that the starboard rudder stock had broken between the two bearings. The rudder was useless and kept moving sideways – it just did what it wanted,” continued the skipper of Spindrift 2.
This was a huge disappointment for the black and gold trimaran which comes on the heels of how a year earlier the team had set off with a similar purpose, only to be dismasted on their way to the start line.
“I cannot pretend that both the crew and I are extremely disappointed; we were well placed within the record time, and with very favourable conditions to come,” notes Guichard. “After our dismasting a year ago, this is the second time that equipment has let us down!
“But we were lucky not to have lost the rudder, as that could have ripped out the bottom of the hull. So we will be able to establish if it is a manufacturing defect or an error in the structural calculation.
“We made the journey to the Kerguelen mainly on port tack, but we never pushed the boat more than necessary in the very strong winds. Spindrift 2 goes much faster now than she did three years ago on our first attempt. This time we had all the aces in our hand, so it’s really frustrating knowing that we didn’t hit anything, nor did we do anything wrong.”
The weather window at the start of the Trophy attempt was on the team’s side – they broke the record between Ushant and the Equator (4d 19h 57‘). They exploited the potential of Spindrift 2 in this first section of the course, ensuring that they got around the Saint Helena anticyclone, reached the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, and then passed beneath the Kerguelen Islands, despite the presence of icebergs. When the rudder broke, the crew were still tens of miles ahead of the record time.
“At least we showed that we could go fast, as we have the record between Ushant and the Equator – although we needed to do eight or nine gybes, compared to only the one three years ago,” shared Guichard.
“The combination of a smaller mast and new foils meant that the hulls are in the water less so, with less drag, we go faster. The changes that we made to the deck roof were also really good, and protected us from the wind and cold. We went to almost 55° south with water at 2°C – a slalom amongst the ice! ”
But before considering a new attempt and adjusting the team’s sailing program, Guichard wants time to analyse and fully understand why the rudder stock broke with no warning.
“For the moment, our focus is on understanding why the rudder broke. Aside from cost, there is also the delay in building a new rudder and the simple fact that boatyards are very busy at this time of year,” said Guichard.
“If we have to build a new one [rudder], then that will take time, so it is still too early to know what we are going to do. First we will meet with our stakeholders and look at all the facts and then we will then take time to consider whether we continue with the Jules Verne Trophy program next winter, or not.”
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CREW OF SPINDRIFT 2:
Yann Guichard – skipper
Erwan Israël – navigator
Jacques Guichard – watch leader / helm
Christophe Espagnon – watch leader / helm
Xavier Revil – watch leader / helm
François Morvan – helm
Thierry Chabagny – helm
Sam Goodchild – helm / bow
Erwan Le Roux – helm
Duncan Späth – helm
Benjamin Schwartz – helm / bow
Jackson Bouttell – helm / bow
Jean-Yves Bernot – router
The Jules Verne Trophy is a prize for the fastest circumnavigation of the world by any type of yacht with no restrictions on the size of the crew, starting and finishing between the Le Créac’h Lighthouse off the tip of Brittany and the Lizard Point in Cornwall.
The 12-man crew of the 40 meter trimaran Spindrift 2 led by Yann Guichard began their attempt January 16 at 11h 47min 27sec UTC. To win the Jules Verne Trophy, they have to recross the line by February 26 at 11h 16m 57sec UTC to break the record of 40 days 23h 30m 30s, held since 2017 by Francis Joyon (FRA) and his five crew on the 31.5m VPLP-designed trimaran IDEC SPORT.