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Spindrift 2: bye bye Jules Verne Trophy

Situated just 2,600 nautical miles away from the finish line off Ushant and about to start her 43rd day at sea, Spindrift 2 is now only 266 miles off the pace, but will no longer be able to improve on the Jules Verne Trophy record time of 45d 13h 42m 53s, set in 2012. Although the crew have battled incessantly, closing the gap by more than 700 miles in three days, the weather has sealed their fate.

The Azores High has blocked the direct route, while violent storms lie ahead, making the sea unnavigable, so the conditions in the Atlantic make it impossible for the crew to finish the circumnavigation on time. Spindrift 2’s crew have been forced to take their foot off the gas and leave off record-attempt mode.

Photo Yann Riou

To beat the record, the black and gold trimaran would need to average 26 knots all the way to the finish line, but the weather is not being compliant. Until yesterday (Saturday), there was still a very slim chance of crossing the finish line next to Créac’h lighthouse on Ushant on time, albeit with only a few minutes to spare. But late in the day, the situation changed, and weather conditions blocked all possible routes to the line before the cut-off point on January 6th at 5:43 pm UTC.

The Azores High had taken up position right in the middle of the direct route to the finish line, forcing Spindrift 2 to make a huge detour to the north-west, following the same path taken by the current record holder. Not only that, but by Sunday night the high-pressure conditions, with little wind, will stretch north all the way to Newfoundland.

Storms en route
It will therefore be impossible for Yann Guichard, Dona Bertarelli and their twelve-man crew to “cut the corner” by heading towards the Azores. Meanwhile, the Breton and British shores have not been spared any of the bad weather, and the situation does not look like improving any time soon, with another violent low expected to sit between the south of Ireland and Cape Finisterre on Sunday night, leading to further violent gusts on Thursday.

Photo © Eloi Stichelbaut I Spindrift racing
Photo © Eloi Stichelbaut I Spindrift racing

The coming days will not be a good time for sailing between Labrador and the Bay of Biscay, especially as the already heavy seas off Ushant will worsen and become more chaotic, perhaps even dangerous, even for a 40 m trimaran. On Saturday there were already 35 knot winds (72 km/h) and 60 knot gusts (139 km/h) sweeping over the Iroise Sea, creating waves that were more than 8 m high.Given the conditions, skipper Yann Guichard will put safety first and sail cautiously to avoid putting his men and his boat in danger. If he needs to slow down to avoid the worst of the succession of winds, caution will prevail over all other considerations.

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