The Bridge 2017 Le trimaran MACIF attendu dans la soirée

Tuesday, 04 July 2017

The Bridge: Francis Joyon takes second but not passing the flame on yet

Francis Joyon and his four-man crew on IDEC Sport have finished second in The Bridge – Centennial Transat Ultimate trimaran race, crossing the finish line under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York, on Tuesday, July 4 at 00:09:03 (local time); 08 days, 11 hours 09 minutes and 03 seconds after leaving from under the Saint-Nazaire Bridge on Sunday, June 25 and 10 hours, 37 minutes and 43 seconds after the winner, Macif. IDEC Sport sailed 3,486.60 miles at an average speed of 17.16 knots.

Joyon and his crew of Alex Pella, Gwénolé Gahinet, Sébastien Picault and Quentin Ponroy exchanged the lead with Macif for the first two and a half days of racing, but when Macif wrested it back in the small hours of Wednesday, June 28 (French time) it was not relinquished for the next 5 days and 18 hours until the finish. 

IDEC Sport remained in the hunt, 30-50 miles behind, and Joyon used all his nous to make it quickly through transition zones and keep a boat 10 years older and several tonnes heavier in contention. 

It was only when Macif made it through the complicated ridge of high pressure first, 36 hours before their finish, that IDEC fell 100 miles behind and out of touch.

One of their most difficult stretches came at the very end as they inched towards the finish. “We had 3 knots of wind and the current against us, so the end was neverending,” Joyon said. 

“We’re happy overall, we had fun, and it’s a happy crew. We made the boats sail fast and from a strategic point of view we sailed the most direct route possible (nearly 100 miles less than Macif).

“We were ahead of Macif for a while, so we’re optimistic about what the boat can do. We analysed that in light and downwind conditions they were faster because our appendages are not new. It’s hard watching them sail five knots faster than us (in the same wind).  But it was a great contest and I don’t regret being here at all. 

“We didn’t get that feeling of speed that you get on a round the world record attempt, it was an upwind battle, but it’s always good fun when you’re out racing against others and putting your strategy into practice. 

“We were lighter by being 5 on the boat, but of course when there’s manoeuvres to do, we’d have enjoyed an extra hand. 

“What next? That is a good question for tomorrow.”

There was unavoidable symbolism in the 61-year-old Joyon finishing second to the 34-year-old Gabart under the Statue of Liberty - for this was a first confrontation of these boats and the record-breaking multihull flame is being passed down the generations. It will look the same for Thomas Colville, 49, when he arrives in third some time later on Tuesday morning (local time). Joyon was once the king of solo records having practically reinvented the feat by taking 53 days off the record in 2004 on IDEC. When Ellen MacArthur beat his record by just over a day a year later, he then beat hers by over 15 days in 2008 on IDEC 2.

That record stood until last year when, at the fifth attempt, the 49-year-old Thomas Colville on Sodebo Ultim’, broke it by over eight days, arriving home on Christmas Day 2016. Amazingly his mark of 49d 3hrs 7mins and 38seconds was the fifth fastest circumnavigation ever. The fastest was set, perhaps inevitably, but still incredibly, given the age of his boat, last January by Francis Joyon and a five-man crew, including Pella and Gahinet, who were on board for this transat. 

This race was not the final word, in many ways it is just the beginning of the record attempts and races between these new trimaran giants, but if the history is with Joyon and the momentum is with Gabart.

Map and ranking 

For more information, photos and videos:

The Bridge is a transatlantic celebration of friendship and solidarity between France and the United States, marking one hundred years since the arrival of American soldiers on French shores in 1917 to join the Allies in World War I. It includes:

- the 4th FIBA 3X3 World Cup in Nantes (17-21 June)
- the return of the Queen Mary 2 to where it was constructed in Saint-Nazaire, escorted by an international armada (June 24)
- the 3,152-mile Centennial Transat from St Nazaire, Brittany to New York (June 25-July 3)
- an original tribute across the ocean to a century of American music (June 23-July 1)


Presented by Cathy McLean

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