The posters were already up in Brest last night saying that "the record is broken". The normally rock-hard Bretons were confidently preparing an emotional welcome for one of their local heroes this morning. The celebrity whose trademark is modesty, Francis Joyon, was writing his name in the history books by once again becoming the fastest to sail solo roundthe world.
He has set a blistering pace from start to finish, shown no mercy to himself or his boat, and has proved that fortune favours the brave. He has been reasonably lucky with weather patterns that allowed him to record daily runs of up to 600 miles and lucky that he discovered in time a loose fitting that could have led to being dismasted.
He was also making a very modern political point. There have been no fanfare statements or righteous mission statements, but the message was there for all who had eyes to see and ears to hear. In knocking about two weeks off Ellen MacArthur's 71-day, 14-hour record in 2005, Joyon has used not a drop of diesel. As well as relying on wind power alone to cover the 26,000 miles, he has used a wind generator and solar panels to charge the batteries needed to power his satellite communications links, and autopilots. Joyonleads by example.
He was not due to cross the finish line off Ushant until about 3am today and anything can happen on such a powerful machine as his 98-foot trimaran, Idec. But such is the determination of this 51-year old that, barring total catastrophe, he would have fashioned any Heath Robinson contraption he could devise, even rowed the bright red brute, to make it to the finish.
The plan was then for him to stand off the entrance to the port which saw so much action during the 1939-45 war until making a triumphant entrance at about 9.30am to tie up at the same Quai Malbert which hosted Bruno Peyron when he set the outright record of 50 days and 16 hours for sailing round the world in a catamaran 20ft longer and with 10 crew to help him.
That is the only time faster than Joyon's, crewed or solo. But if Britain was to relinquish a record – and Ellen, made a Dame when she beat Joyon's previous record by 32 hours, was on her way to offer congratulations – then the man who designed her trimaran, Nigel Irens, was also on hand as the designer of Joyon's battered steed.
"I think this is about the most powerful yacht that could be handled by one person," said Irens. "But, at the same time, we have tried to keep everything simple. And Francis was saving in other ways, using old bitsof equipment he found in his garage, including the rudders."
The good people of Brest had better make sure they are on time today for Joyon will not be playing long to the crowds. He will want to be home as quickly as possible with his wife Virginie, and their two sons Damien and Corentin, and the opportunity to go sailing with them.Reuse content