Nerve-racking time for Francis Joyon

Francis Joyon’s 98ft trimaran Idec is in danger of being dismasted as she batters through a North Atlantic storm with problems to the starboard rigging.

The Frenchman’s boat is 20 per cent quicker than Ellen MacArthur’s smaller 75 foot B
& Q, and is still nearly 13 days ahead at the same stage than the 71d 14hr record the
English yachtswomen set two years ago. But his difficulties have reached
new levels.

Joyon talked of the Sword of Damocles hanging over
him – the starboard rigging which he discovered had nearly unscrewed itself
on Friday when he scaled the 105ft mast to retrieve a broken mainsail
halyard. He has not been able to make a 100 percent repair, and conditions
are about to subject IDEC to violent, boat-breaking conditions. “I’m still
sailing upwind and the boat is banging around,” Joyon said, “and with the
strengthening trade wind, the seas will get rougher and I still need to find
a compromise to avoid further risk of dismasting.” But this will prove even
more difficult for Joyon after badly hurting his ankle on Friday when
climbing the bucking mast a second time to tighten the rigging attachment.