World’s toughest sailing record: New bid announced

French sailor Romain Pilliard to take on the world’s toughest sailing record – around the world non-stop against the prevailing winds and currents – in Ellen MacArthur’s former record-breaking trimaran

An attempt on the toughest sailing record, the westabout round the world course, is being planned later this year by French sailor Romain Pilliard.

The 46-year-old Figaro sailor and IMOCA crew will be sailing with another as yet unnamed co-skipper in a bid to break the 34,000-mile ‘wrong way’ record non-stop round the world against prevailing winds and currents.

Pilliard will sail the trimaran Use it Again!, the 75ft Nigel Irens design (then B&Q) that Ellen MacArthur sailed to a non-stop eastabout round the world record in 2005.

The wrong-way record has been completed by only five sailors since it was first set in 1971 by Chay Blyth. Then dubbed ‘the impossible voyage’ it was a record of greater duration and vastly greater arduousness than the downwind route, as it involved punching much more slowly into a greater number of storms across the expanse of the Southern Ocean, as well as battling counter-currents.

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While all the previous record breakers have been on conservative, robustly built monohulls, and sailing solo, Pilliard will sail double-handed and follow a different route.

It has been a long-held theory that the record would next fall to a multihull, provided it was sufficiently manageable to round Cape Horn to windward. The argument goes that a multihull would be fast enough to sail into the more clement latitudes of the Pacific and Indian Ocean – in other words, could make the wrong-way route more right-way, albeit with some very gnarly corners.

The theory was put to the test in 2017 by Yves Le Blévec on the 100ft trimaran Actual. But Blévec capsized off Cape Horn when one of the trimarans port linkages broke in winds of 30-40 knots and 6m seas. Fortunately he was able to shelter inside until airlifted to safety by the Chilean Coastguard.

French record challenger Romain Pilliard

Pilliard has thousands of miles of solo racing experience on the trimaran, including racing in the 2019 Route du Rhum transatlantic race. He comments: “The choice of [two skippers] makes sense. Even if I know my boat well, it’s still a multihull, it can turn over. There can be days of waiting [near Cape Horn] if the conditions are not kind and it’s less dangerous to wait double-handed than solo, especially in bad conditions.”

Pilliard has been working closely on all the route options with weather expert Christian Dumard. He is using the project to promote the ethos of reduce, reuse and recycle and says his boat is an example of the philosophy.

“I want to show that not only will the human adventure be no less beautiful than a Jules Verne Trophy with a new boat, for example, but that it is necessary to make the greatest number dream differently.”

History of the world’s toughest sailing record

1971 – Chay Blyth, British Steel (59ft Robert Clark-designed cutter, steel), 293 days. Average speed: 3.85 knots

1982 – David Cowper, Ocean Bound (41ft Sparkman & Stephens cutter), 221 days. Average speed: 3.91 knots

1994 – Mike Golding, Group 4 (67ft steel Challenge cutter, David Thomas design), 167 days. Average speed: 5.61 knots

2000 – Philippe Monnet, UUNet (Philippe Briand design Open 60), 151 days. Average speed: 5.97 knots

2000 – Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Adrien (85ft Giles Vaton-designed aluminium cutter), 122 days. Average speed: 7.43 knots

(2006 – First woman non-stop: Dee Caffari, Aviva, 72ft steel Challenge cutter, Rob Humphreys design, 178 days. Average speed: 5.09 knots.)


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Source: Yachting World

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