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Joyon reveals how he stays awake in match race with Gabart

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Joyon Francis
Joyon Francis

With the dramatic capsize of the maxi-trimaran, Banque Populaire IX yesterday and both Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) having to stop in La Coruna, the Route du Rhum–Destination Guadeloupe has turned into something of a match race across the Atlantic between the leading boats in the ULTIME class.

The enthralling battle we have seen since Ushant between Francis Joyon on IDEC SPORT and François Gabart on MACIF has continued overnight with a tacking duel to the north of Madeira between the two hugely experienced French skippers.

Clearly, the two men share the same analysis of the highly complicated weather picture as they make the transition to the trade winds that will take them towards Guadeloupe. They are carrying out similar manoeuvres trying to find their way through to the south of the Azores high.

This is the first really tactical part of the race for them with nothing looking settled in the weather patterns and Francis admits he is looking for a tiny gap to get through into stronger downwind sailing. At the moment, steering the boat is an acrobatic exercise on the maxi-trimaran, IDEC SPORT, which is flying along and easily rises up on her leeward float.

Here is a fascinating massage from Joyon that gives us a clue about how on earth he manages to stay awake and keep his huge racing machine on track. “Just before the start,” he said, “someone told me the story of Tibetan monks, who never slept and made do with a few moments of shut-eye, while holding noisy objects which, when they fell to the tiled flooring in their cell, immediately would wake them. Those short moments of sleep are more useful in terms of recovery than any other form of sleep. Just as well, as since the start, that’s about all I have had too!”

While the two front-runners press on towards the Caribbean, we heard today that Armel Le Cleac’h has been rescued by a fishing boat and is on his way to Spain and that Thomas Coville is looking to re-start from La Coruna after repairing the forward beam on Sodebo Ultim’. Meanwhile the back marker in the class, Romain Pilliard on Remade-Use It Again!, has become the third ULTIME skipper to divert to La Coruna for repairs.