Sailing and the Jules Verne Trophy: a glossary from Yann Guichard

V is for victualling, the nautical word for food on board, derived from the Old French words for "food" and "to live", according to the Oxford English Dictionary. M stands for 'media man', the chronicler on the team who gives a live version of the epic event. Through the eyes of Yann Guichard, the skipper of Spindrift 2, here is a small personal glossary for the great adventure that is the Jules Verne Trophy.



"Dona and I wanted a crew that shares our values in sport but also in life. We didn't choose mercenaries, people who only come for a short stint. We wanted to build up something with a crew, surround ourselves with the right people to work confidently because we know that the Jules Verne Trophy is a big challenge.

Within the crew, there will be people who have never done a round-the-world trip even if they have significant experience in multihulls. We decided to prioritise the human side of things. This isn't the main part of our decision because above all we are aiming for performance. We chose the best people for each post but the human aspect really was a key consideration. We tried to find a balance between these two criteria. That sums up the attitude of our crew. We have people who are a good match, who convey our values. "

Roles and responsibilities

"This vessel requires perfect co-ordination, particularly when conditions are demanding for the crew and the boat. Sometimes we change place at the helm every 40 minutes to be as alert as possible. Most of the crew members are 'helmsman/trimmers'. Everyone takes turns and therefore understands other people's expectations, which helps us to find the best balance between speed and safety. Then, there are specific jobs like that of number 1, for which we have two specialist crew members. The same applies to the posts of navigator and media man. The media man will be outside the watch system so he can broadcast the epic story live, but on the bridge to help out with every manoeuvre."


"Every day's training aboard Spindrift 2 requires several days of maintenance and preparation. It's thus impossible to increase the hours at sea limitlessly. The idea was therefore to prepare the team by sailing using other resources and in particular by taking part in the GC32 Racing Tour, the Tour de France à la voile and the D35 Trophy. Competition allows you to continue to make progress, to learn from others and develop the cohesion of the group."

The Fastnet Race

"This was the only official date before the stand-by, and a rehearsal of our set-up for the record attempt. A rehearsal on water but also of everything relating to management on land. And good training with our route-finder, Jean-Yves Bernot. The race wasn't easy, because of a rare lack of wind in the Irish Sea, but we managed to win in real time, which is positive before the world trip this winter."


"The idea was to improve the boat. We could have set off without modifying the boat, which currently holds the Jules Verne Trophy. As the latest winners had very good weather it would have been difficult to beat their time with a trimaran of similar capabilities. So we started with the idea of making the boat lighter. This makes the boat easier to handle, and to navigate with greater precision and less brute force. Forty-five days at sea means this is first and foremost an endurance challenge. Few teams have finished a round-the-world trip without breaking the record. Those who failed generally had to abandon because of a breakage. The aim was to adjust the boat to make it lighter but also to improve reliability, an essential part of finishing a round-the-world trip.

We changed all the rigging. The new mast is 2.5 metres shorter and 500 kilos lighter, or 25% of the total weight of the original mast. The reduction in the sail's surface area is minor in contrast. Given that we move at speeds of 35-40 knots (70-80 km/h), we also worked on the boat's aerodynamics, of course."


"Xavier Revil was the one who took this on, and it's a huge amount of work. Planning food for 14 people over 45 days requires the greatest possible attention to detail. Xavier is very exacting, so that's perfect. We work in terms of watches and not individual food sachets. Preparing freeze-dried products and boiling seawater for 14 people on a boat that's moving at 35 or 40 knots is far from easy.

For a round-the-world trip, you need to ration food according to people's energy needs, weather conditions, and the sailing time, all while making it enjoyable, because that's important for morale. We have breakfast, two hot meals per day and cereal bars with other snacks to nibble, like dried beef, which keeps very well. We have fresh food for the start of the trip and an apple a day per person for the 45 days. Everyone has the same rations in terms of calories. However, we adapt rations during the trip according to calorific needs. For example, in the deep south you use more because of the cold. "


"The weather forecast is quite accurate over six or seven days. So when we leave, we'll know exactly, to within two or three hours, how much time we'll take to reach the Equator. The first trap, and the most important because it can cost you a lot of time, is the St. Helena anti-cyclone, in the South Atlantic. Ideally, it's best to leave when this is closest to Africa to be able to cross it quickly. But often, either it's split in two, or it's huge and near Brazil, which means we have to go along the Brazilian coast. That's why we start our stand-by early, so we can make several starts if there are technical problems or if St. Helena blocks our path and makes us lose too much time.

The other key factor is the ice, which is currently in quite a northerly position. Ice in the north means a more northerly and a longer route. As the aim is to navigate as near to Antarctica as possible, taking the shortest possible route, this is where the idea of risk-taking comes into play. We work with a company that provides satellite images. But these capture huge icebergs and not smaller ice formations that are five or ten metres long. I then have to take a risk based on whether we are ahead or behind schedule and on the weather system that you might find a bit nearer to the ice. This is the hard work that I'm going to have to do with Dona and the navigator during the 15 or 20 days in the South.

Then there's the journey back up across the South Atlantic, where anything can happen. Ideally, you'd do this with a tailwind. But conditions are often quite random and you can lose quite a bit of time.

The final problem is the North Atlantic. On the way out, the aim is to to get to the Equator in five and a half days . On the way back, everything depends on the position of the Azores anti-cyclone. If this is over the Azores and therefore in a very westerly position, we can't cut corners, which means we'll have to go quite far west, as Banque Populaire did. They didn't go very far from the United States. Another scenario: if the anti-cyclone isn't very strong and has shifted to the east, we could move quickly with a tailwind alongside the Azores to go around the anti-cyclone and save quite a lot of time.

With perfect weather conditions alone, we could take two or three days off the current record. But I don't know if such conditions exist.

It's impossible to know now whether or not it'll be a normal winter in terms of weather. The only thing we can be sure of is that there is a lot of ice and that it's in a very northerly position, in the South Pacific as well as in the South Atlantic. This is the great challenge of this Jules-Verne Trophy. "


"This is quite complicated. In theory there are two phases. We know that we might be on stand-by until the end of January. To start with, you are very demanding about the weather window. You have time and you want a window that allows you to get to the Equator in five and a half days. If the forecasts suggest six days and 20 hours, we may not start. But as time goes on, you're more likely to start with a worse outlook.

We get two weather reports each day, one at around 6-7am and another at around 6-7pm So we do two assessments each day, at 8am and 8pm This means that even if you are on stand-by, you spend quite a lot of time analysing and working on the weather data.

The team has to be ready. People are generally in their own homes. But if we are on stand-by for a long time, we set aside periods of two days when we spend time together to do sport and keep up the team spirit and cohesion of the group.

This is important because you suddenly switch from off to on. You're waiting and when you set off you need to be 100% operational immediately. You don't have any training in between. The boat is ready and moored in Brest and as soon as a weather window allows us to give the green light, two hours later we jump aboard and cast off. So we need to be prepared for that. Hence, family management is needed during crew members' waiting period. The uncertainty – of leaving or not leaving – is not easy to live with. This side of things needs to fit together perfectly too.

For a North Atlantic record, the time is so tight that the window needs to be perfect, and when we set off we need to know the time we'll take to within one hour. We need a direct line and exceptionally good weather. It's complicated. For example, there hasn't been a favourable window for a North Atlantic record for more than a year.

It's different for a round-the-world trip. There's a greater chance of one or two windows in winter that would enable us to reach the Equator in five or six days. The stress of thinking you won't be able to set off is not as pronounced. Then it's a judgement call. You need to know when to accept leaving with a less suitable window. It's about forward planning for strategy and risk-taking. It's like the adjustments made to the boat. There are positives and negatives, you have to make decisions, and take these on board once you've made them, because you can't reverse them."