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Extreme atlantic crossing on a sport catamaran

19/11/2008

Extreme atlantic crossing on a sport catamaran

Two years’ work, 1000 hours construction, for a lightning Atlantic crossing in 11 days and 11 hours aboard a sport catamaran… Summed up in a few figures, this is the incredible adventure lived by Benoît Lequin and Pierre-Yves Moreau.

Consider it said: what follows is not an example to be followed… Although crossing the Atlantic is an adventure which today is within the reach of many sailors, it nevertheless requires a good knowledge of the sea and your boat, as well as rigorous preparation!   
But from there to setting off aboard a 6.1m sport catamaran is a huge step! The first to have taken it were Daniel Pradel and Tony Laurent, who crossed from Dakar to Pointe à Pitre, in 1986, in nearly 19 days.
Then there followed Hans Bouscholte and Gérard Navarin in 1999 (15 days) and finally Andréa Gancia and Matteo Miceli in 2004, who took the record, in 13 days 13 hours – an average speed of 8.5 knots…
And this is where Benoit Lequin and Pierre-Yves Moreau came in. They had known each other for a long time, got on well, and wanted to set up a project together. But it was difficult to persuade sponsors to support them for an ORMA or IMOCA-type project. So the idea slowly developed to try and beat the record for crossing the Atlantic on a sport catamaran.
To beat the 8.5 knot average, they needed a boat which was fast, seaworthy and sufficiently comfortable, but this boat did not exist on the market! No matter, they would build it! The first studies showed that to beat the record and sail at more than 8.5 knots, they would have to be able to rest and therefore sleep properly and stay dry, the boat would have to have enough volume for safety and a deck plan specially designed to simplify the numerous manoeuvres. Between the start of construction and the record, they finally spent ‘just’ 18 months, of which 1000 hours for the construction, every evening from 9pm to midnight and weekends. A real vocation!


The crossing
For the first two days, the north-easterly trade wind allowed the 20-foot catamaran to keep up an average of more than 10 knots. Things then became more complicated, when the trade wind dropped and blew from astern, obliging them to gybe repeatedly.
Two days before they arrived, each of the two skippers capsized successively, however not completely, as the airbag hoisted to the top of the mast to prevent this did its job perfectly. T
he duo’s preparation had anticipated this eventuality and righting the boat was carried out using a spinnaker boom fitted under the trampoline. But they had a fright, nevertheless.
The crossing was demanding however:  “dealing with the waves was very important” PYM admitted on arrival, “they slowed the boat down and fatigued the crew aboard. You could never sleep!”  This is what was the most difficult: managing to rest on a 6m catamaran which is continually soaked by spray. Only their upper body was protected by a tent…
However there are many beautiful images remaining in the heads of our two adventurers, such as surfing for several hours at speeds varying between 12 and 17 knots, with a record for the crossing of 20.8 knots!
And of course there was the arrival at Pointe-à-Pître, with the understandable emotion that it must have given rise to for the two sailors.
As for Benoît, he has not calmed down; he told us: "I hope that our record will be beaten, because we are ready to set off again!”
According to him, it could ‘easily’ be improved by a day, or even a day and a half. For that, they would have to re-work the helming position and that of the crew. On the other hand, the boat’s hulls (taken from the moulds of the Bandit 800’s floats) worked perfectly. And he even added that the same adventure singlehanded could tempt him… As we said, an Atlantic crossing can be extreme…

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