Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire VII (Photo  © Y.Zedda / BPCE)

Armel Le Cléac’h and his maxi-trimaran Banque Populaire VII  the singlehanded Route of Discovery record, between Cadiz, Spain and San Salvador in the Bahamas via a turning mark off Gran Canaria, on the historic route of Christopher Columbus. They took more than a day and a half off the previous time set by Francis Joyon on IDEC 2 and their performance was even respectible compared to the new fully crewed record set by Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli’s Spindrift 2 last autumn. During his passage the French skipper and his steed also set a new solo 24 hour record of 682 miles, although both records await ratification from the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

Banque Populaire VII crossed the finish line last night at 19:39:17 UTC, making her elapsed time for the course just 6 days 23 hours 42 minutes and 18 seconds. Along the direct route of 3,884 miles, she averaged 23.16 knots but she really sailed 4271 miles at an average speed of 25.47 knots.

Le Cléac’h commented on his passage: “It was divided into three parts with a fast run down to the Canaries, the first half of the Atlantic crossing in very strong conditions with with over 30 knots of wind and a more technical second half where it was necessary to gybe downwind. Rounding Gran Canaria was difficult with a rough sea running, but then I found my rhythm and the right settings which allowed me to beat the 24 hour distance record (682 miles). In the end thanks to a good average speed, on this solo record, I beat the time Franck Cammas and his crew managed on this course [in this same boat]… ”

Until Spindrift 2 claimed the record, Banque Populaire VII in her previous guise as Groupama 3 held the fully crewed Route of Discovery record with a time of 7 days 10 hours 58 minutes and 53 seconds. Singlehanded, le Cléac’h was 11 hours faster…

“Two new records is a good start to the year that celebrates 25 years of Banque Populaire’s involvement in sailing,” Le Cléac’h continued. “And its good preparation for the Route du Rhum: I’m not too tired, the optimisations we’ve carried out to the boat have worked well, I did not break anything important on board, however the manoeuvres still take a very long time.”

The passage down to the Canary Islands turning mark was fast, with le Cléac’h forced to put in three gybes, reaching Gran Canaria after just 32 hours, at this stage already 40 miles ahead of IDEC 2‘s pace. But the most exhilarating part was heading out into the Atlantic when in 30 knot northeasterlies, the French skipper was able to maintain such a high average speed that he put in a 24 hour run first of 677 miles, building this up further to 682, or an average speed of 28.41 knots.

By the time le Cléac’h had to put in his first mid-Atlantic gybe, at 1100 on 29 January, Banque Populaire VII was 574 miles ahead of Joyon’s record pace. However as the wind turned more astern and dropped, the French skipper was forced to put in more gybes before he was able to reach San Salvador.

Le Cléac’h will make a brief stop in San Salvador before a delivery crew jump on board to return Banque Populaire VII back to her base in Lorient. Next up is an attempt on the west to east transatlantic record, before the start of the Route du Rhum start on 2 November.

Route of Discovery records

Fully crewed
1988: Serge Madec (Jet Services V) 12d 12h 30m 27s
2000: Grant Dalton and Bruno Peyron (Club Med) in 10d 14h 53m 44s
2003: Steve Fossett (PlayStation) in 9d 13h 30m 18s
2007: Franck Cammas (Groupama 3) 7d 10h 58 min 53 s
2013: Dona Bertarelli & Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2) 6d 14h 29 min 21 s

2004: Francis Joyon (IDEC) in 11 days 3 hours 17 min 20 s
2005: Thomas Coville (Sodeb’O) in 10 days 11h 50 min 20s
2008: Francis Joyon (IDEC) in 9 days 20 hours 32 min 23 s
2013: Francis Joyon (IDEC) 8 d 16 h 07 min 05 s
2014 Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VII) 6d 23h 42 ’18”


Banque Populaire VII takes a day and a half off Joyon’s solo record