Francis Joyon had no heat, no companions and little sleep for nearly two months as he sailed around the globe. Now he has a stunning world record.
The 51-year-old Frenchman circled the planet alone in 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes, 6 seconds in a trimaran, shattering the record set by Ellen MacArthur by two weeks and beating his own expectations.
"It's a bit of a shock" to be among so many people again, Joyon said after hitting land on France's Atlantic coast Sunday morning. He crossed an imaginary finish line in the water overnight, and said it was like "landing on the moon" when he reached shore.
Joyon skirted the southern reaches of the globe in his 95-foot, 9-ton trimaran IDEC, a craft he built with parts gathered from other boats.
"I had a hard time beating your record. I hope that you won't be in a hurry to beat mine," Joyon said with a smile to MacArthur.
He slept in short spells, dodged icebergs and mounted his swaying mast in stormy seas to repair a damaged girder. His boat had no standard electrical generator, which meant he had no heat - but also meant the boat was lighter than usual. He used wind turbines and solar panels to allow for automatic piloting and communication equipment.
"I'm really happy for him, proud of him," said MacArthur, who joined fans and rivals in welcoming Joyon to shore.
"He was very fast, he played really well, and he really deserves this record," the Briton told France-Info radio. "I thought it would be fairly easy to take seven or 10 days off the record, but to take off two weeks, that is completely exceptional."
MacArthur, then 28, beat Joyon's previous record when she circled the globe in 2005 in 71 days, 14:18:33 on her boat Castorama. That was just one day faster than Joyon's previous time, also in the vibrant red IDEC.
Joyon shrugged off the hero label.
"The speed part, the sailing passion part, that's extraordinary. But what is the strongest of all is having precious moments when you can be in harmony with the planet, with the elements. That is what will stay with me," he said.
Joyon started out in Brest on Nov. 23, then looped under South Africa and Australia and Chile before heading back for the French shore.
With weather working largely in his favor, he broke several intermediary records along the way. He crossed the Indian Ocean in 9 days, 12 hours. He crossed the Pacific in just 10 days, 14 hours. His Equator-Equator journey spanned just 41 days, 8:19.
All these times still must be confirmed by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.
In the Pacific, Joyon detoured as far south as 58 degrees, toward a patch of glaciers, to avoid fierce winds farther north. Rough winds and then damage to the girder forced him to slow down when he got back to the Atlantic.
He climbed the 105-foot mast four times to make repairs, but was worried until the end of the journey that it could snap again, according to his Web site.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy heartily congratulated Joyon in a message that said his feat "brought honor to France and all the French."