Although previously well known as an offshore sailor, Joyon's real leap to international prominence came in February 2004 when the Breton became the fastest world solo yachtsman, setting a time over 20 days faster than the previous record for a circumnavigation of 72 days 22 hours and 54 minutes and 22 seconds. During the record run he sailed more than at an average speed of on the trimaran IDEC. IDEC, formerly known as Sport Electric, had previously taken 71 days to win the Jules Verne Trophy. Joyon took only an extra day on his own with a boat not designed for single-handed sailing, original (over 10 year old) sails and no weather router.
In February 2005 Ellen MacArthur beat Joyon's record by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds.
On 6 July 2005 Francis Joyon and IDEC crossed the finishing line between Lizard Point and Ushant 6d days 4 hours 1 minute and 37 seconds after the start at Ambrose Lighthouse off New York, breaking the 11-year old record of Laurent Bourgnon for the single-handed crossing of the Atlantic Ocean with a sailing boat. During the same voyage he also broke the 24 hour distance record for single-handed sailing by sailing in one day on the 3 July 2005. Joyon's record voyage ended badly on 7 July while he was sailing back to his home port after completion of the transatlantic run. Joyon, who refused help to sail the boat home from the finish line and was still single-handed, was sailing across the English Channel. At a critical moment an exhausted Joyon fell asleep and the boat continued on autopilot. IDEC ran aground at the Pointe de Penmarc'h on the Breton coast. The €4 million trimaran was wrecked and Joyon luckily escaped without injury.
On 9 May 2006 Joyon announced that he was building a new muilti-hull to be called IDEC II. His new boat is designed for solo sailing unlike the original IDEC, which was originally designed for crewed sailing. Design was by Nigel Irens & Bernard Caberet. IDEC II weighs 11 tons, compared to his previous boat which weighed 16 tons, and has 10% more sail area. The new boat was seen as capable of taking 3 days off the existing record under the same weather conditions.
On 23 November 2007 Joyon set off in IDEC II in an attempt to beat Ellen MacArthur's world record for a single handed circumnavigation. He achieved this on 20 January 2008 in 57 days, 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds, in a voyage that is regarded as one of the most impressive sailing feats in recent history and in a time nearly two weeks less than the previous record.