Guillemot and crew rescued

A helicopter of the navy frigate Surcouf successfully winched Marc Guillemot and his five crew members to safety

Tuesday May 15th 2001, Author: J P Habold, Location: United Kingdom
Marc Guillemot and his five crew members have been winched off la Trinitaine-Team Ethypharm by a French navy helicopter after the port bow of his trimaran was severely damaged, jeopardising the boat's stability.
The crew are safe. A helicopter of the French navy frigate Surcouf which has been following the Challenge Mondial Assistance as a mother ship successfully winched them off yesterday (Monday) evening. It took the helicopter two trips to rescue the six sailors, the last sailor being lifted off at 1945, French time.

Abandoning his trimaran was a very painful decision for skipper Marc Guillemot. He left the engine running in order to recharge the batteries. This should ensure the Inmarsat­C will keep on working and it will be easier for them to locate the boat which Guillemot and his team will make every effort to save.

Guillemot's trimaran suffered major damage yesterday morning when the crash box in the bow of the float failed leaving a hole in the hull. The floats on the 60ft trimarans have a sacrificial bow which break off in the event of a collision. The crash box is supposed to maintain the integrity of the hull in a collision.

The race still goes on for those boats which haven't suffered breakage. Yvan Bourgnon on board Bayer en France is still at the front of the fleet and has stretched out his lead to 64 miles ahead of Franck Cammas (Groupama). The latter overtook Alain Gautier and Ellen MacArthur (Foncia-Kingfisher) who dropped to third place.

"The last 24 hours have been complicated, because we had to cope with two lows, one to the north and one to the south," reported Ellen from on board. "In addition, we had a problem with the mainsail, and we had to drop it. Our current tactic is simple: head west to skirt the low. At this game, Bayer can still increase her advantage. In any case we are remaining very alert. We are picking up a southerly wind, between 13 and 15 knots. Everything is damp on board, it's a very different exercise from monohulls! We're suffering a bit. I'm still busy navigating (weather charts), but I'm also participating in manoeuvres".

Jean-Luc Nélias (Belgacom) is fourth, but it is very tight racing between these three boats. They are all sailing within two miles and the crews can see each other. "We waved at Foncia-Kingfisher this morning", said Jean-Luc Nélias who is really pleased to have made a recovery in this race. Yvan Bourgnon went into the lead last night thanks to his southern route. This he chose in anticipation of the depression that came across the fleet. "We¹re very happy. Everything is going fine, but the race is not finished. Groupama and Foncia are further west and might come close to us ", said the skipper of Bayer en France during the radio chat.

"The next 24 hours will be tricky as there is a new depression coming towards the Azores. Between the one that has just gone and this one coming there will be a windless area difficult to deal with," commented Dutchman Marcel van Triest, navigator aboard Groupama. The next cold front was due to arrive during the night or this morning.

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