False alarm

As another Route du Rhum distress beacon goes off

Wednesday November 13th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
This morning there was panic at Offshore Challenges when the EPIRB distress beacon went off on board Ellen MacArthur's Kingfisher. Mark Turner spent an anxious 20 minutes attempting to raise Ellen without success. Eventually he got through to establish that Ellen was okay, albeit slightly battered following the severe conditions the boats have been experiencing.

There are similar concerns over the fate of Philippe Monnet's trimaran Sopra Group, which is rumoured to have capsized - the fourth trimaran to do so in this destruction heavy race. Monnet has been in contact with the Spanish rescue authorities and a Briths vessel has been asked to go to the scene. The weather was too bad to scramble a helicopter, but one has now been despatched.

Meanwhile the rescue missions are in operation to recover the capsized tris Eure et Loire and Rexona Men. Both skippers Francis Joyon and Yvan Bourgnon are keen to avoid using the rescue authorities and their shore teams are launching their own rescue missions. At present with more strong winds forecast and 25ft seas it may be hard to get to them. Once they get to the boats it will then be a case of rescuing both boat and skipper - "they'll try and right it out there," commented Fraser Brown, part of Bourgnon's shorecrew. "If that doesn't work they may have to go in the water and punch a hole in the float, sink it, right the boat and then pump the water out of the float. They may have to go under and cut the rig away."

Bourgnon had been experiencing very very severe conditions - 75-80 knots of wind - and had turned to run before the storm under wingmast and tiny storm jib - and was down below on the phone to his router Sidney Gavignet when the capsize occurred. At the time the boat was 200 miles off the Portugese coast.

Life in a upturned multihulls is not as hideous as it sounds - as the trimaran platform is remarkably stable upside down. "Yvon is fine," continued Brown. "He's got plenty of food and doesn't want a big rescue mission."

On Bayer, Fred le Peutrec has set off again following his electronic problems and is soon to be followed by Jean-Luc Nelias on Belgacom and Jean le Cam on Bonduelle.

On today's radio show in Paris the skippers were reporting very different conditions - Joe Seeten in the Open 60 class was experiencing 40 knots winds and was fine, while others skippers were finding it far harder, their boats taking a terrible pounding in the seas.

More in due course...

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