More carnage

Another capsize and more broken boats limping back to France in Route du Rhum

Tuesday November 12th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
It has been an action-packed 24 hours in the Route du Rhum as the 30-40 knot headwinds and cruel seas have been getting the better of the fleet, leaving a trail of carnage out in the Bay of Biscay.

At 0130 this morning Francis Joyon's trimaran Eure et Loir-Lorénove capsized - the second trimaran to do so in the race after Franck Cammas' Groupama. At the time Joyon's 2000 Europe 1 New Man STAR winner was holding second place behind Thomas Coville's Sodebo, and was lying 175 miles from La Coruna.

Joyon has reported to the race committee that he is unhurt and has turned down a request for assistance.

Joyon said that at the time of capsize he had been sailing close hauled in a very rough sea. He was working at the foot of the mast when he was hit by a squall. “The boat was immediately lifted on one float and I rushed to the cockpit, but I did not have time to ease the sheets. The boat capsized in two seconds. At the moment I am trying to empty the boat of water. I will ask a tow boat to assist. We will arrange all that today. Anyway I will not set off the distress beacon. I will stay on my boat, and I am not in distress and I do not need any further assistance.”

Joyon understands that for races like this to continue it is important not to tax the rescue authorities.

Yesterday evening at 1730GMT the top 7m of Gitana X's mast broke. At the time the brand new trimaran was in the middle of the Bay of Biscay sailing at 12 knots upwind in 20-25 knots under staysail with two reefs in the mainsail - the mast broke at the top of the mainsail. Skipper Lionel Lemonchois said that he had been on port tack for about an hour.

Lemonchois is fine and is heading back to her homeport of La Trinité sur Mer, where she is expected later this morning. However there is the small problem that the mainsail is now hooked at the top of the mast and cannot be lowered. He was planning to trail ropes behind the boat to slow the boat down.

Skipper Jean-Luc Nelias in the middle of another scary scenario on board Belgacom - he has had problems with his mainsail - the cars at the top of the mast track have come off and the mainsheet traveller has jammed so that he cannot sail close hauled. Aside from these problems Nelias has also spent some time in the bilges of his bucking boat changing a water pump.

Nelias was returning to the boat's homeport of Port la Foret in Brittany but now thinks he may be able to fix the problem at sea. Fred Le Peutrec's Bayer Crop Science is also returning to port with autopilot problems. Meanwhile following her collision with the upturned hull of Groupama on Sunday night, Bonduelle is now repaired and expects to be leaving port this afternoon.

Considering the size of the open ocean it is remarkable that collisions ever occur, but yesterday two competitors crashed into ships, something which will do no favours for the cause of singlehanded ocean racing. These included Loick Pochet on the Open 60, La Rage de Vivre and the Open 50 Apic A3S sailed (or more accurately not sailed) by Christophe Huchet. This latter boat was originally Andy Darwent's Heart of England.

La Rage hit a freighter but was able to limp back to Brest with a damaged bow - he has abandoned the race. Apic A3S was in the shipping lanes off Ushant when she was hit by a freighter. Huchet was picked up a merchant vessel and dropped in Brest, suffering from a dislocated shoulder and torn knee ligaments. His boat has since been recovered.
Yesterday class 2 monohull favourite Yannick Bestaven on board République Dominicaine had to head back to France suffering keel problems. Bestaven, a former Mini Transat winner, has had a remarkable race so far. Moments prior to the start on Saturday he returned to St Malo with a split in his mainsail. He repaired this but only took the start line on the first evening of the race. Despite allowing Nick Moloney on Ashfield Healthcare a head start, Bestaven quickly reeled Moloney in and had overtaken him yesterday, sailing a newer Berret/Racoupeau design with better upwind capability.

In the 60ft trimaran class, leader Thomas Coville's Sodebo is to the north of the bulk od the fleet, hugging the rhum line. Alain Gautier on Foncia is also adopting this tactics, while there is a breakaway group to the south east. This includes race favourite Loick Peyron on board Fujicolour who last night sailed virtually all the way to Cape Finistere on the northwest corner of Spain before tacking. Philippe Monnet on Sopra Group and Karine Fauconnier on Sergio Tacchini seems to be adopting similar tactics, presumably with a view to avoiding the worst of the weather which is due to strike those on the rhumb line course in around 48 hours time.

Among the lead Open 60s the overall distance to finish has changed little, but their position on the ocean has with Ellen on Kingfisher and Mike Golding on Ecover holding a stance more to the north and Roland Jourdain on leader Sill currently on a long tack south. The positions overall are a little skewed because there are no positions for Dominique Wavre, who yesterday was holding fifth place.

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