At 0800 this morning Roucayrol called his shore team. "We were sailing on starboard tack under two reefs and staysail in 26 knots of wind when the forward crossbeam broke at the join to the port hull, which then caused the second cross beam to break".
The crew put the boat head to wind and managed to secure the rig to prevent a dismasting before setting about trying to secure the float as best they could.
Banque Populaire is currently heading towards Boulogne-sur-Mer 30 miles away under engine, while a tow boat has been despatched to rendezvous with them to help them get out of the busy shipping lanes.
The boat will now not be taking part in the Courses des Phares, but is expected to be back in commission in time for the Zeebrugge grand prix in July.
At present the team are making no comment on the reasons why the breakage occurred. A breakage at the join between the beam and the float is very unusual simply because this is one of the strongest areas of the boat. It is possible that the leeward float may have struck a submerged object. Less likely is that there has been a problem with the construction.
This is the latest in a saga of problems for the Banque Populaire team. In the 2000 Europe 1 New Man STAR Roucayrol was forced to abandon his brand new trimaran mid-Atlantic. The trimaran was considered a right off and a new boat was built for the 2001 season. This performed well last year culminating in Roucayrol's team winning the Zeebrugge Grand Prix.
If there was a structural of a built problem it will be very very difficult for any finger pointing to take place. Banque Populaire is a design by Marc Lombard and was assembled by CDK in Port la Foret. However her component parts were will built at separate yards - her crossbeams in Spain and her floats in Lorient. The boat was engineered to the same tolerances as the other trimarans.
More will be revealed in due course no doubt...