No Transat for Jourdain

Veolia Environnement pulls out the Artemis Transat

Tuesday March 11th 2008, Author: James Boyd, Location: France
Two months out from the start of the Artemis Transat, Veolia Environnement skipper Roland Jourdain has taken the regretful decision not to take part. Since dismasting in the Barcelona World Race and despite huge efforts from his technical team, the delays in shipping the boat back and the build of the new mast have seen the team to fall behind schedule.

Since 7 December, the date of Veolia Environnement’s dismasting when they were 1600 miles from the Australian coast, much planning has been taking place in Concarneau as the team wait for the return cargo ship carrying their red monohull. With this planning everything had been set in place so as not to waste a minute when the boat arrived, so they could be on time into Plymouth…

At the beginning of January, the order was placed for the new mast from the CDK Technologies who had overseen the build of the previous tube at JMV in Cherbourg. The HDS design team, who has been designing Bilou’s masts since his first ever Open 60, are also working with all the team to try to understand why the rig failed in the first place. Even though no specific reason is showing up in the analytical readings carried out by Ifremer on the fragment of the mast that Roland brought back in his bag, it was nevertheless decided to modify the lower section of the new tube where it broke to strengthen it. A consequence of the successive dismastings in the IMOCA 60 fleet over the autumn, meant that the new mast was also the last to take its turn in the mould and can only be delivered…at the end of April.

The cargo ship Tamesis will arrive, carrying Veolia Environnement, into Zeebrugge, Belgium tomorrow morning. Just two ‘little’ days later than predicted which has thrown out all the whole logistical plans of the boat. On site, Nicolas de Castro who oversaw the loading of the boat in Fremantle, will also be accompanied by Luis Guervos and Thomas Lebee to control the ‘exceptional load’ road convoy to bring the 60ft monohull back home from Belgium. But even if it all goes to plan, Veolia Environnement would not make it back to the Kaïros hangar until next week. As a result the yard would only have 1 week available instead of the four weeks originally initially expected, which shifts everything back to May.

The timing is therefore far too reduced and tight, not to mention the days needed for sailing to settle in the new rig and to check all the systems before the race start. After this winter’s damage and with the Vendée Globe taking priority, Jourdain has decided not to risk entering the Transat. He has already qualified for the Vendée Globe but it will still need to do 1,500 miles to qualify his new mast.

Skipper Roland Jourdain comments: "We’re not able to do the single-handed English Transat because we don’t want to risk leaving when the boat isn’t properly ready. The delay of the cargo ship's arrival but mainly the delay of the new mast - the timing shows that it is impossible to be able to do everything and to be able to leave feeling confident in the boat. Understanding the importance of the rig, as we saw this winter (…), we’ve decided its too dangerous to leave in this state, without thoroughly checking the new mast first."

You were worried about doing The Transat ?

RJ: "I really wanted to do it ! I’ve wanted to do it ever since I got back in January as I didn’t want to finish on the note of an ‘incomplete race’ (…) The timing was too tight… We spent a lot of time recalculating the mast to get it ready for the build…And the sad fact is that as I lost mine late in 2007, I was the last on the list for the build (…) You can’t make a mast in any old shop and there aren’t many companies that can build them. The delays accumulated by my colleagues or even my competitors in the building of their masts had a knock-on effect on mine and now its too late to do things sensibly."

It is eight months to the Vendée Globe start, how do you compare with your competition?

RJ : "Good thank you ! I’m delighted with the performance of the boat as we’ve tested it really well by going half way round the world this winter and apart from the mast breaking, the overall changes we’d made were really good. I know therefore that the boat isn’t the fastest but its definitely up there ! (…) I’m also really pleased to have been back in the Southern Ocean : The Indian Ocean, the Forties and the Fifties…When you only go there once every 4 years, you forget what its really like and I’ve been reminded that it is a different race down there…the experience and ‘sting in the tail’ we had this winter really counts as invaluable experience in terms of getting the boat ready for it and turning it into a first-rate boat. So, yes there are pressures as always, same as everyone, but some have even more than me I think. I’m quite content with our position when we’ve got a few months in hand before the start."

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