However it was the very same mast that suddenly fell over last night. The Barcelona World Race, that Beyou was racing doublehanded with Sidney Gavignet, came to an abrupt end between South Africa and the Antarctic at 47°S and 33°E. The monohull had it's wings cut, incapable of getting home on it's own, exactly one month after the start of this incredible adventure for the two skippers and the 600 strong workforce at Delta Dore.
Since Saturday 8 December, when second placed PRB broke the top of her mast, Delta Dore had been sailing behind the first three leaders in fourth position. Beyou and Gavignet, whose primary objective was to finish the race, were sailing, watching out for the slightest slip of the helm, the slightest wave or wind shift. Just as the leaders were piling on the miles sailing at very high speeds, they were making slower progress but certainly not leaving their fighting spirit in the changing room.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the dawn about to break over the Indian Ocean. Jérémie Beyou and Sidney Gavignet take up the story: "We in a 24 knot wind with gusts of 32 knots. It was time to change watch. Our sails were well set and we were sailing well with a reef in the mainsail and the staysail set.. Sidney was going to start the engine in order to recharge our batteries. He stood up leaving the chart table and I heard a huge CRACK. Sidney stuck his head outside and saw the mast on the roof.
"We decided to put on our life survival suits first. It was impressive to hear the noise of carbon breaking over our heads. We also prepared the survival kit and emergency Iridium satphone. A piece of the mast was scrapping against the roof. We immediately though of Isabelle Autissier when she had dismasted when her broken mast had damaged the hull.
"It was dangerous to get out aft, so we went on deck via the forehatch and saw the damage: The mast was in two pieces. One piece was in the water on the port side and we were side on to the waves. The top of the mast was acting as a floating anchor but was ramming the hull with each wave. At the time the waves were very strong.
"Everything went fast. We cut all the rigging. This took us nearly 40 minutes to clear the lot."
Having cut away the rigging, they managed to jettison the broken parts of the rig over the side.
"After that we went inside to think about the situation we were where in. We set up a small jury rig using the storm jib set between the two daggerboards. It looks roughly like a sock. It will push us a little. When we get to surf we reach 4 to 5 knots. We are heading northeast.
"The mast was one of the parts that I kept my eyes on. We have a team technician is devoted to the mast. We didn't spare on the quantity of carbon used to build it. This mast is strong and we had previously push it a lot harder. I don't understand what could have happened..."
The team of technicians is organising a rescue mission for them. Delta Dore is 1,000 miles off Cape Town and only carries 188 litres of diesel, or the equivalent of just two days of motor sailing. However it will take 12 days to reach South Africa. Back in France Delta Dore immediately approved the technical team's proposition to charter Adventurer, a motor catamaran based in Cape Town, to go to the rescue of the Open 60 to help the crew cope with their predicament, depending the sea state and the weather conditions. They will then have to choose whether to tow the boat or to fill it up with diesel or to set up a large more efficient jury rig.
On board Adventurer, Fanch Guiffant, a member of the sailing team, will be in charge of the difficult task of helping the two skippers. The assistance vessel should reach Delta Dore this weekend.
Meanwhile Beyou described his state of mind : "I am really just furious to finish the story this way - after all this work and effort and even more this first part of the race which was getting us into a position from which to attack in 2-3 days time - I am gutted. Finishing a regatta, especially this one, is very hard! We know the risks we take when we set sail, but you never think about having to abandon... To see the others sail on already makes me feel like going again. On top of my own deception I feel that of all our partners and from all the people who have given me support right from the start. The team's effort, those who worked so hard to prepare a boat that will be returned to them mutilated. But we are going to have to pick ourselves up. You can count on me.
"Nevertheless, the experience gained is inestimable - the strength and the motivation that will grow in me thanks to it as well. What does not kill you makes you stronger."
Sidney Gavignet says thank you: "Up to now I have spoken a lot about myself, about my feelings and way of seeing things.The adventure is coming to an end, so I would like to take the opportunity whilst he is asleep to talk to you about Jérémie, the skipper of Delta Dore.
"I am extremely grateful he chose me to share these nautical miles with him. To be at the start of this race was a god send for me. To be at the finish would have been even more so. I was supposed to bring maturity and experience to our duo, but on several occasions his views prevailed and were wise and mature. His way of feeling the boat and his obsession about getting the priorities right.
"He is naturally stressed and not always easy to live with, but you understand quickly that it is his need to do things well and get things right that is tormenting him. We haven't had long chats, but that's not what we teamed up for and the guy is a real Breton - those guys don't talk much. I deeply regret to no longer be in a position to prove what I am saying, but I believe that the Beyou has it in him. I believe that with him, Delta Dore have a Mister big stuff and that together they have a really good skipper for the next Vendee Globe.
"He is enormously frustrated, even more so than me. When he gets over it there is no doubt that the results will follow."