Groupe Bel rejoins the race
Less than a day after her collision with a whale, the Groupe Bel Figaro has set off to sea again today.
The technical stopover in Santa Cruz, Tenerife lasted about 10 hours and the damaged starboard rudder was replaced without incident. It is not the Groupe Bel team's style to give up, and even if they are now well behind the leading pack, Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane, have decided to continue their racing adventure.
Yesterday evening, as the Transat AG2R – La Mondiale leaders passed the Canary Islands gate so the Groupe Bel duo was heading towards Tenerife where they moored at 02:00 this morning. Since the collision with the whale on Monday at around 13:00 seriously damaging the starboard rudder of their Figaro, the Groupe Bel team has done everything possible to provide the crew with a replacement. This saw technical manager, Hervé Giorsetti, delivered the replacement rudder at 10:00 this morning. Just two hours later, the Groupe Bel crew cast off again.
While disappointed to lose their position in the lead group, which they had defended for over a week, Kito and Seb said they would continue to give this crossing their all. The sailors are currently heading for the gate off La Palma, about 100 miles from Tenerife. A few minutes before leaving the quay of the Santa Cruz marina, Groupe Bel's skipper consulted the weather forecast for the last time and told us that the wind could ease off for the leaders.
"We're tacking to get away from the north east of the island of Tenerife," reported de Pavant. "We still have one hour of tacking ahead and then we will be able to make a direct course for La Palma. So we stopped for roughly 24 hours between our accident with the whale and now and we estimate that we have lost about thirty hours on our arrival in La Palma.
"We haven't really thought much during these last 24 hours between the time of handling, organizing the change of rudder and getting Hervé, my technical manager, here on site. It has been incredibly difficult for them, because he had to travel 10 hours by car to Madrid to take the first plane this morning and be there at daybreak.
"Of course, we did ask ourselves whether we should continue or not. There are a lot of things to take into account in these circumstances, but insofar as we were able to repair the boat and sail, we decided to take her to the finish of this race, even though the final result will not meet our initial goals. The boat is not at 100% of its capacity, but it is sailing and will not prevent us from getting to St. Barth.
"We need encouragement since it will not be simple. Seb and I are not programmed for this kind of situation. To find yourself at the back of the pack is not necessarily very amusing and we are not used to that, but we are going find the energy to take her to all the way.”