Photo: On Edition

And then there were five

As Christophe Bullens Open 60 dismasts en route to the Velux 5 Oceans start

Tuesday October 5th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: Belgium

Belgian solo sailor Christophe Bullens dismasted this morning off the coast of France en route to the start of the Velux 5 Oceans.

The 49-year-old skipper had been sailing his Eco 60 class yacht Five Oceans of Smiles in 18 knot winds and choppy seas 15 miles from the Normandy coast when disaster struck. Bullens was down below with another crew member while two more crew were on deck. They heard a snapping noise, thought to have been one of the mast’s shrouds breaking. Bullens raced on deck and saw the mast snap in two places.

The crew were able to react in time to avoid the falling mast and no one was injured. The sails and rigging ended up under the boat, blocking the propeller.

CROSS Jobourg, the regional centre for maritime safety centre, dispatched a rescue boat from Cherbourg to aid Five Oceans of Smiles. It took more than two hours to prepare Five Oceans of Smiles for the tow into Cherbourg, which then took three hours.

The dismasting caused serious damage to the starboard side of Five Oceans of Smiles including a hole in the hull by the ballast tanks. Her sails are beyond repair.

Bullens had been on his way to La Rochelle, for the start of the Velux 5 Oceans on 17 October.

The dismasting comes just weeks after he completed a 2,500-mile qualifying passage from Plymouth in the UK to the southern tip of Ireland then round the Azores. During the passage Five Oceans of Smiles was tested in a wide range of weather conditions. On Bullens' arrival back to Belgium, Five Oceans of Smiles’ rigging was thoroughly inspected and earlier this week parts of the rigging were completely replaced.

“Nothing is finished,” Bullens said after reaching Cherbourg. “I will do everything to be on the startline in La Rochelle on 17 October.”

Bullens’ Team Sapphire, aided by the Velux 5 Oceans race management team, are now doing all they can to ensure he makes the start.

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