Mark Lloyd / Oman Air Majan

Sidney Gavignet rescued

As Oman Air Majan breaks her main beam

Wednesday November 3rd 2010, Author: Lucy Harwood, Location: none selected

At 1648 CET (GMT+1) Oman Air Majan skipper Sidney Gavignet reported that he has substantial damage to the leeward front beam. Oman Air Majan was sailing in 20 knots of wind, upwind and the conditions were not extreme.

Gavignet has activated his distress beacon and is currently in the main hull, he is in his survival suit and is not injured. There is no water in the main hull and it remains watertight.

Race director Jean Maurel is in contact with the Portuguese rescue service, and he remains in constant contact with Sidney and his shore team.

2100 update:

As outlined in the last statement, Oman Air Majan received substantial damage to the leeward front beam, and it is confirmed that she has lost her mast. The port float is under the main beam; due to the serious nature of damage, and the uncertainty, skipper Sidney Gavignet has made the difficult decision to abandon the boat.

At 20: 51 CET (GMT+1) Gavignet was picked up by the bulk carrier Cavo Alexander which was en route to Turkey. Gavignet is safe and well and is in contact with his shore team via satellite phone. The bulk carrier is 840 miles from Gibraltar and is expected there in two days.

Oman Air Majan is being tracked via its iridium-tracking device and a salvage operation is well under way.

Later Gavignet reported: "We were going fast upwind TWA about 70 degrees in a sea state which was not bad. I could not say it was bad. It was just our speed was difficult, between 18 and 22 knots, that was making life a bit difficult on board. I had Jib 2 and reef 2, my J3 jib was ready. I was waiting because the wind was due to increase a little bit. But I thought it was still safe handling.

"It was daylight, I was well rested and fed and so everything was fine. There was nothing damaged on the boat at that time. So far it was good race from that point of view.

"After a jump over a wave, a little harder than others, I heard a crack and thought it was the daggerboard, even if the board was higher than deck level which is quite high up. I jumped up and saw that the front leeward cross-beam was broken probably one metre away from the float. It was very, very quick, in probably 2-3 seconds. I eased the traveller. The float came out of the cross beam. I think it was still linked at that time with the aft cross beam, the float and the aft cross beam, but because the front was not linked to the boat, the boat just capsized almost and the mast at the horizontal and the platform was at the vertical. So I was pretty disorientated, but the damage was done.

"My first concern was to find my survival suit, life raft and grab bag. And I found that very quickly. I realised there was no massive panic because I realised very quickly that the boat would stay afloat and no water would come into the boat, because that was my first concern. So I put the survival suit on and called the race director.

"I told the race director I was going to set off my EPIRB because I needed saved.

"When your boat breaks you realise it is very serious. Talking about my life, I realised very quickly that I had the good reflexs to look for the survival suit and stuff like that. The safety debrief we had in Saint Malo was still fresh in my mind. And no, I don’t think I was ever scared for my life. I felt I was in control of that.

"I knew the boat was totally broken. At the beginning I did not want to go out of the companionway too much because there were cables moving around outside. The shrouds were just in front of the door and I wanted to look at the situation a bit more before going outside. I was thinking about cutting the rig and letting go of the mast which could have been a good solution ,but to do that you need to cut many, many cables and some were attached to the free float which was separate from the boat. And on the leeward float, free one, it was too dangerous.

"I managed to give CROSS [MRCC] my position and not long after that I got a call from the Portuguese rescue organisation asking if I was ready to leave the boat."

Listen to the audio interview with Sidney here.

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