Michel Desjoyeaux on Foncia's pitstop

Foncia due into Recife or nearby on Friday

Tuesday January 11th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This Friday, Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart are likely to make it into Recife, or a neighbouring port, to replace the sacrificial bow of their IMOCA 60 Foncia, currently competing in the Barcelona World Race. The logistics for this technical pit stop are currently being set in motion. The work on site could take 20 hours or so. This amount of time will unfortunately be necessary before the two sailors can return to the race course.

The facts

At around 1715 GMT on Sunday evening, as Foncia was sailing downwind at full speed to the north of the Cape Verde archipelago, skipper Michel Desjoyeaux contacted Jean-Paul Roux, the boat’s safety manager, to alert him to the fact that a section of the sacrificial bow below the waterline had come away. The sacrificial bow is a piece of foam added to the bow, around the waterline, which is designed to preserve the integrity of the hull in the event of a collision with a floating object.

The loss of the surface skin of the sacrificial bow (layers of carbon which cover the foam slab) isn’t a serious handicap right now, but as Desjoyeaux explains: “it’s out of the question to head into the Southern Ocean without this bumper, which has clearly already fulfilled its role."

So the team has decided to make a pit stop in Recife or a neighbouring port. The choice of this destination is a lesser evil: it enables the shore crew time to organise themselves and prevents the sailors from making too much of a detour from the Barcelona World Race course.

Logistical operations underway

Marc Liardet and Jean-Philippe Guillemot, Foncia’s shore crew managers, climbed aboard a plane on Tuesday and are set to arrive in Recife at around 2100 hours. With the support of a local contact, they’ll complete the organisation of logistics for the arrival of Foncia: towing, mooring in port and possible lifting out of the water…

At the same time, the composite specialists within the Foncia team are in the process of completing the manufacture of a new sacrificial bow. On Wednesday they too will catch a plane, together with the foam slab and necessary materials to laminate it to the hull. In order to successfully replace the damaged section (pulling out the existing foam or what’s left of it, replacing it with the new bow section, sticking this on and then covering the whole section with carbon ), the entire forward section of the monohull must be out of the water. To achieve this, the equipment needs to be put in place to lift the bow and the atmospheric conditions must be optimum (calm sea, no rain). As such it’s very difficult right now to gauge how long the work will take. However Jean-Paul Roux is reckoning on around 20 hours to bring the operation to a successful conclusion.

The timing, the morale

Foncia is expected to be alongside during Friday, 14 January. As a result she could head back out onto the race course the following morning. Despite what everyone hopes will be a flying pit stop, Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart are sure to lose a few places in the process, however their spirits haven’t been worn down. They have enjoyed a fantastic start to their circumnavigation, often neck and neck with Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron. And there’s still a very long way to go yet.

“The name of the game is to set off from Brazil as quickly as possible," says Desjoyeaux. "The Barcelona World Race is a long competition. There are still 22,000 miles to go and lots of things to do. It’s a peril of the sea that we can do nothing about so it isn’t really putting a dampener on our spirits. That’s racing for you. Of course it’s not a great thing to be stopping, it wasn’t part of the programme, but it isn’t preventing us from continuing to move forward and make headway on the boat. When we head back into the race from Brazil, part of the leading pack may well have got ahead of us but that’s part and parcel of racing and we don’t have a lot of choice.”

On the dismasting suffered by Jean Le Cam and Bruno Garcia (Président) late on Monday he added: “Despite all the attention we lavish on our masts, they are one of the sensitive elements of these IMOCA 60s. With this in mind we did a bit of ‘freestyling’ ourselves a couple of days ago and we weren’t trying to be smart. We also snapped a headsail sheet. It made a huge cracking sound and our first reaction was to think we were about to dismast! All this certainly wasn’t something Jean and Bruno had planned on. We’re really sorry for them. It can’t be much fun for them, especially as they’d had a great start to the race.”

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