Photo: Alex Courcoux

Sam Goodchild on Concise's retirement

The latest from the Transat Jacques Vabre

Tuesday November 8th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Sam Goodchild and Ned Collier-Wakefield were trying to cling on to the very many positives and deal with the bitter disappointment this afternoon as the young British duo aboard their Class 40 Concise 2 closed slowly with the Azores archipelago, the Atlantic’s final resting place for so many ocean racing dreams.

After suffering hull cracks as result of the relentless pounding over recent days, the young crew were forced out of the biennial Transat Jacques Vabre race from France to Costa Rica this morning, having just taken the lead in Class 40 after lying second since the start gun sounded off Le Havre last Wednesday.

Sounding dejected Goodchild, the race’s youngest competitor at 21, told Race HQ in Paris that they had serious concerns that cracking of the inner laminate skin of their Concise 2 was threatening to let in water. Just when they were emerging into more favourable weather after seemingly having dealt with the worst of the race’s three consecutive low pressure systems, their only course of action was to turn from their profitable northern track and head south for the Azores some 120 miles to the south, carefully preserving their boat sailing only under staysail.

“We have got a crack along the port side which is from slamming through the waves for the last two days, so we are trying to be careful not to do any more and make sure it is not getting any worse," said Goodchild. "At the moment there is no water ingress but we feel that is not too far away. We realised this about an hour and when we were on a watch change I went to hang up my foul weather gear I saw it I saw it, I found the crack then.

"It is pretty devastating. This race is something we have been both looking forward to for such a long time. It has been my dream for so long, so then to take the start and to be in a position we never imagined we would be in, second for most of the first week and then overtaking last night, it kind of rubs it in a bit more and makes it a bit more devastating. But at the same time we can go home not feeling too annoyed with ourselves. We put up a good fight and made good calls, not too many mistakes and that’s it.

"I don’t think we are going to be able to make a repair. The boat is going to need to come out of the water and have boat builders work on it, it is cracked on the inner skin and so I don’t think a repair is realistic in the short space of time.

"The conditions last night were pretty rough. There was not as much wind as the first front, but the seas were a lot rougher. And we had a moon which did help us to avoid slamming as much as we could, because I think it is the constant slamming which did the damage. It is not easy. We were hoping to continue the same way and there was just that one storm to get through and things were looking like it was going to get a bit better, a bit easier. So we can hold our heads high and hopefully come back next time and have a go it again."

Concise 2’s official retirement is the fifth from the 16 which started in Class 40, the 13th of the 35 boats which took the start line.

Late news was that sixth placed Avis Immobilier was also headed to the Azores, having broken part of the top their forestay at the mast.

Vincent Riou’s PRB, which suffered bad cracking to an internal forward bulkhead, was confirmed today as the fourth retirement from the 13 boat IMOCA 60 fleet, while efforts were reported to be still under way to find a tow for Bernard Stamm’s Cheminées Poujoulat which was abandoned yesterday by Stamm and co-skipper Jean Francois Cuzon when they were evacuated by helicopter to the Azores.

In contrast spirits aboard the bigger monohulls, the nine remaining IMOCA 60 and the Multi 50s were on the up with the universal belief that the worst of the Atlantic’s weather should be behind them and in most cases courses are southwards or westwards towards the sun.

In the IMOCA Open 60 Class, now with under 3000 miles to go of a course distance of 4730 miles, twice winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Jean Pierre Dick was back on top of the class this afternoon, leading with co-skipper Jérémie Beyou, by some 12 miles, ahead of Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss, who are sharing the same thinking, routing north and west skirting more north around the top of the a high pressure system.

Jean-Pierre Dick reported from Virbac-Paprec 3:  "It is not really easy, but everything is going well. We have chosen a western course as it is the most direct, but the seas are big and of course there are many roads leading to Puerto Limon. It may be the toughest in terms of wind and sea state, but it is the closer to the rhumb line and you sail the shortest distance. Conditions are becoming more normal with 20 knots of wind but we had tough conditions between 35 and 40 knots in a pretty rough sea. Changeable winds have created a messy, cross sea going in different directions. I've been through conditions like this on previous races but, really, we never get used to them .... .
We are finding out about each other with Jeremie and he is a real fighter and he loves to give everything to the race. It's nice to work in harmony, with a synergy and try to be at the front. The game is still wide open.”

From Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson added:  “We are all good on Hugo Boss - looking forwards to being a bit drier later today hopefully. The sea state is pretty bad, we have 20-25 knots from NW. The other guys are to the south. I think they chasing a little front under the high pressure to try and get some strong easterlies and we can’t get there. Even if we wanted to we could not get there. Our strategy was born a few days ago when we spoke about this transition of an area of light airs is going to be the pivotal thing, and whether it is going to be east or west. And I think our hand is played a little bit now, and Virbac-Paprec 3’s. We can’t go to them and they are now committed and they can’t come to us. Both strategies look fairly equal, so we shall just have to wait and see what happens. I think if I could choose to be somewhere I would rather be up here, than down there.

"We managed to break our lazy jacks and we broke a batten, so we had to put the lazyjack back on and replace the batten. So, a little bit of downtime, but I don’t think it has hurt us too much at all really. And really we have just been trying to sail the boat, not let her slam too hard, so really the last 48 hours really we have been not pushing hard, just chilling out and trying to get through intact. We have 20-25 knots, a really nasty confused sea, even when it goes down to 20 knots you still get a full on dump of water into your cockpit. It is overcast with a few blue patches. We are down to our last dry bits of clothing and so this evening we should a dry boat and we are really looking forwards to having a bit of a spring clean, and trying to clean up. It has been a tough couple of days and hopefully we are through it.”

Their rivals – at the latitude of Madeira – were seeking to get to the more consistent northeasterly winds in front of them which would give them some faster downwind sailing but they would theoretically be sailing more miles on a less direct course.

There is now nearly 300 miles of NW-SE separation between Virbac-Paprec 3 and the closely packed southerly trio of MACIF in fourth, Safran in fifth and Groupe Bel in sixth.

François Gabart reported from MACIF: "We are in great shape really and we are especially happy because we are approach the southern latitudes, we are going in the right direction! I have just had my first nap without boots, so that is an important landmark. We made a few small repairs, nothing serious, it's normal on a boat that had sailed one week, we could go on like this without too many worries but we have taken time to have a complete check. We will enjoy the quieter conditions. Our position against Virbac-Paprec 3? It would be wrong for them to go south now and for us to go west!"

Over the six days since the tenth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre started there have now been at least ten lead changes of the IMOCA Open 60 class and and seven different leaders, Virbac Paprec 3, Safran, Hugo Boss, MACIF, Banque Populaire and the two forced out yesterday Cheminées Poujoulat and PRB. The retirement of Concise 2 leaves Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on in league of their own for them moment in Class 2, some 95 miles ahead of ERDF des Pieds and Des Mains, with the leaders stretching their margin today.

From Yannick Bestaven said: "We have kind of accepted to take the longer route east of Terceira. We were certainly under pressure from Concise 2 but we really tried to stay prudent and dived south to avoid worst weather. We prefer to play it safe. We have a few minor problems but nothing serious, but has been tough for a long time now. It is a complete mess aboard the boat after everything went flying. There is stuff everywhere and it’s wet. We are looking forward to improved weather in a few hours."

Top three standings at 1600 UTC 

1 - Virbac Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : 2973,2 milles to finish
2 - Hugo Boss (Thomson - Altadill) : 12,3 milles to leader
3 - Banque Populaire (Armel Le CLéac'h - Christopher Pratt) : 38,2 milles to leader

1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 3542,1 milles to finish
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 86,9 milles to leader

1 - (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet):3467,6 milles to finish
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 94,2 milles to leader
3 - Phoenix Europe Express (Alran - Criquioche): 104,7 milles

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