Cheminees Poujoulat abandonment and recovery

Photo: Forca Aerea Portugese
Bernard Stamm explains his sorry part in the Transat Jacques Vabre
The worst incident to befall boats in the Transat Jacques Vabre occurred to Bernard Stamm’s new Juan K-designed IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat. Having held the lead, mid-evening on 6 November some 130 miles north of the Azores, Stamm and his co-skipper Jean-Francois Cuzon were about to go to the second reef and ORC in a building breeze, when Stamm went down below to discover the boat full of water. On inspection they discovered a hole in the hull just above the water line, ahead of the shrouds on the starboard side. They closed all the watertight hatches down below to contain the flood, emptied the main compartment with their bilge pump and collected all the necessary safety they would need should they have to abandon ship. Stamm says he hoped they might be able to sail to the Azores the following morning. However when they hoisted the main with three reefs and a storm jib the boat was behaving erratically and with a considerable amount of water in the bow, the Swiss skipper was concerned about the safety of the boat. He considered organising a tow but in deteriorating conditions that would be unsafe, so he chose to set off his EPIRB at 09:50 UTC “We couldn’t sail and it was very difficult to go anywhere,” Stamm recalled. “And the weather was not so good in the forecast. The sea was still very bad and I preferred to make the decision to switch on the beacon. After I was quite sure, because we could secure the boat, that we would be able to get the boat back.” With the EPIRB triggered, so the search and rescue authorities leapt into action and with the rescue being co-ordinated through the MRCC Puna Delgada, so the Cheminées Poujoulat crew were airlifted off their stricken yacht by