Virbac Paprec due imminently

As Javier Sanso reveals more about Acciona's capsize and we look at the Golding v le Cam dust-up

Monday February 4th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Following the capsize and suspected keel-loss on Acciona 100% EcoPowered

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 1100 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd Dist DTF DTL
          1 hour aver     24hr aver      
1 François Gabart MACIF Finished: 27/01/2013 14:18:40 UTC.  Course time: 78d 02h 16m 40s              
2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop Finished: 27/01/2013 17:35:52 UTC.  Course time: 78d 05h 33m 52s              
3 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss Finished: 30/01/2013 07:25:43 UTC.  Course time: 80d 19h 23m 43s              
4 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 46°10.00'N 02°40.68'W 11.5 65° 11.5 10.1 243.1 41.2 0
5 Mike  Golding Gamesa 41°07.98'N 15°56.91'W 11.1 58° 11.1 7.4 177.7 690.4 649.2
6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 45°06.56'N 18°49.72'W 12.2 68° 12.1 10.4 250.4 716.1 675
7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 39°28.17'N 21°39.05'W 9.6 106° 6.4 9.4 224.6 964.3 923.2
8 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 39°00.46'N 23°29.36'W 11.9 6.6 11.6 279 1051.4 1010.2
9 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 27°41.12'N 30°18.91'W 8.8 336° 3.5 11.7 279.7 1753.7 1712.5
10 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 12°05.62'N 32°20.20'W 4.9 321° 1.9 2.8 67.4 2589.6 2548.4
11 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 01°33.68'S 24°33.43'W 10.3 14° 10.3 10.4 249.1 3181.4 3140.2
RET Javier Sanso Acciona Lost keel and capsized. (3 Feb)            
RET Bernard Stamm Cheminees Ran out of fuel after hydrogenerator problems (9 Jan)      
RET Vincent  Riou PRB Damage to hull and lower shroud after collision with drifting buoy (24 Nov)  
RET Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa Autopilot failure (21 Nov)            
RET Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ Broken hydraulic ram (19 Nov)            
RET Sam Davies Saveol Dismasted (15 Nov)              
RET Louis Burton Bureau Vallee Rammed by a fishing boat, rigging damage (14 Nov)        
RET Kito de Pavant Groupe Bel Rammed by a fishing boat, hull damage (12 Nov)        
RET Marc Guillemot Safran Titanium keel broke (10 Nov)            

So the third keel has snapped off in the Vendee Globe, following the titanium affair on Marc Guillemot's Safran and then Jean-Piere Dick's Virbac Paprec 3. Interestingly all three keels have differs in their construction or materials. The Safran and Virbac Paprec 3 keels were milled (in titanium and steel respectively) and then welded together, while Acciona's was fabricated steel. The Acciona set-up has/had twin titanium rams, but a new system for attaching the keel to the hull and allowing it to cant that was made entirely in carbon fibre.

We have just learned that the keel breakage occurred rapidly as Acciona 100% EcoPowered was upwind in 20 knots. According to Sanso he was on deck at the time in the process of letting out a reef when there was a sudden bang, the boat suddenly heeled over and he was thrown in the water. The boat then capsized.

Sanso managed to swim towards the transom of the upturned boat and was able to access the liferaft (mounted in the transom for this very occasion...) He deployed the liferaft but was unable to attach it to the boat and so drifted away. He attempted to dry out his clothes as he knew he would be in the liferaft for several hours. Fortunately at his position, some 520 miles due west of Madeira, the water temperature was around 15°C.

In a message this morning from the Azores, Sanso extended his thanks to everyone involved in his rescue, in particular the MRCC in Ponta Delgada and the crew of the rescue helicopter.


According to Vendee Globe Race Director Denis Horeau the Acciona shore team is currently en route to the Azores where they will attempt to salvage Acciona, some 400 miles south of Terceira at the time of her keel loss. The Azores islanders are no strangers to salvaging IMOCA 60s, having recovered BT (now Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss) and Bernard Stamm's Cheminees Poujoulat during recent Transat Jacques Vabres. However while these last two boats were holed they were at least the right way up and closer to the Azores, whereas the upturned hull of Acciona will presumably present more problems - for example the mast will be harder to get rid of as it is keel rather than deck-stepped.

While we will have to wait to hear more about Acciona's issues, designer Merf Owen points out that the one good thing to come out of the keel issues in this race is that it will force IMOCA to change the rule so that forged steel foils are mandatory.

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick and Virbac Paprec 3 are expected to arrive in Les Sables d'Olonne this afternoon after he brief respite moored on a buoy at San Ciprián on the northern coast of Galicia. Dick arrived there at 0500 on 31 January, where he took the opportunity to recover, carry out some maintenance work on the boat (without outside assistance) and to dive on the keel as he waited for more clement weather to arrive.

Dick left San Cyprian at 0720 yesterday to cover the final 290 miles across the Bay of Biscay, in relatively benign conditions. He is still awaiting for the Jury decision concerning his use of his engine whilst mooring, but remains confident that his action will be looked on objectively: “I think I made the right choice,” he said yesterday. I hope the jury understands it was for the good of my boat.”

Meanwhile the battle continues for fifth place between Mike Golding on Gamesa and Jean le Cam on SynerCiel. After chasing le Cam up the Atlantic, Golding finally overtook his rival on Friday night. However this doesn't give a complete picture of what is going on. Presumably with a thought towards looking after Gamesa's keel (which lost the forward fairing - that improves flow over the pivot - shoving more water into the keel box than could be evacuated) Golding has been taking a more direct route towards Les Sables d'Olonne, which has involved sailing through the middle of an area of high pressure, while his French rival as more conventionally sailed a clockwise lap around its western side, a longer route but in more breeze. 

On the keel issue Golding reported: "The solution we have come up with is holding, I can't afford to stop and my focus is to keep the boat moving towards the finish. The situation has improved slightly as a result of the rope we wrapped around the bearing plate to stem the flow, and at the moment the level and pressure of the water is being controlled. I'm keeping a close eye on it.

"There are other things that I could do but that involves stopping, and I'm in a race to Les Sables d'Olonne, fighting for fifth and stopping is not an option I want to consider right now."

"This photo is shot at 10 knots of boat speed and you can see the water entering under pressure over the keel head; at 15 knots with the rope and the other things we have jammed in place, the keel box is half full, at 17 knots it covers the gaiter and above that …. we haven't yet found out.

"It is slowing me down, because it is like sailing with a brick in the water, the fairing is there to deflect flow and give you a nice, clean flow over the keel, so it is not going to be quick! And there is probably quarter of a ton of water in the keel box which would not normally be there so you are carrying the water. It is small amounts at this stage, it is more important right now to be in the right place on the race track and tiny tiny speed differences aren't going to make much of a difference at this stage of the game."

At the latest sched Golding is just 26 miles ahead of le Cam, with the Frenchman sailing a knot faster, however the two boats are separated laterally on the water by 270 miles with le Cam to the northwest and approaching the latitude of the finish, while Golding is approaching the latitude of Vigo, still with Cape Finisterre to get around. If the weather files are correct Le Cam should be sailing in 15-20 knot following winds while Gamesa should be upwind on port, her skipper waiting for the wind to back into the northwest allowing him to be lifted around the Cape. Conditions are looking pretty brisk for the Bay of Biscay with 50 knots forecast tomorrow night and still holding at 30-40 into Wednesday when they are expected to finish.


This morning Golding reported: "It is starting to get a little better and I hope I am getting a little lifted now, but the wind direction is not what I was expecting on the files. The last hour I have been pointing more in the direction of the mark, but I feel like I have spent hours chasing my tail. I think I have probably tacked six times and that is hard work!"



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