Conrad Colman: Running on Empty

Published on February 20th, 2017

(February 20, 2017; Day 107) – Conrad Colman (NZL/USA) is fighting an incredible battle to finish the Vendée Globe after the mast of his Foresight Natural Energy crashed down on the night of Friday February 10.

Since he managed to set a jury rig four days later, he has now sailed half of the 739 miles he had still to make to the finish line to Les Sables d’Olonne. But every mile has been a battle.

He has only emergency food rations left and enough power for four more days if he uses the absolute minimum of power. But the tough battler is committed to finishing the race with no emissions, using only renewable energies generated on board.

He speaks today of hoping to finish in five more days of sailing.

About his current position off the northwest corner of Spain:
“I am almost clear of the TSS and so I am almost clear of the cargo ships. It feels a bit like I am crawling across a highway. Other than that it is going okay right now.”

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Of his feelings after the accident:
“It was unbelievable when it happened. I felt like I had been through so much at that point. It has not been an easy Vendée Globe at all. I don’t think such a thing exists but mine seems to have been particularly difficult. I felt I was in the clear.

Regarding the conditions at the time:
“I was in a crazy depression but I had been through the eye of the storm, the wind was as forecast. I was reaching in 30kts which, after everything I have been through, felt pretty negligible. I had the J3 small jib and two reefs in the main which was the right kind of sail plan for the conditions.

“Then when it all fell down about my head I could not believe it. I felt like I had failed, the stewardship of my boat, and the stewardship of my race. It was heartbreaking. There are the emotions of ‘my race is over’.

“There is the stress of the mast and sails that have just gone over the side cost more than my house, and I have already got a mortgage on my house and so it is pretty terrifying. Emotionally, financially, in every scenario it felt like the pits.”

On continuing:
“It is all about finishing. I called my wife, I called Race Direction and said I did not require assistance. I was not going out. I was going to wait and see what happened. I curled up in a ball and went to sleep. I was numb to what had happened. That was, of course, after cutting everything away.

“Then metaphorically and literally a new day dawned. I felt like I have come all of this way and I was driven by anger and bloody mindedness, stubbornness, to not be beaten on the doorstop of the race. I launched into the repairs. That was a big job. The boom, which is attached to the deck rather than the mast, specifically for the reason that it can be used as a jury rig, had snapped.

“I had a nine metres long pole which weighs between 80 and 100 kilos fractured on the deck. I had to build a pile of sails to align it and then glue it back together. The conditions were still horrendous with a four or five metres swell breaking over the boat. But I was into a productive mindset. I was doing something about my scenario.

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“The fact that the conditions on deck were dangerous just ignited another level of energy and passion in me, to feel like I could fight through this problem. People have been very supportive in their messages and e-mails to me. They are astonished by the energy that I can bring to bear, and the innovative solutions I can come up with.

“The jury rig is just a very visible manifestation of how I have been behaving since the start of the race. I had the keel ram come unscrewed when I came down through the Doldrums and that could have stopped my race right there. I found a solution with the tools I had to do something you can normally only do in a big workshop.”

Food status:
“I started out with 100 days of food and now I am at 105 and it took a lot of energy to prepare the jury rig and now I am down to a couple of packets of powdered soups and am eating from the liferaft spares. That means less than 700 calories a day. In the European winter out here, that is very little, especially when I am working on deck so much trimming the sails.”

Power status:
“I have 350 watts of solar panels on the cabin top which we installed just a few days before the start of the race. My preparateur Cyril looked at me aghast when I added another item to the job list just a few days before the end. But that is what is keeping my race alive at the moment. At 3.5 knots, I cannot use my electric motor as a hydrogenerator; that is the only thing that is keeping me going at the moment.

“To be making electricity from the engine, I need to be doing seven knots which is of course double what I am doing now. At the moment I am estimating I have five days of sailing left and in that I will have a couple of really light days in the middle of Biscay and then there’s a depression coming.

“I am hoping to make good time towards the end of the week towards Les Sables d’Olonne and hopefully I might then reach the threshold of boat speed when I can actually charge with the hydrogenerator. I am nervously watching the energy tick down and at the moment things don’t really add up, I have – I think – five days of sailing through the water and four days electricity left and so I am really hoping that I can find a solution. Or, that the skies clear (for the solar panels) because it is grey.”

Final Results (Top 10 of 29)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), Finished, 74d 03h 35m 46s (1/19/17)
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), Finished, 74d 19h 35m 15s (1/20/17)
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), Finished, 78d 06h 38m 40s (1/23/17)
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Finished, 80d 01h 45m 45s (1/25/17)
5. Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies, (FRA), Finished, 80d 03h 11m 09s (1/25/17)
6. Finistère Mer Vent, Jean Le Cam (FRA), Finished, 80d 06h 41m 54s (1/25/17)
7. Bureau Vallée, Louis Burton (FRA), Finished, 87d 21h 45m 49s (2/2/17)
8. Spirit of Hungary, Nándor Fa (HUN), Finished, 93d 22h 52m 09s (2/8/17)
9. CommeUnSeulHomme, Eric Bellion (FRA), Finished, 99d 04h 56m (2/13/17)
10. La Mie Câline, Arnaud Boissière (FRA), Finished, 102d 20h 24m 09s (2/17/17)

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Background:
The eighth Vendée Globe, which began November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils: six new boats (Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran, and StMichel-Virbac) and one older generation boat (Maitre Coq). The foils allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.

Retirements (11):
November 12, Day 7 – Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives Coeur, masthead crane failure
November 19, Day 14 – Bertrand de Broc, MACSF, UFO collision
November 22, Day 17 – Vincent Riou, PRB, UFO collision
November 24, Day 19 – Morgan Lagravière, Safran, UFO collision
December 4, Day 29 – Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
December 7, Day 32 – Sébastien Josse, Edmond de Rothschild, foil damage
December 18, Day 43 – Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord, UFO collision
December 24, Day 49 – Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt, dismasted
December 24, Day 49 – Paul Meilhat, SMA, keel ram failure
January 1, Day 57 – Enda O’Coineen, Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, dismasted

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Source: Vendee Globe

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