Skippers abandon Prince de Bretagne

Published on October 27th, 2015

(October 27, 2015; Day 2) – The 12th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre continues to face the adversities of weather, obstacles, and boat damage on the second day of the 5400nm doublehanded race from France to Brazil.

While a high pressure ridge threatens to slow the Ultime’s positive progress south, the good news for the highly competitive IMOCA class is that the leaders have reached the awaited windshift which has allowed them to point their bows south west, out of the worst of a low pressure and at least in the direction of the finish line some 4800 miles away in Itajaí. But for the Class 40s and some of the later IMOCAs a new low pressure is the next big threat. Thirty-five of the entry of 42 boats are still heading for Itajaí

Lemonchois and Bilou Rescued
Lionel Lemonchois and Roland Jourdain whose Ultime 24m trimaran Prince de Bretagne capsized just after 1900hrs UTC last night, 140 miles NW of La Coruna resisted the option of activating their distress beacon and seeking outside assistance for as long as possible. But with 30kts winds this afternoon and four metres waves and the prospect of 40kts tomorrow (Wednesday), they triggered their beacon this afternoon around 1520hrs UTC. They consulted with their partners and shore team, keeping up to date with Transat Jacques Vabre Race Direction, and in the end the skippers safety is the main priority. CROSS Gris Nez and MRCC Madrid successfully coordinated their evacuation and by 1700hrs UTC the duo were in a helicopter.

IMOCA and Class 40 Problems
As well as the capsize of the Prince de Bretagne, two key, new IMOCA 60s are returning to France having issues as has the British flagged Class 40 Team Concise. The Ker design of Jackson Bouttell and Gildas Mahé suffered structural damage and arrived in Crosshaven, Cork at 1630hrs UTC Tuesday and has retired. Edmond de Rothschild and Safran, both new foil assisted IMOCAs, announced problems on Monday evening. Structural damage around the foil box appears to have been serious for Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier on Edmond de Rothschild and they are heading for Brest, while Morgan Lagravière and Nicolas Lunven on Safran reported a succession of problems which compromised their safety and their race which precipitated their decision to abandon.

Lagravière reported

“The foil area is damaged on the starboard side. The damage has spread around the area and water is seeping into the boat. We quickly tacked to get the damaged section of the hull out of the water. At the time of the incident, the conditions were intense but not extreme. There were 25-knots of wind and 3-4 metres of swell. The sea was not particularly rough and we didn’t hear a particular sound. A little bit of water is sometimes coming into the boat when the waves hit the hull upwind, but overall, the situation is not getting worse and we’re safe.”

Lead change Elies in front
In the IMOCA class it is, as predicted, all change at the front of the fleet. As soon as the westerly group got to the NWly breeze and slanted their bows SW then they were immediately gaining on the pack which were hunting 180 miles to their south and east.

SMA, Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux, were first to tack from their northerly position but Yann Elies and Charlie Dalin on Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir (ex Safran) had set up better to the south of the centre of the low, tacking a little after 0800hrs this morning. Making over 16kts heading SW Queguiner seized the lead which had been held since Monday morning by HUGO BOSS.

Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on HUGO BOSS still have some westing to make, indeed they were heading NW this evening, pointing at the rival group, and had dropped to seventh. At the front of the main pack Elies and Dalin lead PRB4, Vincent Riou and Seb Col, by just over 32 miles.

Le Conservateur threaten
In Class 40, the first of the most westerly group to make a move SW is Le Conservateur, 2011 winner Yannick Bestaven who sails the 2014 Verdier design with Pierre Brasseur. They should cross the bows of V and B, the new Manuard design of Maxime Sorel, and take their lead early this evening, while Solidaires en Peloton continue as the most NW of the fleet.

At the latitude of Gibraltar this evening the overall race leaders Sodebo Ultim’, Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias were still making 21kts with a lead extended to 57 miles over MACIF. Nélias today recalled the very gusty conditions of Monday evening which doubtless contributed to the capsize of Prince de Bretagne.

“The wind is very variable going from 14 to 33 knots in the squalls. There’s quite a heavy swell developing. We haven’t been able to get much sleep and haven’t got into the rhythm of a watch system. We’ve been too busy out on deck.”

Lamire and Bourgnon hit container, damaged and ABD
In the Multi 50s Gilles Lamire and Yvan Bourgnon are heading for a safe haven after hitting a container and damaging their floats on French Tech Rennes Saint Malo. The situation is under control and the crew is well.

Lamiré reported: “We were sailing at a speed of 15 knots beam reaching towards the south, on autopilot. Everything was going well when the boat stopped dead. I saw a piece of float behind the boat and a container into the sea.”

Bourgnon reported: “We are missing 5 to 6m on the port float and the starboard float is damaged 1m. The challenge now is to bring the boat back on a single float. Our weather router works out the best way to get into the best possible conditions. We are moving at reduced speed (6 knots) under sail to Brest that we should be there in the next three days.”

They said:

Gildas Mahé, co-skipper Class 40 Team Concise: “We had decided to slow down, the wind was heading. The seas grew and the boat jumped two or three times. There is some cracking and it is not good to be at sea when it is like that. It was a jump, we heard a big crack. We went inside the boat and this seems to have generated some structural problems. It’s better it happened here than in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. We were happy, we had been sailing the boat well, we made the good strategic choice. It was cool. We will arrive in Crosshaven soon and Dave Kenefick (Figaro sailor)’s parents will welcome us and we will have a team to help us assess the damage. We are positive but there are parts detached under the mast and that is not good, and there are large cracks in the walls and in some structural elements. We will make a really detailed examinations before making our decision.”

Francois Gabart, co skipper MACIF, Ultime: “We’re still in fairly heavy seas with a wind that is not very stable. And we’ve quite a few things that don’t work. So we have plenty of repair jobs to do. It’s not easy to do two things at once. Luckily there are two of us. For the moment, it’s in particular a problem with the electronics. Mechanically and structurally, we’re coping reasonably well. The boat cuts through the waves well and it’s fairly pleasant. Even though with a variable wind, the boat tends to take off at times. So we have to remain cautious. For the moment, I’m pleased about this baptism of fire. We’re heading south trying to get away from this disturbed area.”

Morgan Lagravière, skipper of Safran (IMOCA), heading to Brest: “The area around the foils is seriously damaged. There is a leak here on the starboard side of the boat. It has spread around the foils area, the compartment bulkhead areas in front and behind are area affected in the front and rear of that area. After the incident we tacked, we are on the tack now to return to France. It is 150 miles to Brest in the right direction. We did not have so much sea it was 3-4 meters waves, 25-knot wind, conditions that we had seen before. We were sailing the boat close to the to the maximum level. It was not particularly rough. It was going quickly, so the boat was of jumping, but nothing extraordinary. We should get there in the middle of the night. We are sailing at a speed of 13-15 knots, so we still have a good ten hours before arriving.”

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Transat Jacques Vabre in brief
• A legendary race 22 years old and 2015 marks the 12th edition
• Two founding partners: the city of Le Havre and brand Jacques Vabre
• Four classes on the starting line: Class40, Multi50, IMOCA and Ultimate
• Starting October 25 in Le Havre (FRA) for the 5400nm course to Itajaí (BRA)


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