Vendée Globe: Rescue Underway for Kito de Pavant
Published on December 6th, 2016
(December 6, 2016; Day 31) – French skipper Kito de Pavant was enduring today an anxious wait for rescue aboard his Bastide Otio after he struck an object which destroyed his keel housing, ripped off his aft keel mountings and left the appendage supported only by the hydraulic keel ram.
At 0800 UTC this morning (Tuesday), the Vendée Globe Race Directors were alerted by Pavant’s technical team about serious damage aboard his boat. De Pavant, from the Occitanie region in SW France, was placed 10th in the Vendée Globe round the world race some 120 miles to the north of the Crozet Islands.
The MRCC have been in contact with the Marion Dufresne, the 120m long research and supply vessel of the TAAF (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) which supplies the remote French archipelagos of Crozet, the Kerguelen, Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands. The Marion Dufresne was reported to be around 110 nautical miles away and had an ETA in the area during the early part of this evening with a plan to evacuate the skipper by rigid inflatable boat when daylight occurs around 0200hrs UTC.
“I hit something hard with the keel,” explained de Pavant. “It was a violent shock and the boat came to a standstill. The rear bearings of the keel were ripped off and the keel is hanging under the boat kept in place simply by the keel ram, which is in the process of cutting through the hull… The keel housing has been destroyed and there is a huge ingress of water there, but for the moment, it is limited to the engine compartment. I currently have forty knots of wind and 5-6m high waves. The boat is stopped. I brought down the mainsail so that she is heeling less. The situation has been stabilised for the moment. I have my survival kit alongside me. Someone is going to have to come and get me. I am trying to contact the Marion Dufresne to ask them to come here.”
Alain Gautier, the Vendée Globe Safety Director, explained: “We’re hoping they will arrive at around 1700 UTC, but by then it will be dark there, so it is down to the commanding officer of the ship to decide what sort of operation to carry out. They are likely to want to wait until day breaks at around 0100 UTC to launch a RIB to recover Kito. It will all depend on the conditions. We can imagine that the Marion Dufresne will position herself windward of Kito to try to calm down the seas. But she’s not that big a boat, so we don’t know if that will be enough to ensure a safe operation. Sunrise is at around 0130 UTC, but they may wait a while for the weather to ease. Already the winds will not be as strong during the night. Our goal is to get Kito aboard the Marion Dufresne. It will be up to Kito’s team to deal with the boat, but that’s not going to be easy in that zone. Meanwhile he has called us when he finds the time. After the shock this morning and the obvious disappointment, we can see that he is more in control of the situation now.”
Update (18:38 UTC): The Marion Dufresne has arrived close to the stricken French skipper Kito De Pavant. The evacuation of the skipper de Pavant is expected to start around daybreak tomorrow once there is sufficient light.
De Pavant, 55 years old, had battled through more than 48 hours of strong winds and big seas and was racing with a double reefed main making around 16kts in 40kts of wind and 4-6m seas. The popular skipper has been forced to retire from two previous Vendée Globe races, in 2008-9 when he was dismasted 18 hours after the start and in 2012-13 when he retired into Cascais after a collision with a trawler.
In the previous editions, de Pavant’s target was to win the Vendée Globe or at least to finish on the podium but prior to the start of this race he had stated several times that his primary objective this time was to achieve a finish. He had been sailing a mature, solid race since the start, taking no risks.
“He had been sailing intelligently so far and this was his third Vendée Globe, so he really deserved a finish,” a shocked Yann Eliès told the Vendée LIVE programme when the news was broken live to the French skipper, who is in sixth place, and who himself had to be helicopter rescued after sustaining a fractured leg in December 2008 when south of Australia.
Sébastien Josse has been making steady progress in third place, back in race mode after a difficult 24 hours since he sustained damage to the port foil of his Edmond de Rothschild. Josse is reported to have secured the foil in its housing and was sailing at 10-13kts during this afternoon heading northwards. Critically Josse did not have to enter the Antarctic Exclusion Zone to escape the worst of the low pressure system, and by this afternoon the winds and seas had abated to more manageable proportions.
After 30 days of racing leader Armel Le Cléach (Banque Populaire VIII) is bearing down on the half way point of the theoretical course distance of 24,500 miles. He posted 348.8 nm in the past 24 hours.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 12950 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 106.76 nm to leader
3. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 921.54 nm
4. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 1233.81 nm
5. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1428.13 nm
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.
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, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
Source: Vendee Globe