Vendée Globe: Foil Damage Forces Josse Retirement
Published on December 7th, 2016
(December 7, 2016; Day 32) – Sébastien Josse, skipper of the IMOCA 60 Edmond de Rothschild, is the latest casualty among the 29 solo skippers which began the eighth Vendée Globe on November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France.
Josse is the seventh retirement of the race, and the second of the seven boats fitted with lifting foils to incur damage.
Over the past 48 hours, Sébastien Josse, currently in third place, put his race on hold to focus on his own safety and that of the IMOCA 60 Edmond de Rothschild. Major damage to the port foil, which occurred Monday (Dec. 5) at 0930 UTC, meant that he was in a tricky situation facing extreme weather conditions – 40 knots of wind and 8m high waves to the south of Australia, sailing along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone.
Today, the situation had markedly improved allowing Josse to carry out a thorough assessment of the damage. Unfortunately, the news is not good and the possible solutions that could be put in place to carry out repairs are not deemed good enough to allow him to sail more than half way around the world, or almost 15,000 miles. As a result, Josse and his Gitana Team have announced their retirement from the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe.
Josse describes what happened:
“I wasn’t really pushing her any harder when the incident occurred, but conditions were rough ahead of the area of low pressure. The wind was blowing at 35 knots and the seas whipped up to around 4m. While surfing along, the boat reached thirty knots before slowing right down to ten knots as she dug in. It only lasted for a few seconds. I was under the protective cover between the two doors in the companionway. When the boat got going again, I felt that something wasn’t right and I soon saw that there was a problem with the port foil.
“The foil was in the water, although I had been sailing with the foils up. I opened the cover to the foil housing and I could see there had been damage. The attachment to the top of the foil, which is a part made of carbon and designed for such strains, had broken. I had to act quickly, as the foil was just being held in place by two screws and if it came out of its mounting, the consequences would be much more serious. It could damage the whole housing by slipping sideways, which would lead to an ingress of water.
“I quickly gybed to secure the foil and stop that from happening, but unfortunately the timing wasn’t good in terms of the weather. To protect the damaged equipment, I would have had to continue towards the NE, but the worsening weather meant I dived to the SE resting on the damaged foil in some nasty weather.
“On this boat I have already been through worse weather, particularly in the Transat St Barth – Port-la-Forêt, when we had winds up to 50 knots, but here in the Southern Ocean, that is completely different because of how isolated we are. The situation was complicated on Monday night.”
While Sébastien weathered out the storm and sailed with three reefs in the main, several repair solutions were considered and suggested by his shore team, so that he could choose the most appropriate. “When you do the Vendée Globe, you know that every day, you will have work to do on the boat. But that means we’re talking about patching the boat up. I am a first aid nurse, not a surgeon.”
That is why after a series of conversations and a few attempts, the options appeared too complicated to be applied on the open sea by one person and were seen only as a temporary repair rather than a permanent solution to allow him to sail safely the 15,000 miles remaining to complete the race, with in particular the Pacific crossing at between 40 and 50 degrees S, which is one of the most remote areas on Earth.
The goal shared by Josse and his team is not to complete the race at any cost and take unnecessary risks in what is already a dangerous situation, but to be a serious contender. That is now compromised. Neither the sailor, nor the team wanted to expose themselves to the risk of the foil dropping out, as that could lead to an ingress of water and an emergency situation on Edmond de Rothschild depending on her geographical position.
Sailing at 41° S and 107° E, Josse is currently heading towards Australia. The members of his Gitana Team are working on finding the best option and will determine later today where Josse will head for, maybe Perth in the SW or Adelaide on the southern coast, depending on how easy it is to bring the boat home from these two Australian ports.
“I can’t hide the fact that it’s been very hard, as these boats are very demanding and uncomfortable. To sail quickly, you have to foil and to foil, you need to stay hard at it all the time. But I was pleased to be here. I gave it my all and I don’t have any regrets about this race concerning the way I sailed the boat.”
For his third go at the legendary Vendée Globe race, Josse was one of the favourites in this eighth edition. After all the hard work and energy spent on Edmond de Rothschild over more than three years, this retirement is a huge disappointment for the sailor, the owners and the team.
“My world over the past month has been focused on asking myself questions to perform well. So the decision to retire was bound to have been hard, but it is one that was carefully thought about and accepted by everyone. It’s going to take weeks and months to get over the disappointment, as it is not just that the race is ending here, but everything that has gone into it.
“The passion, energy and commitment that we have all shown in these projects. In the Vendée Globe, we are solo sailors, but these projects are a real team effort. I am lucky to be able to rely on such a great team that is united around this project and I can’t thank them enough. The trust shown by Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild and the Edmond de Rothschild Group, which supports us and have always been at our side in the good times and at other times too, like today.”
Cyril Dardashti, Director of Gitana Team: “If competition is at the heart of ocean racing and what motivates most of the skippers and their teams, the real priority must always be the safety of the men and their boats. There are bound to be risks, when you set off around the world alone in a non-stop race without assistance, but that is only acceptable within certain limits. This is a huge blow for our team. We are very disappointed, but we will bounce back and the project that lies ahead, involving a maxi-multihull, is in itself an opportunity.”
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, 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
Source: Vendee Globe