Vendée Globe: New Year, New Casualty

Published on January 1st, 2017

(January 1, 2017; Day 57) – Irish sailor Enda O’Coineen, who is racing in 15th place in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race, which started in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on Sunday November 6, reported to Race Management in Paris at 0830hrs UTC today that the mast of his IMOCA Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland has broken.

Positioned some 180 nautical miles to the south east of Dunedin, New Zealand, O’Coineen, 60, was racing in 35kts of SSE wind when the rig broke. The skipper is uninjured and reported that he was starting to secure his boat and the broken pieces of the rig and planned to head to New Zealand which, in the current weather situation, is downwind for him. He has enough fuel to make landfall.

With the field of 29 solo skippers now reduced to 18, the leadership battle sees Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) having gained 43 miles on second placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) in the 24 hours to 14:00hrs UTC. Thomson will seek to minimise his time upwind on port tack because he has no foil to provide lift and traction.

“I’m in the South Atlantic off Brazil, less than 400 km from Rio,” reports Le Cléac’h. “We’re close-hauled and heeled over so it’s not very comfortable and the boat’s slamming, but we should be able to pick up the pace again in 3 or 4 days. I’m happy to be making more speed today after some complicated days of late.”

As the duo sail upwind in search of the E’ly tradewinds which, albeit light at 10-12kts, are to be found about 300 miles upwind, to their north. Thomson may be able to cut some miles back on his rival as the high pressure system to their east drifts south and therefore brings the more favourable easterlies with it as it goes.

O’Coineen, contacted by Race HQ at 0930hrs UTC this morning, provides this update on his situation:

“You roll the dice. I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25 kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kt squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment. I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don’t I will cry.

“The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make of whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat. I thought of safety first. I cut the rig free from the boat. I was worried that the stump of the rig would hole the boat. The seas were pretty wild. There was a big sea running. I cut the entire rig free. I am mastless, the deck was holed. It is not a happy situation but there it is, you roll the dice. That is the risk you take.

“I am devastated. Things were going quite well. I was in good shape. Having got this far I felt we could handle anything. There was just that little malfunction of the self-steering that set a whole train in motion. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens.

“Look, you have to be philosophical. This sort of sailing is living on the edge. I have been doing that for 57 days and as the fella says if you are living on the edge you are taking up too much space. I was taking up too much space on the edge.

“Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me about my New Year’s Resolution. And my New Year’s Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat, to pursue the dream, to pursue my adventure. The irony is that only two hours earlier I had recorded a video to pledge to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language.

“What can you do? I have acted responsibly. It is January 1st. It is a New Day and a New Year and it is time to move on. My Vendée Globe is over. I am appreciative of all the support I have had.”

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 4644 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 182.37 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 914.97 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1628.84 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1724.3 nm

Race detailsTrackerRankingFacebookVendeeGlobe TV

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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