Rescue needed in Golden Globe Race
Published on October 20th, 2018
(October 20, 2018; Day 112) – At 18:30 UTC, Golden Globe Race skipper Loïc Lepage (above) set off the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on his yacht Laaland after being dismasted earlier in the day some 600 miles SW of Perth Western Australia.
The incident began 5 hours earlier when the French yachtsman first contacted Race HQ to report that Laaland’s mast had broken in two places while sailing in 25 knot winds and 3 metre seas. After cutting away the rigging, the 62-year old sailor expressed some concern that one section of the mast may have damaged the hull near the keel, but that the initial ingress of water had stopped. He did not ask for assistance and was planning to set up a jury rig at first light tomorrow and sail to Fremantle unassisted.
That all changed at 18:10 UTC when Lepage made a second call to Race HQ to say his yacht was now leaking at the rate of 30 litres of water an hour from an area in the keel hidden from view by a water tank. His pumps were working and keeping up with the flow, but conditions outside had deteriorated, with winds of 40 knots.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra, which had already been alerted to Laaland’s CODE ORANGE situation earlier, intercepted her EPIRB signal at 18:30 UTC and immediately issued a MAYDAY relay alert to all ships.
A Challenger search and rescue plane has been dispatched from Perth and was expected to reach Laaland’s position at 23:00 UTC today. Her crew will communicate with Lepage over VHF radio and photograph the condition of the yacht, which has the rig still attached at the bow, acting as a sea anchor.
The nearest GGR yacht with an engine is Puffin skippered by American/Hungarian Istvan Kopar, which is some 480 miles downwind to the east. The strong westerly gale force winds in the area will almost certainly make it impossible for Kopar to turn back upwind for another 24 hours.
Another solo yacht, Alizes II sailed by Francis Tolan in the Long Route solo circumnavigation, is some 350 miles NW of Laaland’s position and GGR Organisers are attempting to contact him.
Laaland’s position at 19:00 UTC was 39 1.117S and 104. 1.67E making 1.2K on 45T.
Lepage has reported that all safety gear is secure, his emergency sat phone is working and the yacht’s tracking equipment is fully charged. At 00:00 UTC wind and sea conditions are forecast to moderate and by 12:00 UTC on Sunday are expected to be back to 20-25kts from the SW.
Lepage is a highly experience solo yachtsman, having made three transatlantic crossings and spent the past three years preparing his Nicholson 32 yacht Laaland for the Golden Globe Race. Problems with his radio and a shortage of fresh water forced him to make a stop in Cape Town, which left him demoted to the Chichester Class (for those competitors forced to make one stop or receive outside assistance). But he has continued ‘to realise my dream’ to sail solo around the globe.
The GGR Race organisers are polling Laaland’s position every 30 minutes and maintaining a 2-hourly satellite phone check with Lepage to monitor the situation.
Among the eight remaining skippers in the race, leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede continues to blaze across the South Pacific toward Cape Horn. Over 2400 nm is second placed Mark Slats, sailing his Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick, and is expected to reach the mandatory checkpoint off Tasmania at approx. 00:00 UTC October 21.
The 2018 Golden Globe Race started for 17 skippers from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday July 1, 2018, with the inaugural solo non-stop around the world yacht race expected to take 9-10 months to complete.
The event marks the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race in 1968-69 when rules then allowed competitors to start from ports in northern France or UK between June 1st and October 31st.
A notable twist to the 2018 Golden Globe Race format is how entrants are restricted to using the same type of yachts and equipment that were available in that first race, with the premise being to keep the race within financial reach of every dreamer.
The rules allow for one breach of the strict solo, non-stop un-assisted circumnavigation without the aid of modern electronic navigation aids regulations that make this Race unique. However, those that do move down to the Chichester Class as if, like Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, they have made one stop during their solo circumnavigation.
Those who breach the rules for a second time are deemed to have retired from the GGR Event and the organisers have no responsibility or obligation to them.