Know When to Hold, When to Fold

Published on November 7th, 2018

The iconic Route du Rhum solo transatlantic race has not been kind for the 123 skippers competing in six divisions since the start November 4 of the 3,542-nautical mile course from the Brittany port of Saint Malo to Guadeloupe.

Among the casualties is French-based British skipper Sam Davies who has been forced out of the race after brutal conditions sweeping the Bay of Biscay proved to be too much for her IMOCA Initiatives Coeur.

“I discovered the structural problems yesterday (Nov. 9),” said Davies. “The first thing I noticed was that the skin of my ballast had delaminated. As I was making a tack, I was mopping up water in my living area and I heard the same noise as the one from the ballast, a creaking that came from the hull around the longitudinal reinforcement. Whenever that was slammed, I heard a creak.

“Once on starboard tack, I was leaning on the damaged port side. Whenever the boat slammed, I could see the hull bending under my feet, with folds appearing on the inner skin – that’s a little scary. I contacted the team to make an analysis with the boatbuilders. I was not feeling that relaxed.

“The problem is that we still had four days of these conditions, with a lot of wind and four days upwind, that’s a long time…I wasn’t very keen on attempting it, especially as the damaged area is in my living area, not far from the batteries. If there is any kind of tear in these conditions, I will find myself without battery power, communications and energy.

“So, I decided to turn around and head back to Lorient while the wind was pushing me in the right direction. I’m hoping to be able to protect the damaged area in the time it takes to get to Lorient. We went pretty well last night, there were still 50 knots and huge seas.”

She is sailing a VPLP-Verdier design from 2010 that was raced to third place in the 2016-17 Vendee Globe by Frenchman Jeremie Beyou in the colours of Maitre Coq. The damaged monohull is expected in Lorient tomorrow (Nov. 8) afternoon.

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Background: The 11th edition and 40th anniversary staging of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race got underway on November 4. This iconic 3,542-nautical mile course will take the record entry of 123 skippers in six divisions from the start off the Brittany port of Saint Malo (France) to Guadeloupe.

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