Shortly after starting Leg 4 of the EDS Atlantic Challenge, off Norfolk, Virginia, USA, the French yacht Sill Plein Fruit was dismasted.
Just 40 minutes after starting Leg 4 of the EDS Atlantic Challenge, the French yacht Sill Plein Fruit was dismasted, her 98 foot carbon-fiber wing mast collapsing at the first spreader and then crumbling above the mid-section before breaking at deck level and falling into the water. The crew scrambled around trying to lash the broken pieces to stop it from damaging the hull, and doing their best to recover from the shock. The dismasting was a bitter blow for skipper Roland Jourdain. Sill Plein Fruit had taken an early lead in Leg 4 and was leading overall in the EDS Atlantic Challenge with two first place finishes when the dismasting occurred.
To add insult to injury, the conditions were quite benign with only 10-15 knots of wind blowing, and the beginnings of a short, choppy sea rolling in from the east. It is not clear what broke first, and an investigation might take weeks, however the speculation is that the mast might have been weakened when Sill Plein Fruit lost their forestay on Leg 3.
Spectator yachts immediately gathered to lend assistance and some local sailors joined the yacht's crew in the water to help untangle the rigging which had snagged on some appendage under the yacht. Shortly thereafter Sill Plein Fruit took a tow from a press yacht while waiting for a tow from an official emergency vessel. They will be towed into Norfolk, Virginia to assess their options. There appear to be no injuries on board. More details will follow on Tuesday after the team have issued a formal statement.
Leg 4 started at 16:00 local time (20:00 GMT) from Norfolk, Virginia. At the first turning mark off Cape Henry, Kingfisher (Nick Moloney) held a slim lead over Ecover (Mike Golding) and Gartmore (Josh Hall) with the all-female team aboard AlphaGraphics just boat length behind. The race is bound for Boston, Massachusetts 500 miles away.
The final leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge returns to St. Malo, France, where the first yachts are expected to finish the race between August 23 and August 26.