The Open 60 Skandia overnight suffered a major technical failure to the keel, which has led to the keel breaking away from the boat, approximately 30cm below the hull. The boat is still upright, with no sails up, and water ballast tanks full to keep the maximum amount of stability possible.
Skandia skipper, Nick MOLONEY, contacted his shore team at 0500 GMT this morning [24.1.05] to report that he had a problem but it was not until twilight, three hours later, that he was able to fully assess the damage. In the intervening period Moloney stabilised the boat as much as possible by reducing sail and filling the yacht´s central water ballast tanks, with a total of over five tons of water. At just after 0830 GMT, the keel completely broke away.
Skandia´s position is approximately 120 miles south of Rio de Janeiro. The wind is around 22-25 knots from the north with a 1 to 1.5 metre swell. The priority for his shore team is to secure the safety of the skipper and they are working on getting an escort boat to Skandia as soon as possible. Nick is unharmed, is safe on board Skandia and dealing with the situation as best he can. His race is effectively over but all thoughts of that are being overtaken by the priority of securing his safety and that of the boat.
Moloney was on day 80 of the Vendée Globe with under 5,000 miles left to go on the solo round the world course. It was his first participation in the race and it dramatically ends his long-held dream to complete three big round the world sailing goals - of crewed round the world [1997-98 Whitbread on board Toshiba], fastest non-stop round the world [2002 Jules Verne Trophy on board Orange] and, finally, his ultimate goal of solo, non-stop around the world which has now cruely come to an end.
Andre OSZMANN, Group Marketing Director, Skandia: 'We obviously share Nick´s immense disappointment at the damage to the boat and the premature termination of his Vendee Globe race. However, Nick´s safety and well-being is our primary concern. Skandia is extremely proud to be associated with Nick and his sailing career. His determination, talent and will to succeed are an example to us all. We are sure that he will overcome this disappointment to continue his search for new challenges.'
Meanwhile at the front of the fleet, Vincent RIOU (PRB) must be beginning to count the hours as he waits for this blessed wind shift from the North-East to the East and then the South-East, enabling him to round onto course towards Europe. For the moment, he has racked up the worst progress of the fleet over the past 24 hours and is on a heading to Greenland! Jean LE CAM is just 51 miles astern of the leader this morning, Mike GOLDING 93...
The elusive wind shift is proving to be a real godsend for Jean LE CAM (Bonduelle) and Mike GOLDING (Ecover). Last night, Jean got back 29 miles on the leader and Mike 5 miles. By cutting inside Riou's wide loop, Le Cam and Golding have already managed to edge 3° in longitude further East with only 51 and 93 miles' deficit. The sole comfort for the skipper of PRB is that the wind seems to be strengthening a little and still holding onto his 3° lead in latitude (around 180 miles). This means that he should be the first to hit the return of the wind and hence able to get back a small part of his greatly reduced lead. At 8 days from the finish, the final order on the podium is still undecided.
Difficult to say until we speak with the competitors later today, but judging by their speeds it would seem that Dominique WAVRE (Temenos) and Sébastien JOSSE (VMI) may have escaped the Doldrums that have slowed them down dramatically over the past few days. Today both boats are racking up nearly 10 knots this morning. Both of them are still sailing at 2° to 3° of latitude North, the danger remaining omnipresent. The two skippers may still get caught up in unforeseen calms. Yesterday evening, Dominique WAVRE managed to make the most of the reduced speed of his direct rival to take back fourth place. He now has a lead of 25 miles.
Anne LIARDET on Roxy is now just 380 miles from the legendary Cape Horn, that she is set to pass on Wednesday evening. Raphaël DINELLI (Akena Vérandas) and Karen LEIBOVICI (Benefic) will still have to wait another three and seven days respectively before they can escape the Southern Ocean and begin their ascent of the Atlantic Ocean.