RIOU reported hitting a large sea mammal at 03:00 UTC on Tuesday morning, but his initial assessment was that the damage remained superficial... The skipper realized during the afternoon that one of his keel pins was missing, and that the appendage was only held by the ram used to cant it. With an approaching storm, RIOU decided to abandon ship and has requested assistance. Loick PEYRON (FRA) onboard Gitana Eighty was directed towards PRB by the Race Direction team, and took RIOU aboard at 17:25 UTC.
At The Front
Now leading the race, PEYRON, who commented last night, "my focus is to get back into the race" has to cope with the new "lifestyle" imposed by the presence of RIOU, whom of course cannot take part in any manoeuvre. The jury of The Artemis Transat is currently working to determine PEYRON's time allowance for diverting to rescue his competitor. The wind is now south for the leading boats which are sailing a direct route to Boston at around 13 knots, and could reach the finish line on Friday night (710 miles to go).
Gitana Eighty was the first boat to cross the Musto Newfoundland gate on Tuesday, and thus wins the trophy. Further back, the light airs zone situated around the ice gate makes it difficult for the second pack. Cervin Enr and Safran are particularly disadvantaged by their NE positioning - the wind is only blowing at 5 knots from the north, and becomes increasingly variable. Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) will have to tack to cross the gate, probably at the same time as Roxy. Spirit of Weymouth is now on the right track in terms of latitude, and has a 200-mile deficit on Safran.
RIOU's Account Of The Events
Joined on Tuesday evening at 18:05 UTC by satellite phone, RIOU onboard Gitana Eighty came back on the events which led to his retirement.
"Last night at around 03:00 GMT, reaching rather fast, between 15 and 18 knots, I felt a shock which didn't worry me too much since it was violent but 'soft' - I didn't hear any carbon crack. I'm sure it was a shark, and actually I think I cut it in two since I saw two portions emerge at the back of the boat. I assessed the possible damage, and only saw a minor problem on the fairing of the keel box, nothing serious but anyway I slowed down a bit. I took advantage of the ridge we crossed today to stop and get a better look, and that's when I discovered one of the keel pins was missing. The keel was being held in place because it was canted and somehow stuck, but I didn't really want to face the gale expected for tomorrow on a boat whose keel could fall off at any time. I decided to contact Race Direction, and they called Loick to ask him to head towards my position [Ed- RIOU asked for assistance at 15:00 UTC]. Gitana Eighty was only 15 miles from me, I prepared the boat before leaving it. I filled the ballast tanks*, stacked the sails down below to lower the centre of gravity, activated the beacons and got ready. I took that decision quickly, knowing that the weather allowed for a safe operation. I inflated the raft, secured it to PRB and boarded it, then Loick made an approach and I climbed aboard Gitana Eighty. I don't really know what to say, it's like my arms just fell off [...] Now all I can do is make some phone calls to organize the salvage of the boat, which should be done in two or three days."
The area of high-pressure and light winds to the south of the Class 40 fleet caused an overnight stall for the entire Class 40 fleet on Monday with the northern group of race leader Giovanni SOLDINI (ITA) with Telecom Italia, Thierry BOUCHARD (FRA) with Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR (second place), Yvan NOBLET (FRA) on Appart' City (fourth place) and Christophe COATNOAN's (FRA) Groupe Partouche (eighth place) escaping the worst of this calm period.
This morning Telecom Italia maintains the overall lead with a fairly constant 50-mile gap back to Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR.
Artemis Transat - www.theartemistransat.com