Race favourite Michel DESJOYEAUX is out of the Artemis Transat, forced to retire following a collision with a whale.
At 14:45 UTC on Thursday, Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) contacted The Artemis Transat Race Direction to inform the team he had hit a whale and had to withdraw from the race. His position at the time of the impact was 46°24.59 N 30° 40.33 W.
The boat was hit in her front section, and around the starboard daggerboard area, and DESJOYEAUX is concerned about the state of the lower part of the daggerboard casing. The skipper is unhurt, the boat is still safe and seaworthy. In order not to take any risks neither for the skipper nor for the boat, in agreement with the sponsor Foncia, decision has been taken to retire from the race.
Joined by satellite telephone, the DESJOYEAUX declared: "About two hours ago, I was upwind doing 10 to 11 knots, I was in the boat and I heard a crack. I felt the starboard daggerboard hit something - it's probably broken. I can't get it up more than 1.5 metres. I hope there won't be a big leak. I don't see any interest in pursuing the race with a boat which is not competitive anymore, it makes more sense to head home to Brittany, which should take me about four days. It's a big disappointment, because it has been a very interesting race. It's the first time I have to retire from an offshore race, that's how bad it is"
DESJOYEAUX is approximately 1000 miles away from his Brittany base, where he should arrive in about four days. Winner of the 2004 edition, but also of the Route du Rhum and the Vendée Globe, DESJOYEAUX has an unrivalled singlehanded offshore track record.
Amongst the remaining fleet of 12 IMOCAs, BT and Seb JOSSE (FRA) lead, 18 miles ahead of Vincent RIOU (FRA) and PRB at the 10:00 UTC poll this morning. It's been another painstakingly slow night for the leading pack, and the boats had to deal with the ridge of the Azores high, bloated and well installed in the middle of the Atlantic. As a consequence, the lows are installed off the Canadian and USA coasts and remain very static... The light airs area's surface equals to roughly 500 square miles - the speeds are desperately low, with distances in 24 hours around the 150-mile barrier, a figure that even a Mini sailor wouldn't be very happy with. Generali, positioned North (and alone up there since DESJOYEAUX's retirement), has had to deal with the lightest winds, while the south packed has made contact with a fluky northwesterly breeze.
BT remains in the lead, and logically, JOSSE should hit the southwesterly winds - first low pressure system since the start! - in first place, probably late this afternoon right before the position blackout. According to the wind charts, it could reach 25 knots. In second place, RIOU is eagerly waiting for the wind to kick in, "We have to work, the last three days have been very hard,"
said the winner of the last edition of the Vendée Globe. "Not much wind, not easy to sleep. We're going a bit more south, but I don't really have a choice but follow Seb now... The difficulty is not to worry too much... anyway, we can't do anything, and the damage is done..."
Amongst the 11 boats in Class 40, Giovanni SOLDINI (ITA) and Telecom Italia hold the lead.
Artemis Transat - www.theartemistransat.com