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10 November 2008, 01:07 pm
Three Boats Returning To Port After Tough First Night For Vendée Fleet
Marc THIERCELIN and DCNS at the start
There have been extreme conditions at the start for the Vendée fleet

Vendée Globe 2008-09
Les Sables d'Olonne, France

It's been a tough first night in the sixth Vendée Globe, with the fleet facing headwinds of 20-30 knots and 4-6 metre seas, and three boats already returning to port.
Dominque WAVRE (SUI) on Temenos returned soon after the start with electrical problems, but was able to fix them and rejoin the race shortly after 23:00 local time, whilst Bernard STAMM (SUI) has also been forced to turn back after a collision with a fishing boat damaged his bowsprit. The most recent casualty is French skipper Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), who informed his team he was returning to port at 09:19 French time this morning to fix electrical problems caused by a leak in his ballast system.

The 10 skippers who took part in the first of the Vendée Globe live radio sessions reported on the difficult conditions: "We're really being banged around!" they all agreed.

The southwesterly wind was still blowing at around 30 knots with gusts up to 40. A cold front is expected to move over the fleet this afternoon bringing even more severe conditions, with winds exceeding 45 knots in the squalls.

"There's going to be a difficult moment when we carry out the manoeuvres to change tack, as this will take around an hour and we're going to have to hoist more sail as the wind drops to 25 knots…" explained Jérémie BEYOU (Delta Dore).

This morning's position update shows Marc GUILLEMOT (Safran) still the leader. Most of the fleet are heading directly west as fast as possible, except three - leader GUILLEMOT, and British contenders Mike GOLDING (Ecover) and Sam DAVIES (Roxy), who have each put in two tacks to stay on a more direct southwesterly course. Of the main northwesterly group, Loick PEYRON (Gitana Eighty) is currently in second place, with Roland JOURDAIN and Kito DE PAVANT very close by. On the rankings Dee CAFFARI (Aviva) is still showing as first Brit in eleventh, while Alex THOMSON (Hugo Boss) one place behind.

STAMM describes the collision which has forced him to return to port: "There were a whole group of us racing upwind. There was a fishing boat in the area that I saw some way off and didn't seem to be a problem. I went down to do some nav work and a few minutes later… boom! I reckon he must have changed direction or the wind shifted a bit and my auto-pilot followed the shift. By the time it took me to go inside, I'd hit him. I couldn't raise him on the radio. I don't know whether he saw me. It was more or less a direct hit, a little bit to one side. A huge collision. We'll be trying to repair it. I decided immediately to head back, as I can't hoist any headsails. For a downwind race, that isn't much good! It appears that only the bowsprit is broken. I'll be setting off again. There's no reason not to. The others won't be waiting for me, but it's around the world race, so isn't over yet."

Click here for all the news on the Vendée Globe.

Véronique Teurlay
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