The 60-foot trimaran, Foncia, participating in the Challenge Mondial Assistance from Cherbourg to Rimini, capsized at around 50 miles off the Portuguese coast yesterday.
The five members of the crew are safe and sound and are sheltering in the central cockpit. Alain Gautier, the skipper, specified that they required no assistance and he was organising the recuperation operation of the multihull Foncia with his shore crew. The boat was under gennaker and mainsail at 25 knots. The crew on watch were surprised by the sudden acceleration of the boat whose bows dug down and capsized frontwards.
Meanwhile, after drumming down the length of the Portuguese coast in a 25-30 knot north north-easterly, the leaders of the fleet have now… stopped. "It doesn't really surprise me and it's quite a normal situation,"
says Hervé JAN on Géant currently third at the end of the night.
" We are right in a buffer zone between the Portuguese trade winds and an established easterly wind in the sea of Alboran in the Mediterranean."
It is an identical situation for the three leading boats, Groupama, Banque Populaire and Géant. Belgacom, fourth in the rankings at the end of the night, continues to sail at 12.2 knots while the top trio are teasing 3-7 knots out of the boats.
For Foncia, help is being organised and a tugboat equipped with a rib and diver to cut away the rig is set to leave Setubal (Portugal) at around 1100 GMT to pick up Alain GAUTIER and his crew. The tug has an ETA with Foncia 1500 GMT, returning to Cascais about 24 hours later.
" The wind has completely dropped out and I didn't expect it to be so brutal<"
said Franck CAMMAS on Groupama, leader of the fleet since yesterday morning, 15.9 miles ahead of Banque Populaire, and slightly downwind. "There, we have been at a complete standstill since around 0130 hours and I don't know when it is set return... We have to be patient now that we're in it. We are in the middle of a transition between two weather systems."
Géant, third at the end of night was 21.5 miles from the leader, experiencing much the same environment and was managing to pull out a meagre 2.3 knots of top speed. For Hervé JAN, decidedly more relaxed, the situation was not particularly strange but didn't bode well for a welcoming Straits of Gibraltar. "With the easterly wind in the sea of Alboran, it may well come in strong there!"
Powerful conditions forecast then for what will be the passage between the Straits of Gibraltar lying just 150 miles from the bows of Groupama at the end of the night.