Transat Jacques Vabre: Uh-Oh…

The Bay Of Biscay is known for its November cold fronts, and last night it served up a classic, with winds to 50 knots and seas to 20 feet. The result: serious devastation in the TJV fleet.

Here’s a quick summary of the action:

1. 2200GMT Tuesday night, Brossard (Y. Bourgnon/ C. Caudrelier), with major rupture along central hull, taken under motorboat tow by Laurent Bourgnon and reached Guernsey at 2300hrs.
2. 0315 GMT CROSS and MRCC informed that Sodebo (Coville/Vincent) and Orange Project (S. & Y. Ravussin) had set off their EPIRB distress beacons.
3. Sodebo skipper Thomas Coville reports to Race HQ that the port float has broken up, resulting in a dismasting. Sodebo located 150 miles off Brest in 35 – 45 knots of wind and very rough sea state of 7m waves. They are safe but can no longer control boat.
4. Orange Project skipper Steve Ravussin reports to Race HQ that a beam had broken, resulting in capsize.
5. 0615 GMT Project Manager Alain Gautier informs Race HQ that Foncia has capsized 220 miles off French coast lying 2nd in fleet at the time.
6. Armel Le Cleac’h reports to Race Doctor that Damian Foxall has injured his ribs and has a possible broken collarbone.
7. 0930 GMT Sodebo skippers report that a French fishing boat has taken the boat under tow and they are safely onboard the fishing vessel, heading for Brest.
8. 1000 GMT Galileo Open 60 monohull Brazilian skipper Walter Antunes reports broken boom, they are derouting to Spanish port before deciding whether to continue.
9. 1000 GMT Multihull Open 50 boats Victorinox and Branec heading for French coast as Victorinox reports broken bowsprit and Branec a broken port hull
10. 1030 GMT CROSS took over rescue operation, and French Navy helicopter from Brest lands on aircraft carrier Jeanne d’Arc in the zone of operation to refuel and then set off to rendez-vous first with Foncia and then Orange to evacuate the skippers.
11. 1230 GMT Navy helicopter rendez-vous with Foncia, and both crew safely winched off boat with help from diver. Orange Project only 6 miles away from Foncia so French Navy helicopter flies directly to evacuate the Swiss skippers.
12. 1400 GMT All four skippers from Foncia and Orange safely winched off and in helicopter en route to Jeanne d’Arc
13. 1500 GMT All four skippers will be onboard the Jeanne d’Arc to receive immediate medical assistance, after which they will all be helicoptered to Brest.

Is that a grim report, or what? You can get all the details, and further updates, here. This will provoke yet another round of soul-searching and debate over racing shorthanded trimarans across the Bitch Of Biscay in November. And there will probably be little new in the rhetoric. The important thing is that all the sailors seem to be okay–even if some of the boats will now become nice barnacle colonies…

“Merde, merde, merde! Wake up Damian! I think we’re pointing in the wrong direction…”

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