Pindar's support boat leaves to help dismasted skipper, while Mike Sanderson on the Pindar Open 60 endures an epic stint

A rescue plan to help dismasted Transat skipper Jean Pierre Dick has been hatched by Andrew Pindar. In addition to their Open 60, Pindar’s eponymous family printing business owns a converted trawler, Hatherleigh, and he has arrranged for her to sail today from Portsmouth to rendezvous with Jean Pierre Dick’s Virbac, currently some 600 miles west-north-west of Ireland. At a service speed of 10 knots, and with a stop in Plymouth to bunker, Hatherleigh should reach Virbac’s position in about four days.

Meanwhile, the Open 60 fleet has weathered the worst of the storm. Mike Golding is currently leading from Mike Sanderson on Pindar by a slim 3 miles. Not a man given to exaggeration, he described the conditions in the last 36 hours as ‘outrageous’, with winds of 45-50 knots and breaking waves roughly every 20 minutes. However, he is well and the boat is reportedly going fine.

On board Pindar, Mike Sanderson helmed for a solid 7 hours on Friday and Saturday. ‘At about 2pm yesterday the conditions got absolutely horrendous out here,’ he wrote later. ‘At about 3pm we came off a particularly bad wave and hit the water very hard. Next thing I knew the boat was heading into a crash tack so I dived for the helm.

‘What had happened was the carbon rod that holds the wind insturments onto the top of the mast had snapped on impact taking out the first set of instruments and then the loose cables flying around took out the second set. (The annoying thing about this is our instruments work so well and it was just a freak wave that caused this.) The autopilot was then corrupted as it gets its information from these instruments and was useless.

‘I couldn’t leave the helm for over 7 hours as the weather just didn’t let up – I couldn’t even leave for the 30 seconds I needed to unplug the autopilot from the wind instruments and switch it over to steering off a course. Thankfully it was only a temporary thing and is now up and running. Because I was stuck on the helm I couldn’t change sails or reef any further and a rip developed in the mainsail, so before I could go below and get some sleep I had to turn to fixing the mainsail. It was a busy night!!!’

Sanderson and Golding are among the most northerly group, along with Vincent Riou on PRB and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat – Armor Lux. The north-south separation that occurred when some of the monohull fleet took a less punishing route further south is likely to resolve itself in the next few days. The most northerly skippers have been freed off as they pass over the top of the depression and are picking up speed downwind.

There is some discussion about inserting a waypoint to keep the monohulls from straying too far north, as was done for the ORMA 60 fleet. Skippers are considering now how that might affect their tactics and Mike Golding, for one, says pointedly that while he thinks it is a good idea, he wonders if it can be implemented in time without affecting the leaderboard.