Dismasting of 'le Professeur' illustrates the precarious nature of non-stop round the world racing
The dismasting of poor Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart morning in the Barcelona World Race is a harsh reminder that in the world of shorthanded round the world race, bad luck is sadly par for the course.
Even the seemingly untouchable Mich Desj – revered with the nickname ‘le Professeur’ – is subject to the same heartless array of misfortunes: structural failures, gear breakages, even the weather, as was demonstrated on November’s Route du Rhum when he uncharacteristically took the slow route.
The only sailors in the Barcelona World Race who can look back at an unscarred solo or shorthanded record are those who are comparatively new to the game.
Jean Le Cam dismasted at the Canaries. Leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron were both put out of the 2008/9 Vendée Globe by steering failure and dismasting respectively. Kito de Pavant lost his rig near the start of the same race. Dee Caffari dismasted in her first ever solo IMOCA 60 transatlantic.
In these boats such catastrophes are, unfortunately, par for the course.
At least that is beginning to be better understood. Back when he was one of the few foreign faces in this mainly French game, Mike Golding gained a reputation for being jinxed, even though he finished most of his races in a podium position.
More recently the role of looking ill-starred has been taken on by Alex Thomson even though he, too, has arguably had only a few more doses of bad luck than is the going rate in this business.
Some skippers never fulfil the potential of new yachts at all. Mich Desj’s in his latest Foncia is one. Two races was all he intended to do before transfering to one-design trimarans and regrettably they both count as a fail.
The chequered prospects can make non-stop round the world sailing rather a hard sell to sponsors. The odds of crashing out are high, scarily so compared with most other sports. Even the best are not immune.