As French sailors are rescued from capsized trimaran, did a collision cause the pitchpoling?

Oh dear, this is the second time in a year that Jean Le Cam has been making news wearing a survival suit and swimming out from the hull of an upturned boat. The first was earlier this year in the Vendée Globe when the keel fell off his monohull.

This was the scene off Cherbourg early this morning, as captured by photographer Thierry Martinez. Le Cam and his co-skipper Yves Le Blevec spent a cold and worrying night on the capsized hull of Le Blevec’s new 50ft trimaran Actual after it pitchpoled yesterday evening on the opening hours of the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race.

After dawn the boat was taken in tow by a SNSM lifeboat.

What the photos don’t show (perhaps purposely) is that the bow of the trimaran is badly damaged.

The supposition at this stage is that the trimaran hit something before upending.

This is a really cruel start to this new 50-footer’s first big outing. Together with Franck-Yves Escoffier’s new 50ft tri Crêpes Whaou!, this boat represents a new generation aimed at filling the gap left by the defunct ORMA 60s. The new Multi 50 rule specifies GRP construction, limited sail area and a number of other restraints.

The whole point of them is that they should be much cheaper to build and run, and more robust to sail. Clearly if the capsize was as a result of a collision, it says nothing about either of the points above.

Unfortunately, however, it does illustrate the ultimate risks of multihulls: that once they go over they aren’t going to come back up again.