A keel has fallen off, another boat has collided with a fishing boat. I take a look at the complications these skippers may face

This is the cruellest of races. Two days into the Vendée Globe and already two of the solo round the world skippers are out, with years of planning and preparation in tatters.

Only six hours into the race on Saturday, the keel fell of Marc Guillemot’s Safran (more on keels and the ongoing class problems tomorrow), and today Kito de Pavant has been in a collision with a fishing boat off the coast of Portugal.

This has seriously damaged the deck and wingmast deck spreader. De Pavant thinks the damage may be too serious to repair himself and, as outside assistance is forbidden in this race that’s probably it over for him. He is nursing his boat to Cascais.

First, to look more closely at the Safran keel problem – and a raft of others that Guillemot has had to return to. Initially, he said he’d had a collision with a submerged object. Then at a press conference yesterday he said he wasn’t so sure.

“I still don’t know at this time if I hit something or not. If it was not a collision it might be a case of metal fatigue,” Guillemot commented.

In terms of the race it makes no odds. But for him and his team there could be a big difference. One is a probably a straightforward insurance pay-out under the terms of ‘force majeure’; the other is wear and tear, and may be a harder thing for which to claim.

I really do feel sorry for Guillemot. He’s gone from the very possible prospect of a race win or podium position to the probability of an insurance wrangle and possible money worries (teams are often on a sliding scale of payment with more for finishing, more again for winning, plus prizemoney).

And then there’s the arrest warrant out for him in the UK for not turning up to a prosecution by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (read more here), all those expensive laywers’ fees and the likelihood that when he does face trial he’ll cop a whopping big fine plus costs.

The Kito de Pavant incident is also very sad indeed and you really have to feel for the guy. He was dismasted during the first night out during the last Vendée Globe, when the fleet met a front with gusts of over 50 knots.

So in two editions of the race, and all the work that’s gone into them, de Pavant has only had a chance to race for three days in total.

About the collision, I see lots of Twitter comments this morning using unmentionable words about the Portuguese fishing boat crew, their driving skills, how come they weren’t watching their AIS, etc.

But hang on a minute. If the vessel ‘was engaged in fishing’, and showing the correct day signal, then it was for the sailing vessel to give way. What if de Pavant wasn’t keeping a proper watch at the time either? We’re back to that thorny insurance money issue again.

Two days out, and the Vendée Globe already has an attrition rate of 10%. Each one of the incidents that occur in the next months will be the cruel end of a lot of team hopes and hard work and the start of a thicket of behind-the-scenes complications.

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