Nigel Irens says structural failure caused bow to break fatally, a result of builders favouring their own ‘flawed design’

Damage to the starboard float of Marc Guillemot’s trimaran La Trinitaine-Team Ethypharm, which forced him and his crew to be airlifted off on Monday, was severe because the builders followed their own ‘flawed design’, says its designer, Nigel Irens.

In a statement issued today, he says: ‘La Trinitaine – Team Ethypharm’ has been severely – perhaps fatally – damaged as direct a result of a of the structural failure of the bow of one the new floats, fitted this season. The bows of all the boats in the 60 ft ORMA fleet are all fitted with a “crash box'” which is sacrificial and is intended to absorb the impact of collision with floating objects – leaving the rest of the structure intact. It is not yet known in this case if the float was subject to such impact or not.

‘It has now become known that the bows of La Trinitaine – Team Ethypharm were built to a design produced by the building yard, Tresco, and not to the design issued jointly by Nigel Irens Design and structural engineers High Modulus Ltd.

‘Nigel Irens Design was not made aware of a number of important changes that were made to the original design, which is based on well-established and proven principles. In our opinion the replacement design is flawed and fails to meet the design criteria on a number of counts.

‘It is known that the bows of the other floats produced respectively for Fujifilm and Sergio Tacchini, from the same mould and by the same builder, were built in accordance with the original design.

‘Nigel Irens Design generally respects the competence and quality of work produced by the builder, and can only assume that this situation has arisen as the result of an isolated aberration.’

Guillemot reported from his position at the time, 600 miles into the Bay of Biscay, that yacht’s bow was breaking off: “We were heading further north as we thought we were too close to the centre of the depression. We were sailing at a speed of 25 knots with a reef in the main and the solent, we were supposed to gybe in about an hour when we felt a jolt near the bow.

“The port board’s crash-box was ripping off. I’m pretty sure we didn’t hit anything so I don’t understand why it broke. But the worst is that the port board itself is also damaged and water started to come in. It gave us a fright as it took us a while before we managed to control the boat and drop the sails. We had a look and discovered a fissure under the board.”

Guillemot left the power and the Sat C system on in the hope that the yacht can be tracked and possibly salvaged. He and his crew were airlifted to the French frigate Surcouf, which has been following the fleet.