The crew of Geronimo have been able to assess the nature and extent of the latest damage to the trimaran's front crossbeam and have decided to retire

The crew of Geronimo found shelter off Tasmania and have been able to assess the nature and extent of the latest damage to the trimaran’s front crossbeam. As a result Olivier de Kersauson has announced he is not prepared to put his crew and boat in peril by leading them into the vast expanse of no man’s land between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn, and has decided to retire from the Oryx Quest. The trimaran is now heading at reduced speed to Sydney, where she is due to arrive within the next 48 hours.

The new indications of delamination appeared in the same beam on Monday night, but not in the same areas that were repaired in Perth. The sea state made it impossible for the Capgemini and Schneider Electric crew to locate the problem accurately in the constant racket created by heavy seas. Olivier de Kersauson therefore took the decision to take a closer look straight away before attacking the south Pacific.

A dejected skipper announced his decision this morning: after much heartache, he is calling it a day. “We’d started our comeback and were full of enthusiasm. We’d already gained 300 miles on the last boat in the fleet. But the truth is that this is a mechanical sport and when these things happen, all the willingness, commitment and courage in the world are no use. We’ve never retreated – it’s just not in the spirit of everything we’ve achieved over the years, but I’m not going to mess around with the southern ocean in a damaged boat. The safety of the crew is more important than anything else. Those seas are the most isolated on the planet and there’s no shelter to be had if anything goes wrong. This decision breaks our hearts and the faces here on board have a defeated look about them”, said Olivier de Kersauson to his shore team this morning.

It was Olivier de Kersauson’s right-hand man Didier Ragot who discovered the new damage as part of a regular boat check. “He heard the sound of delamination towards the front of the boat – it sounds like the noise you get when you screw up aluminium foil and it means that the Nomex is cracked. It’s internal, and since we had no opportunity to doppler test it in Perth, we weren’t able to discover that the impact had affected the very structure of the beam. It’s a vital part of the boat and it’s impossible for us to continue with it like this.”

The Oryx Quest started from Doha (in Qatar) on 5 February, when four giant multihulls set sail to battle it out around the world in this totally new kind of race. Olivier de Kersauson was thrilled to be able to measure his boat and crew against such rivals under identical sailing conditions.

An enthralling duel soon emerged between the Capgemini/Schneider Electric trimaran and Doha 2006 (the former Club Med). On day 2 of the race, Geronimo overtook the Qatar-based boat in the Arabian Sea, but Doha 2006 never let go for one moment. On 14 February, after a cat-and-mouse race over several days during which the two boats were often in sight of each other, Geronimo grabbed the lead by taking a well-judged easterly routing option. From that point onwards, the French trimaran increased her lead in punishing weather conditions that tested boat and crew. On 18 February, following a violent impact with an Unidentified Floating Object (probably the result of the Asian Tsunami), the crew discovered serious damage to the starboard section of the trimaran’s forward crossbeam. The skipper then decided to route to Perth for repairs. There then followed some tricky sailing to minimize any further damage to the trimaran. Having arrived in Fremantle (Perth) during the night of 22 February and undergone a series of flat-out repairs at the hands of a hugely-committed and highly-skilled team, Geronimo set sail again early on the morning of 25 February. She was then nearly 3,000 nautical miles behind fleet leader Doha 2006 and 1,500 miles behind Daedalus in third place. After four days of pursuit racing in difficult weather conditions, the crew discovered a new area of damage yesterday: this morning Olivier de Kersauson announced that they would make for Sydney.