As conditions abate the crews from the capsized trimarans are rescued. Meanwhile Ellen and Bilou lose the lead

? Leaders at 12:37 GMT: Virbac-Paprec (IMOCA 60), Groupama-2 (ORMA 60), Gryphon Solo (Open 50 Monohull), Crepes Whaou ! (Open 50 Multihull)

? This morning the cold front hit hard on the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet of multi and monohulls, and a series of incidents occurred throughout the day, which are summarized below. Detailed and regularly updated information is in the Breaking News and News section of the English version of the race web site at – click on the English flag.

? Weather Conditions at the time: This low pressure system was not one with particularly violent winds for the time of year, but it generated very big seas with pyramidal waves whipped up by the rapid wind shift from the SW 35 – 45 knots to the NW 25 – 30 knots. It was more this combination of weather, which brought about the kind of sea-state upon which Sodebo, Orange and Foncia, all fully reefed down sailing at less than 10 knots boat speed, suffered serious damage.

? We will notify all press and send out a TV Alert later this evening as soon as the Transat Jacques Vabre Media Team receive confirmation of availability via Satellite of footage, as well as photography, taken during these events.

Sequence of Events:

1. 2200GMT Tuesday night, Brossard (Y. Bourgnon/ C. Caudrelier), with major rupture along central hull, taken under motorboat tow by Laurent Bourgnon and reached Guernsey at 2300hrs.
2. 0315 GMT CROSS and MRCC informed that Sodebo (Coville/Vincent) and Orange Project (S. & Y. Ravussin) had set off their EPIRB distress beacons.
3. Sodebo skipper Thomas Coville reports to Race HQ that the port float has broken up, resulting in a dismasting. Sodebo located 150 miles off Brest in 35 – 45 knots of wind and very rough sea state of 7m waves. They are safe but can no longer control boat.
4. Orange Project skipper Steve Ravussin reports to Race HQ that a beam had broken, resulting in capsize.
5. 0615 GMT Project Manager Alain Gautier informs Race HQ that Foncia has capsized 220 miles off French coast lying 2nd in fleet at the time.
6. Armel Le Cleac’h reports to Race Doctor that Damian Foxall has injured his ribs and has a possible broken collarbone.
7. 0930 GMT Sodebo skippers report that a French fishing boat has taken the boat under tow and they are safely onboard the fishing vessel, heading for Brest.
8. 1000 GMT Galileo Open 60 monohull Brazilian skipper Walter Antunes reports broken boom, they are derouting to Spanish port before deciding whether to continue.
9. 1000 GMT Multihull Open 50 boats Victorinox and Branec heading for French coast as Victorinox reports broken bowsprit and Branec a broken port hull
10. 1030 GMT CROSS took over rescue operation, and French Navy helicopter from Brest lands on aircraft carrier Jeanne d’Arc in the zone of operation to refuel and then set off to rendez-vous first with Foncia and then Orange to evacuate the skippers.
11. 1230 GMT Navy helicopter rendez-vous with Foncia, and both crew safely winched off boat with help from diver. Orange Project only 6 miles away from Foncia so French Navy helicopter flies directly to evacuate the Swiss skippers.
12. 1400 GMT All four skippers from Foncia and Orange safely winched off and in helicopter en route to Jeanne d’Arc
13. 1500 GMT All four skippers will be onboard the Jeanne d’Arc to receive immediate medical assistance, after which they will all be helicoptered to Brest.


The Open 60 monohulls were further south than the trimarans this morning, but they also experienced the brunt of the cold front, but with less violent seas. They are all now back on starboard tack heading south passing Cape Finisterre in a 25 – 30 knot north westerly breeze, and the seas have therefore become more manageable. The first boat to get over to the West nearer to the direct route, Virbac-Paprec (Dick/Peyron) has therefore taken over the lead from Jourdain and MacArthur on Sill et Veolia, even though the Anglo-French duo are the furthest boat south in the fleet. Golding and Wavre on Ecover hold 3rd position now as they are positioned to the east of the leading two boats. Only 14 miles separates the top three in terms of distance to finish, and their boat speeds are right back up to surfing rate, averaging 16 knots, but clocking up to 23-25 knots on the plane.

Thompson and Oxley on Skandia having been clocking some of the fastest instantaneous boat speeds in the whole fleet, and are working and surfing hard to make inroads into the top 3 now from 4th position. Bonduelle (Le Cam / de Pavant) chose to dive South earlier on, and is even further to the East than Ecover, although on the same latitude, and now in 5th.

Amongst the Open 50 monohulls, Artforms reached Lorient after their mainsail ripped, in order to pick up their old mainsail. Skippers Kip Stone and Merf Owen are deliberating as to whether to continue racing. Therefore Hall and Harris on Gryphon Solo now have a 51m lead on Vedettes de Bréhat as the boats still head west to escape the low pressure system.


At 0315 GMT Tuesday morning, the CROSS and MRCC Falmouth Maritime Rescue Services were informed that the trimarans Sodebo and Orange Project had set off their EPIRB distress beacons. Skippers Thomas Coville & Jacques Vincent (Sodebo) contacted the Race HQ in Paris for the Transat Jacques Vabre to inform them that the port hull of their 60ft trimaran had broken, which lead to the boat dismasting. The boat was positioned 150 miles to the West of the French port of Brest in 35 – 45 knots of wind and a very rough sea state. These two skippers were both safe and sound, but could no longer control the boat.

Thomas Coville later recounted their incident on Sodebo: “The seas were immense. We were around the edge of the continental shelf when the wind rose to its highest point. A huge wave suddenly slammed violently into the boat and the port float opened up in two right in the middle. We took furled the mainsail immediately and fought to get the boat facing downwind, to be less exposed. But the mast fell down, breaking the beam and smashing on the leeward float. The fishing boat which is towing us right now was actually really close, on stand-by. So when this happened they came alongside very quickly.”

A few minutes later, it was the Swiss team of Stève and Yvan Ravussin, until now dominating the fleet of ORMA 60 multihulls, who contacted the Race HQ as well to inform them that the beam between the hulls had broken, which also lead to the Orange Project capsizing. The Swiss brothers are unscathed from the ordeal, and the boat was lying 220 miles from Brest.

At 0715hrs local time, Alain Gautier contacted the Race HQ for the Transat Jacques Vabre: the Project Manager for Foncia informed the organisation that the trimaran had capsized whilst in 2nd place in the ORMA multihull fleet rankings, quite near to the leader Groupama-2. It was during the passage of the second, worse cold front that the accident happened. Foncia was progressing upwind at an average speed (about 10 knots) heading West in a 35 – 45 knot SWesterly breeze, waiting for the wind shift to the North West.

Armel Le Cléac’h liaised with the Race Doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve, because his co-skipper, Irishman Damian Foxall, had injured his shoulder and it seems that his collarbone is broken. The rescue operation was then handed over to the French Navy & Coastguard to locate and pick up the four skippers on Foncia and then Orange Project as the two boats were only 6 miles apart: a helicopter from the French Coastguard flew out from Brest to refuel on the Jeanne d’Arc, an aircraft carrier ship operational in the zone, at precisely 1030 GMT today, as the two trimarans were located outside their fly-zone 220m from the coast.

Rendez-vous was made with Foncia at 1230 GMT. The diver onboard the helicopter evacuated Damian Foxall first using a special stretcher lowered on a winch and then pick up Armel Le Cleac’h. Next the helicopter flew directly to Orange Project and winched off the two Swiss skippers Steve and Yvan Ravussin. At 1400 GMT all four skippers were onboard the helicopter and on an hour’s flight to the Jeanne d’Arc first to receive medical assistance. The skippers are expected then to be flown to Brest later on. It is still too rough for any tow to be effected on either trimaran at this moment.

There are 6 multihulls still racing in the ORMA fleet.

Official Rankings at 14:52:00 GMT

IMOCA Open 60 Class:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Virbac-Paprec 42 39.00′ N 11 29.34′ W 18.5 193 3666.7 0.0
2 Sill et Veolia 42 21.64′ N 11 05.40′ W 18.6 173 3672.9 6.2
3 Ecover 42 29.36′ N 10 59.84′ W 18.3 187 3681.7 15.0

Open 50 Monohull Class 2 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Gryphon Solo 44 57.96′ N 9 56.70′ W 12.3 175 3826.1 0.0
2 Vedettes de Bréhat 45 31.36′ N 9 00.08′ W 13.3 208 3875.8 49.7

ORMA Open 60 Class 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Groupama 2 44 15.12′ N 10 44.32′ W 18.1 199 4647.0 0.0
2 Banque Populaire 44 41.80′ N 11 12.60′ W 19.0 198 4667.3 20.2
3 Géant 45 04.20′ N 10 33.72′ W 16.6 191 4695.9 48.8

Open 50 Multihull Class 2 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Crêpes Whaou ! 46 23.48′ N 10 09.44′ W 18.9 196 3904.1 0.0
2 Acanthe Ingénierie 47 49.26′ N 9 41.82′ W 16.2 210 3976.7 72.7

Quotes from the Boats:


Franck Cammas (Groupama) : “Last night was a real baptism of fire for this boat in these conditions. The wind was from all over and fluctuated from 15 – 50 knots in seconds.”


Ellen MacArthur (Sill et Veolia): “Well, bilou and i are pretty tired and wet, after a night with winds to 50 kn. we were quite shocked to hear of the multi’s this morning, I hope that everyone is OK, and that everyone gets in OK. the front was very aggressive, and difficult to predict last night. this morning alone for us when we thought we were through we had a squall of over 44 knots – our boat speed was fairly high at that stage, and the sea state horrible. once again we have slept on the floor, and now the NW wind is in the air is much colder.. we can’t have had more than a couple of hours between us last night, but the ambience on board is great which is massively uplifting!”

Mike Golding (Ecover): “The vibrations were so bad that the box holding our power supply ripped off the wall, the boat went backwards on her side briefly as the autopilots cut out. Dominique had to steer in 45 knots of wind upwind, while I was in the back of the boat fixing the problem. It was a pretty scary moment. A wet and wild time, but now we’re surfing south very fast and staying awake the whole time to get the best from the boat.”

Will Oxley (Skandia): “Ocean racing can be HARD CORE very hard core. I was reminded of that last night in a big way. The bay of biscay last night turned it on for us…pitch black driving spray and occasional rain.6m waves and Skandia constantly dropping off waves. We drive with a crash helmet and spray visor. it is the only way we can see anything. Working on the bow changing sails is like being in the dumper zone of the surf as you get rolled around whilst wrestling a sail to the deck. Hand signals with the deck light on are the only way to communicate with Brian.”