Despite every piece of design trickery, yachts cannot recover from major collisions with objects at sea, laments Golding

Mike Golding on hitting objects at sea, and why the guys behind Loick Peyron will be smelling blood now:

‘I have to say that having to withdraw ECOVER from The Artemis Transat Race was a tough choice, though with the ongoing attrition rate so very high, I’m not sure we aren’t better off!

‘This is a race where so far we haven’t seen major weather but instead we are hearing and seeing a lot about UFOs (unidentified floating objects). Vincent Riou is another major player, and frankly another potential winner, out of this race by dint of hitting something in the water.

‘The North Atlantic has always been a cauldron of things for sailboats to hit, be it fish (big fish!), containers or just plain old rubbish. Something as innocuous as an old fridge, when filled with water can weigh close to a ton and would inflict mortal damage to a lightweight carbon fibre, fast moving IMOCA 60 monohull.

‘The boats have definitely evolved to try to prevent this damage from being serious: kick-up rudders are almost de rigeur now in the list of most common IMOCA 60 extras. But the fact remains that if you are unfortunate and you do collide properly with something significant then no amount of design trickery will allow you to escape from damage, and certainly not on the scale that we have seen on PRB or Foncia.

‘Such happenings are totally indiscriminate and always cruel for the affected party. It is certainly no way for a racer to have to withdraw from a major event. Worse still is the prospect that Vincent’s and PRB’s 2008 Vendee programme will now be affected – this would be four years of dedication and hard work gone in a flash. Let’s hope the PRB team can track, find and salvage the boat before it is lost.

‘Naturally the incident is reminiscent of the damage and the subsequent rescue of Alex Thompson from Hugo Boss in the Southern Ocean last year. Loick Peyron is probably the best guy you could have around in such a situation and the whole rescue process seems so far to be incredibly understated. It is a truly great effort by a great sailor.

‘Still now Loick, along with his new found passenger, will have to turn back to the race if he is to cling on to his lead over Brit Air and Generali. These younger guys and teams will be smelling blood. Gale or no gale they will be doing their absolute best to hunt Gitana down in the next couple of days.’