Many remain in Concarneau to wait out the incoming depression

Crazy seas, big winds, tiny open boats… it doesn’t get tougher than this. The seas and winds have been building as the depression much feared by the skippers heads towards the UK and northern France. With a third of the fleet back in harbour or on their way back, news came through that one of the favourites for the race had broken his rudder and was heading back to Concarneau – Andrew Cape (Aberdeen Asset Management) broke his steering system during the early hours of today. At this stage there are no more details on the incident, other than the position reports showing his steady but slow progress back to port.

He is reportedly in good health, if extremely disappointed. Even though overall line honours will have been lost, the race should not be over, with it likely that at least half the fleet will not be on their way again until after this next system goes through – but this will of course depend on the damage sustained.

Progress has been slow for everyone in the past 24 hours as these brave guys and girls have probably been wondering just why they are doing it – 16 haven’t – they are back in Concarneau sitting it out, including one of the favourites in the Pogo class Scotland’s Yann Jameson with a totally destroyed mainsail. Seven other boats are making their way back to the start with everything from broken masts, broken bones and rudder problems. 20 boats are already in port. Britain’s Peter Heppel left this afternoon to rejoin the race after fixing his pilot problems, and taking his chances as the wind moderated for a few hours to allow him to clear the rocky coastline. Cape’s fellow Whitbread and America’s Cup crewmate Nick Moloney, after restarting six hours late due to the pre-start collision, is now up in 35th position and toughing it out.

If you want some idea of what it is like out there at the moment, put yourself inside a washing machine, with the washing machine sitting on a bumper car at the fairground. The motion will be impossible, to move will be difficult and dangerous, to sleep in more than 3 or 4 minute spells very hard, and to eat whilst very important will take a lot of effort. This is survival mode.

Survival suits (obligatory in the fleet) will certainly be on, and bits of the boat will probably be popping off here and there…needing constant attention to keep the boat going in the right direction, albeit slowly. It will be freezing cold due to the sheer volume of the Atlantic hitting you every time you venture on deck. For anyone with autopilots not set up properly (undoubtedly quite a few), they will have to sit on deck or stop to rest.

Forecasts show a new peak in the wind and sea conditions on Thursday…its only going to get tougher…

Highlights of Positions 2809 11h00 French time

Offshore Challenges’ sponsored Valerie Tisseraud in 4th place! Go Valerie!

1997 winner Seb Magnen takes the lead, 15 miles ahead of Erwan Taberly (nephew of Eric)

First ‘foreign’ entry, F.Pelizza in 5th, with his brother Stefan in 9th…Stefan was dismasted on leg 2 of the 1997 Mini…back to prove his point, and to beat his brother.

Kiwi Chris Sayer (Navman) fighting hard in 12th in his first race against the Mini fleet after 12000 miles of training in the southern hemisphere…

First Brit, Paul Peggs in 16th on Mills designed Mini…heading south though which might be problematic later with oncoming shift towards the North at the end of the week.

Second Brit Alex Bennett (English Braids) in 21st, but making good ground to West for incoming windshift at end of week and new storm in between.

Peter Heppel has just set out from port to restart

Waiting out the storm, along with 14 others…including Scotland’s Yann Jameson (Tubois) who destroyed his mainsail during the night…