French skipper Maxime Sorel is limping to port after a serious collision with a cargo ship left his boat with possible rig damage

Organisers of The Transat bakerly this morning that solo skipper Maxime Sorel, racing a Class 40 yacht, VandB had what they termed ‘a serious collision with a cargo ship’ 90 miles off Penmarc’h, on west of Brittany. The incident occurred in daylight, and the skipper informed the race organisation at 0959BST.

The collision damaged the yacht’s bowsprit and potentially the yacht’s standing rigging, although the rig is still standing. The skipper is reported to be unhurt. He is heading for La Trinité sur Mer or Lorient to assess the damage.

The Transat bakerly, in common with other offshore races, requires yachts to have AIS position transponders and receivers and radar. This incident raises questions about watchkeeping on board ships as well as solo yachts.

Sorel said he was keeping watch as VandB sailed under spinnaker but he did not see the cargo ship. “I was not sailing particularly fast and I tried to avoid it but it was too late,” said the French skipper as he limped toward the French coast.

Sorel explained that he had two options when he realised a collision was inevitable: eother hit the ship lengthways, which risked bringing VandB’s mast down; or hit the ship at an angle, helping to confine the damage to the bowsprit.

Sorel is hoping to reach port tomorrow morning. Prior to his accident, his was one of 25 yachts in four classes racing across the Atlantic from Plymouth to New York. The fastest boats – the three giant trimarans of the Ultime class – are expected to finish in six days time.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I was leading the Class 40s and now…I am giving up. It’s disappointing to have to retire like this. The boat is heading to La Trinité to see what repairs need to be done and there is work to do, so the race is over for me.”

Skipper Maxime Sorel

Skipper Maxime Sorel