Thiercelin airs his views on rescues and gear failures; Hall is safely in the Chatham Islands

With Isabelle Autissier now taking in the fresh salt air and the wondrous Southern Ocean views from the cockpit of Giovanni Soldini’s FILA, Marc Thiercelin has moved into the overall Class I lead aboard his Open 60 SOMEWHERE. At 0940 GMT today Thiercelin was 2,762 miles from Punta del Este and tearing along at better than 13 knots. Soldini, now his lone threat to victory, was 358 miles astern. Race coordinator Pete Dunning said today that Soldini will be granted an allowance for the time spent rescuing Autissier, but that the exact figure will not be determined until he has completed the leg. In Class II of the race, J.P. Mouligne led Mike Garside by 49 miles at 0944 GMT. Lost in the bustle of yesterday’s events was the fact that Josh Hall had safely reached the Chatham Islands, arriving there under tow at 0513 GMT.

Late yesterday, Autissier explained that her 60-footer PRB had been laid over on its side when her autopilot malfunctioned and accidentally jibed the boat. Moments later, while Autissier tried to sort matters out in the cockpit, the boat continued to roll until it was fully inverted and upside down. As PRB executed its death roll, Autissier scrambled down below. Soldini picked her up almost exactly 24 hours later. While all this was happening, Thiercelin continued sailing for Cape Horn. All that was known about his condition was that he’d reported problems with his gooseneck – the fitting that attaches the mainsail boom to the mast – and was unable to turn around and sail upwind with his damaged rig. Yesterday, he filed a lengthy dispatch updating the situation aboard SOMEWHERE.

“To ensure my place as [leg] leader, for the last few days I’ve put a lot of coal in the furnace,” wrote Thiercelin in his native French (the note was translated by Cruising World magazine associate editor Michel Savage). “But I’ve had to lift my foot off the accelerator regularly to see what was behind me. Isabelle and I were in a helluva match. It was risky but exciting. [Two nights ago], while nearing the waypoint on the 55th parallel, the wind was getting stronger and stronger… I heard a [funny sound] and felt that I had to get out of there. I was sleeping when the boat almost pitchpoled. I had some stuff lashed on deck that flew off everywhere. That gave me the cold shivers… So [the night before last] I decided to jibe on to a more northerly route. It’s longer but it would put me in a better position for the advancing low pressure. The fact is, I think it was a good move. In this race, a little bit of luck is always a good thing.

“In any case, I’m the first to deplore what’s happening to Isabelle, even more so because I was thinking a lot about her when I reached this zone [of the ocean] where Gerry Roufs disappeared two years ago [while competing in the Vendee Globe] while he was near her. In his last telex, Gerry explained that the waves were as big as the Alps. With this in mind, I preferred to divert [my course] northward while there was still time to do it. I knew all too well that the waves were much too big [in relation] to the wind…

“I still have problems aboard SOMEWHERE because during that famous night [when I almost pitchpoled] I broke part of my gooseneck… The mainsail is so big that without the gooseneck I will have to reef all the way to Cape Horn, then stop [at sea somewhere afterwards] to make a jury rig before continuing to Punta del Este… It was impossible for me to turn back [for Isabelle] against the prevailing winds with a broken boom. When I turned around to look for Gerry [in the Vendee], against the prevailing winds, I broke the bow of my boat. Because [Isabelle was further south], it was faster and more logical for Giovanni, who was better positioned, to come down for her. I wonder what [else] the race has in store for us…”