The Open 60 fleet are all in survival mode after seven days at sea, heading South to avoid the worst of Hurricane Irene, as the 50 knot winds continue to push the boats along at a rate even just under storm jib. Every one is reeling with the tragic news of Paul Vatine’s disappearance after his Group André multihull capsized yesterday. The plane from the Portuguese authorities took off this morning at sunrise for a final sweep of the search zone where Paul Vatine fell overboard at 07hr45 yesterday morning Co-skipper Jean Maurel is now onboard the British container vessel “Caravelle” and should reach Rotterdam during Sunday.
Current leaders by just over 100 miles are still Catherine Chabaud & Luc Bartissol on Whirlpool/Europe 2, followed by Aquitaine-Kingfisher, only going at 8 knots, with Somewhere just 2 miles behind going at 10 knots average speed. The British boats are all still in the race, with three French Open 60’s heading for home already – both Geb and JPG Defis have decided not to take the risk of persevering through the storm after technical problems and breakages occurred – the latest to abandon being Fila who have broken their forestay and are heading into Cadiz. The fleet head South as much as they can to reach safer conditions and are grouped together more in position a few hundred miles off the Portugese coastline South of the Azores.
Kingfisher’s Ellen MacArthur reported in today from ‘Aquitaine-Kingfisher’, currently lying 2nd in the monohull fleet. “We continue to have problems with the rig. Last night I noticed we had some flexing in the rig. Waves breaking over us every couple of mins.. still making way and holding 2nd place..but really just in survival mode. We need to wait for the conditions to abate before trying to solve our technical problems…hopefully later today.
“We spent a night with winds up and over 50 knots, just the storm jib up. I slept to windward. We shut the door. There was little else we could do. I slept on several occasions during the night, each of which I was awoken desperately trying to grab something, as I was in the air, and heading accross the boat. I would cling on, work out that we weren’t quite at 90 degrees, and glance at the wind speed..another 50 knot gust, whilst on the wrong side of a wave… We were both very quiet as night drew in.. The loss of Paulo has affected us both. The satcom C sent a EGC this morning…
315/99 North Atlantic
Piece of hull from s/vessel drifting in vicinty 40-54n 19-43w at 2118302 Oct.
“Yves is asleep on the floor, we’ve both been in survival suits for the past two days. You need breathing apparpatus to work anywhere near the bow… I just re-thredded the genoa furling line…”
First Call’s Alex Thomson racing with Josh Hall on Gartmore, currently farthest South and managing to avoid the real intensity of the storm conditions, reported in: “I don’t really enjoy being up the mast in 50 knots being bashed about but one of us had to do it and being the nipper well I never really had the choice. 4 times the lazy jacks broke today, 3 times on the leeward side and once on the windward which still isn’t fixed. While the sail was flogging uder the boom one of the batten end fitting fell out followed by the batten. We had to hang off the stern pelting to windward in 50 k apparent to get a line on it so we wouldn’t lose it. Took ages to grab it as 5m of it was swinging all over the place.”
The all girl team of Emma Richards & Miranda Merron are in good spirits, despite the conditions: “We are using two harness lines each on deck. Our course is improving slowly, but still a long way to go. Before we hoist the main again, one of us will have to go part way up the mast to free some string that is lying across the mast track and wrapped round the leeward shrouds.” They are now a spit ahead of their Class II rivals Spirit of the Race but much further to the South East.
The Bourgnon brothers, Yvan and Laurent