French sailor Kito de Pavant's keel was severely damaged in an impact and he has now been rescued in a remote part of the Southern Ocean in rough conditions
French solo sailor Kito de Pavant, taking part in the Vendée Globe race, has been rescued from a remote position in the Southern Ocean after his keel fin was partially ripped off in a sudden impact.
The French research supply vessel, Marion Dufresne II, was just 110 miles away when De Pavant raised the alarm. He reported from very rough and windy conditions that his keel was in imminent danger of tearing off, leading the likely capsize of the yacht.
The evacuation of the 55-year old sailor took place at first light.
De Pavant was sailing downwind at 15-20 knots when he collided with something on Monday. “I hit something hard with the keel,” he reported. “It was a violent shock and the boat came to a standstill.
“The rear bearings of the keel were ripped off and the keel is hanging under the boat kept in place simply by the keel ram, which is in the process of cutting through the hull. The keel housing has been destroyed and there is a huge ingress of water there, but for the moment, it is limited to the engine compartment.
“I currently have 40knots of wind and 5-6m high waves. The boat is stopped. I brought down the mainsail so that she is heeling less. The situation has been stabilised for the moment. I have my survival kit alongside me.”
Keel failures have dogged the IMOCA 60s, or Open 60s, for years since canting keels were introduced in the 1990s and have led to deaths and some hair-raising deep sea rescues, such as those of Tony Bullimore and Thierry Dubois in 1996, Alex Thomson in the Velux 5 Oceans in 2006 (read Mike Golding’s account of his incredible rescue of Thomson here) and Jean Le Cam in the 2008/09 Vendée Globe.
It is something the class has tried to tackle by changing the rules (voted on by skippers) to fit all new boats with one-design keels made with forged steel fins. But the rule change applies only to new boats, and older yachts don’t have to comply. Bastide Otio was one of the previous generation yachts.
Now the boat has been lost, the mechanism of failure will never be known.
Meanwhile, Seb Josse has retired with foil damage and has made some very interesting – and concerning – comments about the dangers of these fairly early prototypes.