Monday, November 19, 2012

Five of 20 boats have retired...

The Vendée Globe solo around-the-world race began on November 10 with 20 boats and skippers. Sadly in the last nine days, five of those boats have had to retire before ever reaching the "zone of convergence" (doldrums) where the winds are practically non-existent before they reach the Southern oceans. Click here to see the rankings of those still racing.

Safran was the first boat to go home after the keel apparently fell off. Followed by Group Bel which suffered a critical impact near the bow after hitting a trawler, then Bureau Vallée had a glancing blow off a fishing boat damaging a forward stay too seriously to continue, and Savéol, skippered by the only woman on the race, was dismasted last week ending her bid. The most recent, Maitre CoQ, also had a break in the keel which was not repairable, so the skipper has turned on the engine to get the boat back to France.

With another approximately 70 days of racing, at this rate of attrition there won't be any boats in the race after 40 days. I feel very sad for all the skippers who have had to retire (sailing language for withdrawing) as each one went into the race with the highest of hopes. It cannot be easy to face the hard fact that your boat will not be seaworthy enough to continue competing.

Meanwhile, the Virtual Regatta has gained another 120,000 or so racers, bringing the total to 327,403 folks guiding boats in the game. My official place today in that race is 150,386 after starting about 103,000 something. Positions change frequently with the winds (or lack of them) so it may turn out to be a more interesting race than the real one.

NOV 25 -- Another two boats from the real race have had to retire. ENERGA skippered by Zbigniew Gubkowski was having serious problems with the autopilot, making for impossible-to-solve sailing situations for the solo sailor. Today PRB with skipper Vincent Riou was faced with a heart-wrenching decision. He was the winner of the last Vendee Globe and had a very good chance at repeating that success, but he hit a metal bouy in the middle of the ocean which damaged both his hull and the stanchion/cable for his mast. The carbon-fibre cable could not be repaired so he is heading to Brasil now.  The ocean may be big, but it is not big enough for all the crap that is allowed to be dumped or somehow floats out there and eventually it will cause a problem like this one.

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