We waited until nearly week 3 for the first casualty in the front runners but now they are coming thick and fast. Vincent Rou aboard PRB who was managing to keep his previous generation boat in touch with the front pack hit a UFO on Sunday and today has had to retire from the race.
At first he thought he was going to be able to continue but over the following 24 hours it became apparent that his keel pivot bearings had sustained damage and an irreversible deterioration of the mounting point had begun. He is currently safe but on route to Cape Town to effect repairs.
Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss was retaining the race lead by a distance of 90nm. He has in fact manage to increase his lead after the collision that broke his foil. However his course is sagging south toward the ice exclusion zone. He really needs to be able to gybe onto starboard and start to use his port foil but these wind condition will not let him for a few more days.
No matter though. He is due at the longitude of The Cape of Good Hope before Friday which will set a new record and probably be as much as 4 days ahead of schedule.
In terms of the overall race the front 3 (now PRB has retired) have broken away into the next weather system and the fourth placed sailor, Morgan Lagraviere, is already 280 miles astern of Thomson, sailing in a different direction and 5kts slower than the 3 leaders. A full 3359 nautical miles covers the entire fleet not including Tanguy De Lamotte who is currently sailing back toward the start.
Yesterday morning the fantastic Seahorse Magazine landed on my door mat. In it was an article telling the story of the fantastic Yves Parlier. In the 2000/2001 edition of the race, his third, he was getting back on par with the leaders when he suffered an accidental gybe when his auto-helm failed, which resulted in the mast breaking in 3 places.
This was pretty critical deep in the southern ocean. In fact Eleen McArthur, en-route to second place, was temporarily routed by the race organisers to provide assistance. However Parlier was not done with the race. Managing to fashion a jury rig he sailed north to Stuart Island, still at 47° South where he anchored. The organisers of the Vendee Globe allowed him to go ashore as long as he did not go above the high water line. Here he fashioned a replacement mast by using the 3 pieces he had saved and glued them back together and baked them in a make shift oven.
And off he set again toward the finish but his problems where not over. He ran out of food and would ration himself to 800 calories a day. Eventually he managed to catch some fish and on 16th March 2001 he crossed the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne. A time of 126 Days 23 hours and 36 minutes. Two other competitors were still to finish. And Sailing Folklore was written.