La Transat AG2R La Mondiale - Artemis duo report broken forestay

With 320nm to the finish, Artemis’ forestay has broken - La Transat AG2R La Mondiale 2012
© Alexis Courcoux
Transat AG2R La Mondiale is a double-handed transatlantic race from France to St Barts in the Caribbean. At 0752 GMT Artemis sailors Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry racing in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale reported that the forestay had broken (the forward piece of rigging that holds the mast up). The failure was at the top where the rigging is terminated.

As they were sailing downwind under small spinnaker, and in darkness, there was no immediate threat to the stability of the rig, and the duo were able to temporarily secure the mast with a spare halyard. On their 22nd day at sea in this 3,890-mile race and with only 320 miles to the finish, this was a blow for the Artemis duo, the youngest and only British crew in the race, who have been fighting hard to retain eighth place against the 16-boat fleet and some formidable competition. During the call to Artemis Offshore Academy HQ they explained their immediate plan to continue racing cautiously until daylight local time (approximately 0930 GMT) before taking further steps to secure the mast for the final miles to the finish in St Barts. Artemis is expected to finish before midnight GMT tomorrow (Sunday, 13th May). With the rig compromised, the Artemis duo will have a fight on their hands to retain their position to the finish line.

Once daylight had come, Goodchild and Cherry had to carry out a necessary, albeit risky, manoeuvre as Cherry was hoisted up the mast to retrieve a spare halyard [lost up the mast earlier in the night] to provide additional security.

In a further call after the mast climb, Goodchild and Cherry outlined in more detail exactly what happened, and their solution. 'We just had a watch change and we were deciding which spinnaker to use. Then all of a sudden the forestay broke at the top of the mast,' explained Goodchild.

After the damage to the forestay both Goodchild and Cherry sprang into action and have now stabilised the mast as Cherry reports: 'We now have a topping lift and spare halyard attached to the bow with plenty tension, then we have lashed the working spinnaker halyard to a block at the head of the spinnaker with the spare main halyard going through, which we are using as a topping lift for the pole - we are happy with that solution. The only other issue that we have is the previous damage to the big spinnaker, as we don’t want to risk it in these heavier conditions. It’s a bit of a compromise at the moment [using the small spinnaker], and it’s a bit scary looking back at the other boats as they are catching up. However if we blow the big spinnaker now then we will have nothing for the finish.'

'We are basically going at full speed, however it’s likely that we are going to lose some more places, frankly our forestay issue is less of a problem than the spinnaker one from a performance point of view, if the wind goes to less than 18-knots then we are confident in our repaired big spinnaker, and we’ll be competitive. We’ll continue to push for a top 10 place, all the way to the finish line, we’ve not worked this hard, for this long, to let this set us back.'

Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry are experienced yachtsmen as well as racing sailors, and their previous transatlantic experiences will enable them to deal with this set back in the most seaman like manor, they are able to call on advice if needs be from an experienced team in Cowes, but also from the Race Direction team who are on site in St Barts, lead by Gilles Chiorri who is monitoring the situation closely with the Artemis Offshore Academy support team.

Artemis co-skippers Nick Cherry and Sam Goodchild - La Transat AG2R La Mondiale 2012
© Alexis Courcoux

La Transat AG2R La Mondiale website
Artemis Offshore Academy website