Veolia Environnement dismasted in Southern Ocean

Veolia Environnement at Kerguelen Islands ©Yann Libessart - Barcelona World Race
Veolia Environnement skippered by French sailors Roland Jourdain and Jean-Luc Nelias dismasted at 1800 GMT today (Monday, 17.12.07), the skippers are unharmed, and the boat itself undamaged.

Veolia Environnement, lying in third place in the Barcelona World Race, was sailing in 22 knots of wind with full mainsail and gennaker, when they were hit by a stronger 30 knot gust of wind forcing the boat to 'nose-dive' into a 2-3 metre wave - the mast broke suddenly 3.5 to 4 metres up from the deck. The position at the time of dismasting was 48 49.49N, 82 42.41E, approximately 1660 miles south-west of the SW tip of Australia and approximately 500 miles east of the Kerguelen Islands.

After cutting the mast away to avoid secondary damage to the boat, the skippers managed to save the boom and one of the outriggers (that support the mast) and once daylight comes will use these parts to build a jury rig to propel the boat under sail, without assistance, towards Australia. Currently however they are advancing at 5 to 6 knots under engine.

From Roland Jourdain:

'It all happened really fast. We dismasted while sailing downwind, in circumstances really close to the ones PRB had (when they broke their mast). We were under full main and gennaker, under autopilot. I was just waking up after a nap, Jean-Luc was on watch, we were both inside. There was 22 knots of wind, we were not pushing hard. There was a gust at 30 knots, the boat picked up speed and surfed down a wave, then nosedived and the mast just broke. We managed to clear up everything relatively quickly, it was done in an hour. The problem was that the mainsail was spread over the boat, we had to cut it, but we salvaged the boom and an outrigger. The mast broke 3.5 to 4 metres above deck level. Everything went overboard, and the stanchions were torn off, but the hull is intact. We're waiting for daybreak then we'll start working on a jury rig. We're motoring towards Australia, at 5 to 6 knots of speed, we have enough fuel for roughly 60 hours.

'It's the third mast problem in a week, yet it's too early to draw conclusions. PRB and us have the same mast, but it broke at different places. Delta Dore had a different spar - there are loads of reasons that could explain those breakages.

'Physically, we were pretty tired after our Kerguelen pit stop, but we were back on track with joy and motivation. We felt that a lot could still happen.and that's what has fallen upon us. What's crazy is that almost exactly three years ago, roughly in the same area, I broke my keel during the 2004 Vendée Globe, and in the 2000 edition, still in the same zone, my mast traveller broke!' concluded Jourdain.

The MRCC Australia (safety organisation) has been informed. The Australian safety gate of the Barcelona World Race course actually keeps the fleet further to the north and closer to their shores.

The weather forecast for Veolia is WSW 22/27kt tonight becoming more W 17/22kt tomorrow (18/12/07) and Wednesday (19/12/07). A depression arriving from the West with the wind shifting NW 30/35kt on Tuesday with sea state becoming rough. The advisable option is to move more North then turning to East along the 43°S to avoid the worst of the depression.

From the Race Organisers:

'We are all very sad to hear of the dismasting of Veolia Environnement but, of course, relieved that Roland and Jean-Luc are safe, that is the important thing. We all know that there is a risk involved in ocean racing of any kind but this does not lessen the immense disappointment that Roland and Jean-Luc must be experiencing and everyone from the race organisation shares in their disappointment and wishes the skippers a safe passage to land,' said Andor Serra, Director General of the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona, co-organisers of the Barcelona World Race.

Mark Turner, CEO of OC Events, co-organisers of the Barcelona World Race added: 'We certainly never expected everyone to get around, but of course it's disappointing to see three dismastings before the halfway mark. What we knew before the start of the Barcelona World Race was that it would be the first time these boats have been pushed this hard for this long, with more than one person onboard. The continual evolution of performance in this latest generation of IMOCA 60 boats, driven by ever higher levels of competition, has made them lighter and yet more powerful than ever - the iterative process of finding the right balance between reliability and performance is one that comes with risk in a mechanical sport like ocean racing. The race rules from its conception included pitstops, in recognition of the fact that pushing these boats two-up, rather than their normal round the world solo mode, would make this a finer line than ever. The teams were well prepared for this 26,000 mile marathon around the world and for the Veolia Environnement team it is hard to bear having just returned to the race after making a short pitstop to repair their engine failure at the Kerguelen Islands. Bilou (Roland Jourdain) is a seasoned offshore sailor having completed 3 circumnavigations but for Jean-Luc this was his first round the world attempt and we are hugely disappointed for the both of them.

'What is without question, is that victory in this race is going to be highly cherished - the adage that to win a race you must first finish has never been truer. The crews on Hugo Boss and Paprec-Virbac 2 must really be asking this question hour after hour as they match race their way towards the New Zealand gate in the Cook Straits. The skippers already out of the race have relished the challenge, and have gone home disappointed, but extremely positive about the format of the race. The bar has been set high by this first edition of the Barcelona World Race already,' concluded Turner.

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