The GUYOT environnement – Team Europe crew is safe and working on a jury rig after dismasting in a fierce north Atlantic storm overnight Monday night on the closing stages of Leg 4 from Itajaí, Brazil to Newport, Rhode Island.
At 0243 UTC, while the team was racing in fourth place in gale force winds and big waves, the boat slammed off a wave and the mast crashed down.
Despite worsening conditions the team was able to cut the wreckage of the broken mast away, to avoid further damage to the boat, while preserving as much equipment as possible.
Staff from race control at The Ocean Race headquarters in Alicante are in regular contact with the crew who have not requested outside assistance and are currently evaluating the next steps along with their shore crew and that could include going to Halifax, Canada or to be towed with a ship or a fishing boat to the USA.
Speaking to journalists from on board the boat via a video link this afternoon, co-skipper Robert Stanjek (GER) outlined the crew’s current situation and described the conditions overnight leading up to the mast break.
“At the moment we are about 600 miles away from Newport and there are still big waves and quite a bit of wind too. We broke the rig in the night at two o’clock UTC. I think it was not a super strong low pressure but I think we registered up to 50 to 52 knots of wind with an average of 40 to 45 knots.
“We thought we were managing well. We had only the main up with reefs and we were sailing at reduced speed but the waves were a little bit too big. There was a particularly big slam and the mast inverted and broke.”
Asked if the crew had been able to set up any sort of jury rig to aid the boat’s progress towards land, Stanjek said:
“That’s the plan, but at the moment the sea state is too big and it is too windy to work on deck. In the meantime we are working on ideas because it is a long way to get to the US”.
The team skipper Benjamin Dutreux said their immediate focus was on getting the boat to shore to properly assess the extent of the damage caused in the incident.
“We need to work on a plan of how to get back in the race, but the first step is to get the boat to a harbour and to carry out an inventory of the damage. We will do our best to rejoin the fleet again but it is hard to say what percentage of a chance we have.”
The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 8 May , Leg 4, Day 15 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Damian Foxall plugging in the storm jib in strong winds through the Gulf Stream – photo © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race
Meanwhile, at the front of the fleet, 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) and Team Malizia (GER) were the first to emerge from what Amory Ross, the veteran onboard reporter on 11th Hour Racing Team called ‘terrifying’ conditions.
With fewer than 350 miles to race to Newport the leading pair are still close – about 35 miles separation on the race tracker – with skipper Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team hoping to benefit from some local knowledge on the approach to the crew’s home port.
“We are doing everything we can to try not to break anything,” Enright reported from the boat. “The difference in the leg can be made here by not making any mistakes, keeping high [speed] averages, and keeping the boat moving towards the mark. No bear aways, no breakages and none of that stuff. To the north we go.”
The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 8 May , Leg 4 Day 15 onboard Team Malizia, crossing a weather front on their way to Newport. Nicolas Lunven and Rosalin Kuiper working on deck – photo © Antoine Auriol / Team Malizia / The Ocean Race
Team Malizia skipper Will Harris said the crew of the German entry had also been focused on avoiding serious damage in the boat breaking conditions overnight but were gunning to chase down their American rival before the finish.
“It got pretty bouncy but we have been anticipating this for the last 4-5 days so we knew it was coming. We are pretty experienced now after Leg 3. We got through it, keeping the boat in one piece.
We lost a few more miles to 11th Hour Racing Team which is really what we didn’t want, because it just makes it harder to come back to them. We are staying positive and we think there is a chance up ahead. You know it’s not over until we or they cross the line and anything could still happen.”
The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 8 May , Leg 4 Day 15 onboard Biotherm as they cross a low pressure weather front – photo © Anne Beauge / Biotherm / The Ocean Race
Current ETA for 11th Hour Racing Team in Newport is on May 10th between 1800 and 2200 UTC (1400 and 1800 local time) followed by Team Malizia two hours later, with Paul Meilhat’s third placed Biotherm (FRA) expected to arrive around five hours afterwards.
Kevin Escoffier’s Swiss entry Team Holcim – PRB – which was dismasted earlier in Leg 4 off the Brazilian coast is on board a cargo ship en route to Newport where the crew plan to step a new mast in time for the start of Leg 5 to Aarhus, Denmark on May 21, which counts for double points.
Leg 4 Tracker – 09.05.2023 15:00 UTC – photo © The Ocean Race
by The Ocean Race