CMA CGM Supply Vessel Rescues Pro Skipper Kito de Pavant in Remote Southern Ocean

File photo shows Kito de Pavant's
File photo shows Kito de Pavant’s sailboat Bastide Otio. Photo: Vendée Globe

Update: Kito de Pavant, the 55 years old French skipper of Bastide-Otio, who suffered damage to his keel while solo racing in the remote South Indian Ocean, was taken aboard the research and supply ship Marion Dufresne early Wednesday morning approximately 110 miles north of the Crozet Islands. De Pavant is said to be uninjured but extremely tired and disappointed. More on the rescue at bottom. 

Earlier: A CMA CGM research and supply vessel is racing to save the French pro skipper Kito De Pavant in the Southern Ocean after his boat suffered serious damage in a collision with an unknown object while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope Tuesday morning. 

Kito De Pavant is currently sailing in the Vendée Globe around the world race aboard  the 18.28 meter Bastide Otio, a decorated high-performance monohull sail racing boat.

According to race organizers, de Pavant was underway about 120 miles to the north of the Crozet Islands when he called Tuesday morning to report he had hit an object, destroying his keel and causing him to take on water.

A statement from race organizers on Tuesday stated:

At 0800 UTC this morning (Tuesday), the Vendée Globe Race Directors were alerted by Kito de Pavant’s technical team about serious damage aboard his boat Bastide Otio. Kito de Pavant, who was sailing at 16 knots under mainsail with two reefs in very heavy seas, informed his shore team that the boat had experienced a very big shock to the keel, hitting an unidentified floating object, which has led to a significant ingress of water aboard the boat.

File photo shows the CMA CGM-owned "Le Marion Defresne",
File photo shows the CMA CGM-owned MV Marion Defresne, sent to rescue de Pavant. Photo: Vendée Globe

The French Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Gris Nez has diverted the CMA CGM-owned MV Marion Dufresne to assist the skipper, who remains aboard his sailboat. The Marion Dufresne was located about 110 miles away from the location of the sailboat when it got the call, and the vessel was expected to reach the area in about 10 hours.

CMA CGM has been operating the Marion Dufresne, a supply vessel for the French Southern Lands and the largest French ocean vessel owned by the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), since 1995.

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Map courtesy CMA CGM via Twitter

In a call with his team, de Pavant described the ordeal:

“I hit something hard with the keel. It was a violent shock and the boat came to a standstill. The rear bearings of the keel were ripped off and the keel is hanging under the boat kept in place simply by the keel ram, which is in the process of cutting through the hull… The keel housing has been destroyed and there is a huge ingress of water there, but for the moment, it is limited to the engine compartment. I currently have forty knots of wind and 5-6m high waves. The boat is stopped. I brought down the mainsail so that she is heeling less. The situation has been stabilised for the moment. I have my survival kit alongside me. Someone is going to have to come and get me. I am trying to contact the Marion Dufresne to ask them to come here.”

An update from race organizers Tuesday evening said the Marion Dufresne has arrived close to the area, and the evacuation of the skipper was expected to start in the morning once there is enough light. CMA CGM later tweeted that the Marion Dufresne has made radio and visual contact with de Pavant.

In the video below Kito describes the ordeal and offers a peak at the damage: 

Rescue Update: According to race organizers the Marion Dufresne arrived in the area overnight and successfully recovered Kito from his stricken yacht around 0100hrs TU Wednesday morning. During the rescue winds were still blowing at around thirty knots and on very rough seas. Once aboard supply vessel Kito was immediately examined by a doctor. 

Captain Dudouit of the Marion Dufresne describes the rescue: 

“We picked upKito de Pavant with our rigid inflatable this morning, in spite of the weather remaining fairly rough with force 6-7 winds and huge waves. We were able to launch the inflatable and took him off his boat. We were on a supply mission in the southern islands, which is our usual job in December. We left Reunion Island on 2nd December. The MRCC tried to contact me, but could not get through and so it was via the safety centre in Marseille that we got into contact at around 0900 UTC on Tuesday. At that point we were around 110 miles north of the boat’s position. We moved to maximum speed. In spite of the weather conditions, it took us less time than forecast to get into contact with the skipper. We reached the area at around 1530 UTC, as night was falling.

We were in visual and VHF radio contact with Kito de Pavant, but as it was growing dark and the weather was still rough, it was not possible to act immediately, and in any case, the skipper was in control of the situation on his boat. We jointly agreed to wait until daybreak to launch our rigid inflatable boat to take him off. He described the situation to us: he had controlled the ingress of water and we agreed that if his boat capsized after losing her keel, we would recover him from his life raft. We remained in regular contact with him, which allowed him to get some sleep. This morning the situation started to worsen, as the water level had risen. Kito de Pavant was therefore directly picked up by our rigid inflatable and taken aboard the Marion Dufresne II. He was tired and above all very disappointed to have had to abandon his race and his boat. The ship’s medical officer is taking care of him.”

Kito de Pavant had this to say:

“I was lucky with my bad luck. The Marion Dufresne was in the area and that only happens four times a year… The conditions were nasty and late in the night, I was no longer able to get rid of the water. The boards were floating. It was hard leaving my boat and abandoning her in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really upsetting losing my boat. But that was the only solution, as I no longer had much energy left for the pumps and I was unable to recharge the batteries, as the engine was under water… A large section of the hull has been damaged, as the bottom of the hull went with the aft keel mountings. The keel ram ripped through more than a metre of the hull. It was sickening to see the boat in that condition. It was getting too dangerous for me…

So now I’m on the Marion Dufresne II on her way towards the Crozet Islands and then the Kerguelens and Amsterdam. I’ll be staying on the French supply ship for three weeks. I don’t know this part of the world, but I’ll be doing the tour of all these remote islands.

It was a very violent smash. I was doing between 15-20 knots in 25-30 knot winds on heavy seas. I was being cautious and not too fast and well away from the direction of the wind. I hit something, but I don’t know what. I heard a big bang and I immediately thought it must be something hard. But when I looked behind the boat, I couldn’t see anything. What I heard must have been the crash into the boat… The smash broke the aft part of the keel and hull around it and the aft keel mountings were ripped off too. When I went to look, the keel was still hanging there, but by the time I had furled the staysail (J-3) to slow the boat down, the keel had dropped around four inches. It only got worse. There was nothing I could do. I changed tack to head northwards, but I quickly understood that the boat could no longer advance. I lowered the mainsail and called the Race Directors.

The Marion Dufresne was fortunately 110 miles north of me. The other possibility was Louis Burton, who was two days away from my position. He would only have got to me tomorrow morning. It’s horrible leaving the boat like that and I have lost a lot and there are some very serious consequences. It’s the first time I have lost a boat. In terms of how I feel, it has hit me hard, but physically I’m fine.”

 More on the Venee Globe website.

Check CMA CGM’s social networks (TwitterFacebook) for more from the Marion Dufresne.