Vendée Globe Sailor in Trouble After Boat Hits Shipping Container Off New Zealand – UPDATE

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 279
December 19, 2016

Photo shows damage to Thomas Ruyant’s boat.

The New Zealand Coast Guard has reached Thomas Ruyant and have boarded his vessel with a pump. Update at bottom.

A French sailor participating in the Vendée Globe around the world race is in serious trouble after his boat collided with what is believed to be shipping container while sailing a few hundred miles south of New Zealand on Sunday.

According to race organizers, skipper Thomas Ruyant, of team Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine, is in good health but his boat is on the verge of splitting in two.

Ruyant spent Sunday night hove to and is now attempting to motor to Bluff on the South Island of New Zealand, located about 260 miles away from Ruyant’s original position.

Ruyant told his team he was doing about 17 knots when he hit what he believes was a floating shipping container.

““It was a bit like a car accident,” said Ruyant. “The boat came to a sudden halt. It was an extremely violent shock. I felt extremely down about it yesterday, but I’m finding the motivation to bring my boat safely to port. That is my priority.”

Race organizers said on Monday that Ruyant is making 7.5 to 7.8 knots and, as of Monday afternoon, he had made it to about 205 miles from Bluff. He is trying to reach New Zealand ahead of a strong low pressure system forecast for Tuesday.

In an update, Ruyant said the damage to his boat was getting worse and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to make it to New Zealand.

“The damage at the front of the boat is spreading,” Ruyant told Vendée Globe organizers in a LIVE video message. “The hull is opening up and the frame coming away more, everywhere. I’m sailing to the south of New Zealand. I’m not sure if it will all stay in one piece until then. What’s good is that I’m in helicopter range, which is reassuring. The inside hasn’t been affected and with my watertight doors, I’m safe. The shock was exceptionally violent. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I was at 17-18 knots and came to a sudden standstill hitting what was probably a container seeing the damage it has done to the hull. The whole of the forward section exploded and folded up. Luckily the boat was not dismasted. It was really very violent. I was sleeping on my beanbag and fortunately I had my head down in that, as I ended up hitting the mast bulkhead. I found things that were stowed in the stern right up against the forward bulkhead. They got thrown 10m forward.”

Ruyant’s collision with an unidentified floating object marks the fifth time that a Vendée Globe competitor has struck something and been forced out during this leg of the race. Sailors Vincent Riou, Morgan Lagraviere, Kito de Pavant and Bertrand de Broc have all abandoned this race due to damage sustained by semi-submerged objects of some kind.

De Pavant had to abandon his yacht, which is subsequently believed to have capsized, following the loss of its keel while sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. De Pavant was later picked up by a French CMA CGM supply ship.

Update: In an update on Tuesday, Ruyant seemed optimistic about saving his boat after two New Zealand Coast Guardsmen boarded his boat with a pump. 

“I have two New Zealanders aboard my boat and we’re currently setting up the pump to empty the forward compartment. I have eight knots of wind and calms seas. I think I can say that I am going to save Le Souffle du Nord and that we’ll manage to bring her safely to port. Since rounding the southern tip of New Zealand, everything has been made safe. We are in sheltered waters. The boat is nose down but we are stabilising the situation. A few hours ago I thought it was all over for my mighty boat. I could no longer make headway in 45 knots of wind. I was below with one finger on the beacon button to ask to be picked up. I thought I was going to lose Le Souffle du Nord forever. I rounded up every couple of minutes. I couldn’t control my boat with the damage to the steering system. The rig was limp and I no longer had any backstays. It was all hanging by a thread. After that tricky moment and rounding the famous cape, I understood that I as going to make it. There was an incredible moment of satisfaction with the sun going down along the coast of New Zealand.”

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