Fighting for a comeback in Aarhus

The emotional rollercoaster ride for GUYOT environnement – Team Europe is over: After the dismasting near the American coast, the arrival at the port in Halifax, Canada and the shipping of the yacht to Europe, the team’s further participation in The Ocean Race was uncertain. Logistics, boat building and finances had to be brought together. There were days of ups and downs, moments of emotional U-turns, a constant change of yes and no! But now it is clear: Guyot environnement – Team Europe will continue the adventure of this world race. The boat is in the Kiel shipyard Knierim, the tech team and ten international boatbuilding experts are working day and night on hull, mast, foils and rudder. The logistical problems have been solved with assistance from GAC Pindar, and the financial gap has been bridged thanks to the common support and solidarity of many race stakeholders. The plan is: We’re coming to Aarhus, tackling legs six and seven of The Ocean Race.

The emotional tension since the dismasting on 9 May among all team members was enormous. Tears flowed when the crew on shore were able to embrace the crew in Halifax on 14 May. But the race against time and costs had only just begun. Quick action was taken, the boat was put on the cargo ship to Europe. During the crossing, options were examined, discarded and new plans made. International networks were established, boatbuilding experts were called together and finally the plan to repair the boat at the Knierim shipyard in Kiel was concretised.

“This comeback is only possible because of a great collaboration between The Ocean Race family, all of whom worked incredibly hard on the different levels to help us get back in the race. It was not only a question of whether the repair was technically possible at all in the tight timeframe, but also of setting up the financing for it,” reports team manager Jens Kuphal. “We got support from all sides. The Ocean Race was committed to us and all the other teams helped. Special thanks go to Biotherm who showed unmatched solidarity and sporting spirit in providing what we needed most. And 11th Hour Racing Team pulled out all the stops to help us acquire their spare mast on very favourable terms. Holcim too, contributed when we needed it most. But the truth is all of our friends on teams that we normally compete against pulled together to see us have this opportunity to be back on the start line in Aarhus. And none of this would have been possible without the leadership and contributions of The Ocean Race organisation.“

“During the last two weeks our team has grown together even more. After the abandonment of the Southern Ocean leg, the dismasting was the second knockdown. But we got up again.” says Kuphal and sums up: “We want to make the impossible possible once again and get the boat to the starting line in Aarhus.”

Skipper Benjamin Dutreux confirms: “The decisions weren’t easy to make. Over the last 15 days, we’ve been in a lot of discussions with a large number of players to see how feasible it would be to rejoin the race from a financial point of view, because it’s a costly logistical challenge, there’s been a lot of damage on board, so it wasn’t just a technical challenge, we had to find a lot of support to be able to bounce back. Of course, we had to consider the fact that we’ll be taking part in the Transat Jacques Vabre in October. Inevitably the question of stopping the race came up. This option has always been the last option. It’s been like a sword of Damocles hanging over my head since the dismasting, but deep down I was convinced that we were going to find the necessary solutions to get back into the race.” Dutreux further explains: “We’ve set up our base camp there at the Knierim Boatyard. The German part of the campaign has local contacts and was able to organize support manpower to be able to repair the boat in five days.”

Gunnar Knierim and Steffen Müller, bosses of the Kiel Knierim shipyard, explain: “We’re up for such a fire brigade mission. That’s what our job is all about. Economic thinking only takes second place here. When the yacht arrived here, we went to work with all enthusiasm. It is super to be involved in this project. Finally, there is a real racing boat in the hall again.”

Thomas Cardrin, head of the Teach team, summarises all the technical challenges: When the mast broke, the hull as well as foils and rudders also sustained damage. Eight boatbuilders are currently working day and night on two bulkheads. The keel suspension has to be repaired, which ties up two more boatbuilders for three days. The mast blank from 11th Hour Racing Team, now needs to be fitted with the wiring and technical equipment (e.g. radar and Oscar) and adapted to the boat. The replacement mainsail needs new battens. The work has already progressed considerably in the past few days, so that it is planned to push the yacht out of the shipyard hall on Monday and to hang up the keel and foils. On Monday evening it will be put into the water in the Kiel Canal, so that on Tuesday the mast can be set and the sails hoisted.

Benjamin Dutreux summarises: “But here we are, the pieces of the puzzle have been put together and we’ve given the Go. We’re going to have to fight even harder over the next few days to pull off this commando mission and make it to the start in Aarhus, but we’re more determined than ever!”

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