It was like a hard knockdown out of nowhere in a strongly fought boxing match: GUYOT environnement – Team Europe had just found its rhythm on the fourth leg of The Ocean Race, had dived into the trade winds after days of nerves in the slack zone along the Brazilian coast and had worked its way to the front of the field when it had to abort the flight mode. A rope used to stabilise the foil failed to work and the foil ride could no longer be controlled. Speeds of over 20 knots collapsed to 5 to 6 knots. Within a short time, the team with Benjamin Dutreux, Robert Stanjek, Annie Lush, Sébastien Simon and onboard reporter Gauthier Lebec fell back from the second place they had just conquered to the end of the field. Within a day, the competing teams raced away by around 200 nautical miles.
Around 7.30am local time on Sunday morning, the yacht’s port foil suddenly lost its stability. “We can’t control the speed. We are in strong wind with big clouds. It’s hard for us to follow the fast boats,” Sébastien Simon reported.
Although the cause was quickly identified, the foil rope that was supposed to hold the underwater wing in its low position was no longer holding. The cover of the rope was chafed. The crew turned out of the half-wind course and took the speed out of the boat to repair the damage. But the supposedly minor damage was difficult to repair.
Benjamin Dutreux and Sébastien Simon crawled into the depths of the yacht, removed panels, pulled the rope in inaccessible places to reach the damaged area. Time slipped between their fingers just as quickly as the other three yachts moved away. While the competition flew towards the equator in the trade winds, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe felt its way north along the Brazilian coast. It was not until the night of Monday that the yacht got going again.
But the gap is large and the frustration is deep: “On all legs we were able to show our potential . On the first, the second, the third and also now. And every time we have a big problem. It’s crazy, … I don’t know,” Sébastien Simon found no explanation for the bad luck that seems to follow the crew.