GUYOT environnement – Team Europe has reached Cape Town and brought the yacht safely back to port after the suspension of the third leg of The Ocean Race. The crew experienced four days of tension after delamination of a hull bottom panel was detected 600 nautical miles from Cape Town in the Southern Ocean. With careful sailing through initially heavy seas and later shallow water, and with a makeshift repair, they managed to return to port without outside help. In the meantime, the yacht has been craned out of the water so that investigations and the drawing up of a repair plan can begin. Meanwhile, the sailing crew is already looking ahead, formulating the firm intention to return to the race with full power.
In the middle of the night on Sunday, crew and yacht were met by the shore crew at the pontoon in Cape Town. And after docking, no time was lost. Immediately, preparations began so that the yacht could be craned at 8am on Sunday morning as scheduled. Now the damaged area will be opened and the rest of the hull will be subjected to NDT (non-destructive testing). After that, the repair plan can be designed.
Meanwhile, the sailing team is drawing up the plan for the next stages. A re-entry into the third leg of The Ocean Race is very unlikely, even with a very quick repair. With the late arrival in Itajaí/Brazil, there would be no time to lift the yacht out of the water after the gruelling journey through the Southern Ocean.
“We want to join the fleet in Itajaí as soon as possible,” says skipper Benjamin Dutreux. “We are happy that the team was expecting us here. Everyone wants the boat back in the water as soon as possible. We now have to wait for the investigations and see how long the repairs will take.” It was a long return to Cape Town as the situation meant it was not possible to go faster than ten knots.
Looking back to the moment when the damage was registered, co-skipper Robert Stanjek once again explains the drama of the situation: “We also have to speak of luck that it happened to us at that time. A few days later, in the middle of the Southern Ocean, there would hardly have been a chance to turn back. Now we would have even been within helicopter range. It was spooky to see the movements of the ground on an area of two square metres. When that opens up, it’s hard to get the ship dry.” Now, however, the focus is on the future: “We briefly thought about returning to the leg. But that is unrealistic. We are now planning the next legs from Itajaí. The entire team pool wants to put itself at the service of the best performance. First of all, we have to put together a crossing crew for Brazil. The crossing will take 12 to 16 days. After that, it is a matter of getting the best out of the race that is still possible. We still want to show that we can perform.”