In the Southern Ocean, just as GUYOT environnement – Team Europe dipped into the zone below 40 degrees south, the scenario happened that sailors fear and should never happen. Around 600 nautical miles from the start of the third leg of The Ocean Race, the crew of skipper Benjamin Dutreux, Robert Stanjek, Sébastien Simon, Annie Lush and onboard reporter Charles Drapeau noticed cracking and movement in the hull structure below the laminate. The first analysis showed that the damage was so serious that a safe continuation of the stage from Cape Town/South Africa to Itajaí/Brazil was not possible.
In consultation with the technical team, the yacht designers and the team management, it was decided to return to Cape Town and the race management was informed that this leg had to be abandoned. However, this does not necessarily mean the end of The Ocean Race for GUYOT environnement – Team Europe. In Cape Town, a decision can be made about the possibilities of repair and a possible re-entry into the next stages. The crew is now working its way back to Cape Town, where it is expected in three to five days, at a reduced speed so as not to put any strain on the yacht. All arrangements for a possible evacuation of the yacht have been made. Despite the deep setback, the mood on board is hopeful of getting the boat back to Cape Town and possibly re-entering the race.
“I was just coming off watch and trying to get out of my clothes. But it was quite hard because we were in pretty big waves and going fast. I was just about to get into my bed. I could see on the opposite side of the boat a case tied to the basically to the floor and I could see him moving and then I was thinking maybe I’m a bit paranoid. But I saw it move like that before. So I went over to check it and then I can hear the noise of delamination. Then I alerted Ben and woke up Charles to see if they can hear it too. They could hear it. I put my hand on the floor and I could feel it really moving up and down,” Annie Lush recounts the moment she noticed the damage.
“It’s pretty sad because that’s quite a time no problem. We spoke to the architect – and yes, unfortunately: there’s no way to fix it out here. So now we have to go back to Cape Town and fix the yacht there.” Commenting on the mood on board, Annie Lush said, “For Ben and me, it’s the first time we’ve ever had to return home in an offshore race. It’s a new feeling and it doesn’t feel good. It’s a big leg and we were looking forward to it. We were in a strong position and the mood on board was very good. We enjoyed the race. There is nothing we can do now except try to get back as quickly and as safely as possible and assess the damage and see what happens next. But luckily it’s not the Vendée Globe, it’s a race with several legs. We will come back – as soon as we can.”