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Vendee Globe Race 2016/17

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19th of December
Day 44: Ruyant's race against time to beat the weather and bring his damaged boat to safety

Vendée Globe solo skipper Thomas Ruyant is edging towards South Island New Zealand and, ideally, the sanctuary of Bluff with as much urgency has he dare, nursing his broken IMOCA Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine, which threatens to break in two after he hit a large, hard object on Sunday late afternoon.

The young skipper from the north east of France was motor sailing at around 7.5 to 7.8kts trying to reach the shelter of the South Island coast before another big stormy low pressure arrives in the middle of Tuesday. At 1500hrs TU this Monday afternoon Ruyant had about 205 miles to make to Bluff, the most southerly town in New Zealand. Race Direction of the Vendée Globe is in constant contact with his team and the local MRCC – the Wellington based RCCNZ – with an evacuation plan ready to be actioned if required, and track the progress of Ruyant and his wounded IMOCA every six minutes.

Ruyant sent video footage of the damage sustained when he hit what he believes to be a shipping container when he was sailing at around 17kts. It clearly shows vertical open cracks down to below the waterline on the port side especially, cracking in the deck and water inside the boat. He spent several hours hove to (stopped) during Sunday night into Monday. He told Vendée LIVE today: “The damage at the front of the boat is spreading. 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 represents the fifth time that a Vendée Globe competitor has struck something and been forced out of the race as a consequence in this edition. 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. And Alex Thomson, who lies in second place on Hugo Boss, has his chances currently compromised by the loss of a foil sustained when it hit something 13 days after the start.
Race leader Armel Le Cléac'h is now over 500 miles ahead of Alex Thomson, escaping on to a different weather system from the British skipper. An initial difference of 15 or so miles has proven critical to the continued advance of the Breton sailor who has twice finished second in successive Vendée Globe race. Le Cléac'h is expected to bring his Banque Populaire VIII round Cape Horn between in the early hours of 23rd of December, probably becoming the first Vendée Globe skipper ever to round in December, and Thomson around 48 hours later. Correspondingly Thomson looks likely to be the first Vendée Globe skipper to round on Christmas Day. Armel Le Cléac'h: “Conditions are rather unstable. I'm on the back of the low and the wind is going from 17 to 30 knots. The seas are heavy. They aren't the right conditions for being fast, but I am making headway. We're going to have to watch how things change before the Horn. I asked Father Christmas if I could lead the way around Cape Horn. We'll see…”

Enda O'Coineen has been forced into a back to basic approach to navigation and routing on Kilcullen Voyager in 17th place. He lost two places when he took time out routing to the north to avoid the worst of the hard weather after being knocked down for five minutes. The Irish skipper reports that he now has no useful computer output after his main computer screen was damaged by water. He has a problem with the configuring of his back up computer which, it is understood, will not boot up. And so he has resorted to GPS fixes and paper charts.
“I am sailing in the dark to a certain extent. What I did to recuperate was to sail north towards Perth. I thought it would be a nice place for Christmas. I changed my mind. I effectively stopped for two days. But yesterday I got myself a little bit back together and I headed and south and east and now I am going east,” O'Coineen said today, adding “Spirits are good right now. You go through highs and low points, in the day, in the cycle and over the week. I have certainly had a couple of tough days and have had a lot of damage. Our shore team are trying to find a solution.”

Yann Eliès was in a positive frame of mind today aboard his Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir, holding sixth behind Jean-Pierre Dick and ahead of Jean Le Cam. At eight years to the day since he was rescued after breaking his leg 1000 miles south of Australia, Eliès sent a timely message to his rescuers: “I was surprised to get a little video from the doctor and captain of the frigate that came to rescue me south of Australia eight years ago. Thanks lads for coming to get me. I can't remember whether I actually managed to thank you face to face eight years ago. Eight years on and I'm down to the south of Australia again. But this time I have gone by. My passion for sailing is still the same. The next time you're in France, I'll show you around the boat and try to explain why we are so keen to do this race. Once again, lads, thanks!”


RADIO SESSIONS 1 – Recorded radio sessions: 3 times a day (0330, 0900, 1400hrs UTC) The radio sessions at 0900 and 1400hrs UTC will be open to the press on request. Please apply to the press service. Once recorded, these radio sessions will be made available to audiovisual media. These recordings are free of rights.

- Live programmes (VENDÉE LIVE): 3 programmes a day (LIVE from 1100hrs – 1130hrs UTC) in French and at 1200hrs UTC for the international skippers in English.
- The live shows and radio sessions will be held in the TV studio - Vendée Globe Race HQ, quai Branly (Paris). - The VENDÉE LIVE programme will be shown on the official website, web TV, Facebook LIVE, Dailymotion These live shows will be available for replay on Dailymotion and on the Vendée Globe Facebook page
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