Meilhat heads north while his team works on a solution
For two days now, Paul Meilhat has been heading north. His shore team have been busy looking for a replacement part and found one with the Maître CoQ team.
Calm Day in the Southern Hemisphere
Paul Meilhat - SMA
© Vincent Curutchet / DPPI
SMA and Maître CoQ have just spent a month together out on the water with Paul Meilhat tending to show Jérémie Beyou the way, as the latter has been sailing without weather information. Now it is the latter’s team, who may allow the former to get back out there sailing in eight or ten days, although he will not be ranked.
Yesterday evening, Paul Meilhat had other worries on his mind: “The most important thing is ensuring the boat is safe. It’s not easy with the keel locked in place, but continuing to move slightly. The ram will need replacing… There will be the matter of retiring, as I will require assistance. I’m not far from Point Nemo – the furthest point away from land. This will give me time to get over the disappointment. It’s going to take me a few days to be able to talk about that.”
Later today, Paul Meilhat and his team are going to have to decide which option to take, as none of them are perfect. While New Zealand seems the best equipped to deal with a damaged IMOCA 60, this destination would oblige Paul to face headwinds, which is not a good idea when there are keel problems. It looks a lot simpler to head for the French Polynesian islands, but there is less infrastructure there. They are going to have to choose as the replacement ram, which weighs 90kg, will have to be dispatched shortly to ensure it arrives before the skipper and his boat.
Since Tuesday, Marcus Hutchinson, director of the SMA Ocean Racing project, Marc Liardet, the boat captain and Clément Rivé, who is in charge of electronics and energy have been looking for a replacement ram. They quickly understood that it would be impossible to fit SMA with a brand new part. Making a new one would involve a delivery in late January. That is why they have been looking around the yards and sheds in Port-la-Forêt and Lorient. In the end it was at Maître CoQ that the team found what they were looking for. The ram, which originally was fitted on Maître CoQ is practically identical, meaning that the SMA team thinks it can be used as a replacement. That is only logical, as these boats are sisterships from the previous edition of the Vendée Globe. However, there is still a lot of work to be done before they can look ahead and there is a long way for Paul to go.